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Fulham in F.A. dock today

last updated Wednesday 06th October 2004, 10:51 AM
The Premiership's latest bad boy, an indecisive referee and confusion over pitch markings may all be used in Fulham's defence at today's inquest into the battle of the Hawthorns.

The club must answer a string of Football Association charges resulting from last month's bad-tempered 1-1 draw with West Brom.

Charge sheet
  • Failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion against West Brom and refrained from threatening provocative behaviour.
  • Failing to ensure that Papa Bouba Diop vacated the field of play and technical area following his sending-off in the same match.
  • Violent conduct by Andy Cole who has also been charged for the use of abusive words to a match official following his sending-off (left) soon after Diop.
  • Bringing the game into disrepute through Chris Coleman's post-match comments about referee Mark Halsey after the match against Arsenal.

Andy Cole and Papa Bouba Diop were both sent off for fighting while the match was also marred by an ugly brawl and allegations of harassment against referee Mike Dean.

If found guilty, Fulham could be hit with a maximum fine of £250,000, plus further bans and fines for manager Chris Coleman and striker Cole, who face separate charges.

But the club will be hoping to mitigate their punishment by explaining the unusual combination of background factors that sparked their players' loss of temper.

First on the list could be the role of West Brom defender Darren Purse, who Coleman blamed for instigating the bad feeling between the teams with a reckless tackle on Diop.

At the time, Coleman said: "I am convinced it all stemmed from a bad challenge earlier in the game by Darren Purse on Diop, which was a leg-breaker, a coward's tackle."

And it was the identity of the defender as much as the nature of the tackle which infuriated the visitors since Purse and Fulham have history. During his Birmingham days, Purse was sent off twice against the west London side - for a wrestling match with Luis Boa Morte last season and a bad challenge on Callum Willock the previous term.

Furthermore, the 27-year-old is in danger of developing something of a bad-boy reputation. Although he escaped with a yellow card for the Diop tackle, Purse was cited for throwing an elbow in West Brom's next Premiership game, against Newcastle.

Also sent off at St James' Park, he now faces his own FA violent conduct charge after accidently connecting with team-mate Ricardo Scimeca.

Purse denies holding any grudges, but Coleman's players did feel incensed by his behaviour. Diop later saw red for cuffing the defender in retaliation. Purse said: "I have been sent off against Fulham twice before, but it is purely coincidental.

Rivalling Purse as public enemy No1 at Craven Cottage is referee Mark Halsey, whose contribution Fulham may also want the FA to consider. The Hertfordshire official changed his mind on awarding a Fulham penalty at 0-0 during the club's Premiership match with Arsenal the previous week.

With that controversy fresh in their minds, several players snapped when Dean gave West Brom a soft penalty in the first half at the Hawthorns. Edwin Van der Sar and Collins John were booked for their protests and the feeling of injustice resonated before eventually spilling over into the 85th-minute brawl.

Halsey's performance angered Coleman to such an extent that he described the referee as "crap" in an ill-judged reaction that offers him little defence against the FA's disrepute charge. At the time, Coleman said: "Arsenal are on one hell of a run so it takes a brave man to take a decision which might end that run. I will probably get into trouble for saying that, but I don't care."

Given his furious reaction, Coleman must also shoulder some of the responsibility if his players were fired up going into the West Brom game. In a typical show of loyalty, Coleman initially refused to fine Cole or Diop before being overruled by the club's board. Fulham will now be hoping that decisive action counts in their favour with the FA.

Arsenal were fined a record £175,000 for failing to control players during their clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford last season, though, given all the other factors at play, Fulham can expect greater leniency.

Their charge, however, is further complicated by a specific count against Diop who, contrary to FA rules, sat in the stand behind the dugout - rather than head for the dressing room - following his red card.

Fulham, however, will argue that the seating occupied by Diop was not considered part of the technical area at West Brom so he was allowed to sit there.

Source Evening Standard by Raoul Simons
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