Won’t Someone Please Think of the Children? Why Ross Barkley’s Premature Celebration Was Great

What do people hate most about modern football? It’s difficult to decide sometimes. Perhaps it’s the exorbitant ticket prices; wrenching the game from the man in the terraces and handing it straight to the canapé-quaffing suits in the executive boxes.

Is it the players? A fashionable target for fans’ ire, certainly. Where once they might have been considered in-tune with the average supporter, now are so out-of-touch, many would argue that they’ve become detached from reality itself. Safeguarded in a bubble of über-wealth and over-sized, noise-cancelling headphones. Don’t get Chris Waddle started on the headphones.

FIFA are strong contenders. Sitting at the top of the whole fetid pyramid; a shady corporation of real life gangsters and ne’er-do-wells, who’d just as happily sell their grandmother’s passport as they would auction off the World Cup to the highest, oil-rich bidder.

If only any of its members were young enough to still have grandparents.

What about racism? A seemingly incurable rotten limb of the sport, that just refuses to be amputated. Then there’s institutionalised homophobia. Sexism. Both equally persuasive entrants for the game’s own Room 101. Issues that deserve their prominence on the agendas of most free-thinking folk.

If you’re now compiling a mental list and have somewhere found room for Ross Barkley’s pre-goal celebration against Bournemouth on Saturday, well, I fear we may’ve have lost you.

Indeed, there will be some who believe the Everton midfielder’s actions were a crystallisation of everything’s that’s wrong with modern football. A phrase regularly heard in the often daft corridors of social media.

Heck, if you trusted the hive mind of Twitter, then literally everything is everything that’s wrong with modern football. Coloured boots, celebrity referees, dabbing. You name it, it’s a reasonable candidate to be first up against the wall and shot.

The case against the England playmaker, is that he was unnecessarily taking the piss out of an already defeated Bournemouth. Having rounded Artur Boruc and with the goalmouth yawning, the idea that Barkley would bare his excitement before things were made official, was too much to contemplate.

In the same way that one broadcaster had an on-air meltdown when Robin van Persie opted to Panenka a spot-kick against bottom of the table Wolves, back in 2012, there are some who felt his premature huzzah was a needless display of egotism. Tantamount to bullying, was this radio host’s mindboggling claim of Van Persie. Yes, that’s it— Barkley is just a big bully.

Or, alternatively, a talented footballer very much enjoying his work.

There isn’t exactly a surplus of confident homegrown stars knocking around the Premier League these days. If nothing else, the last two international tournaments highlighted that England have a knack of producing mentally fragile, big-game-choke-artists. How nice, then, to see someone have complete faith in their abilities. A player who looks at ease with their natural gifts.

Someone who can make the game appear fun, instead of terrifying and difficult.

Luckily, most observers have fallen on the right side of history and can see that while there are plenty of legitimate reasons to be irked by this absurd soap opera we call football— racism, homophobia, corruption —this is evidently not one of them.

I like that, there’s nothing wrong with that, said Ian Wright on Match of the Day on Saturday night, with the air of a man slightly annoyed that he’d never thought to try it himself.

Wright was a player who recognised the value of the sport as an entertainment and regularly found ways of making the opposition look stupid.

Watch this famous goal against Everton in 1993, and tell me he didn’t take huge delight in reducing his markers and Neville Southall— one of the finest goalkeepers in Europe at the time— to a dizzy, amateurish mess.

There’re lots to dislike about modern football. Watching Ross Barkley at the height of his powers, filled with self-belief, enjoying himself, should be pretty low on your list.

This article first appeared on the website Football.com.


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