A HARD SHANE’S A-GONNA’ FALL
There’s a thin line between comedy and tragedy, supposedly. That’s what someone much smarter than the Fiver once said, anyway. But, displaying the formidable mixture of arrogance and bluster that has got us to the lofty heights of bashing out half-baked snark about people much more successful than us every day, we think that smarter person is wrong. There is, on occasion, no line at all. Take Shane Duffy, for example. The Blackeye Rovers defender has had quite a week, so let’s take it step-by-step. On Saturday, Duffy scored an own-goal in Blackburn’s 3-0 defeat to Wigan, diverting a cross into his own net, following the ball into the net by falling over himself while trying to rectify that error, failing and instead kicking the air like a giddy newborn baby. Duffy then, as you might expect, received some ‘feedback’ on the internet about this, enough ‘feedback’ that he deleted his Twitter account. Enough to keep anyone busy, but he was very far from done there.
Then on Tuesday, news emerged that Duffy (and colleague Ben Marshall) had turned down a new contract from Blackeye Rovers, offered after several bids for the defender were rejected over the summer. “I’ve spoken to both lads extensively,” said manager Owen Coyle, unwittingly providing an explanation for why they had decided against committing themselves to the club. “The only thing they can affect is their play on the field … because if you don’t perform well on the field, who’s going to want to come and buy you anyway?” Well, quite so. And Duffy took those words to heart and set about proving Coyle’s point on Wednesday night, in his own special way.
For Duffy put in a masterclass of buffoonery, a lesson in incompetence, the standard to which all future gaffe-merchants should aim. Not only did he score an own-goal to give Cardiff the lead in the 15th minute, rifling into the bottom corner with nary an attacker in sight. Not only did he score another own-goal five minutes later, a bullet header from a cross that left his goalkeeper with absolutely no chance and his team-mates wondering why the lovechild of Bobo the Clown and William Prunier was playing at centre-half. Not only that, but he then got himself sent off in potentially the most brainless manner possible, wellying the ball at an opponent’s tail in frustration, five minutes into injury time. Reports that Blackeye’s opponents on Saturday, Burton Albion, are appealing against Duffy’s subsequent suspension cannot currently be confirmed.
“I’m not going to stand here and single out players,” said Coyle after the game, rolling out the sort of understandable platitude that managers fall back upon, in order to make whoever effed up feel better. But on this occasion Coyle would have been entirely justified in saying: “I am going to stand here and single out players. Specifically, the bloke who scored two own-goals and got sent off pointlessly. Him. That guy. I’m standing here and I’m singling him out.” Coyle did describe Duffy as not “being at his best”, a Hall of Fame calibre understatement, and noted that speculation linking his hapless player with other, bigger, shinier clubs might have “turned his head”, but it looks very much like that speculation hasn’t so much turned his head as spun it right round, like a record baby, right round.
Still, at least one positive can be taken from the whole sorry experience, as Duffy has now almost certainly solved the problem of being distracted by interest from other clubs. Every cloud, and all that.