Mark Orders column: Few emerge with credit over Ballboygate
A MARTIAN over here for the past week might reasonably have identified Charlie Morgan as being responsible for the impending triple-dip recession, driving snow on the M6 and the migration of mackerel towards Iceland.
Andy Murray’s defeat in the tennis in Australia — that’ll be down to the youngster as well.
Truly, criticism of the ball boy has been stinging and unrelenting after his part in the events that led to Eden Hazard receiving a red card in Swansea City’s Capital One Cup semi-final against Chelsea at the Liberty Stadium.
For those who have spent the last seven days on another planet, with Chelsea chasing the game Morgan smothered the ball late on and appeared to receive a kick in the ribs from Hazard for his troubles, prompting much rolling around and provoking one of the most high-profile football dramas since Eric Cantona kung-fu kicked a fan at Crystal Palace in the 1990s.
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One columnist for a London newspaper thundered: “This kid is an example of what is wrong with Britain. A generation of kids with no respect whatsoever for adults. No respect for professionals trying to do their job.”
Another chap called Morgan a “little twerp” during the course of a column that name-checked some of the most infamous cheats in sporting history, while someone else branded the son of Swansea City director Martin Morgan a wealth-flaunting rich kid who brags on Twitter about driving a souped-up Audi, drinking champagne and sitting in first-class plane seats.
And so it went on, with oceans of vitriol poured on him by the Twitterati and other assorted keyboard warriors, who never fail to pursue a soft target when they see one.
This is no unqualified defence of Morgan junior.
He was daft at best to boast on Twitter beforehand: “The king of all ballboys is back making his final appearance #needed#for#timewasting.”
And let’s just say the incident with Hazard wasn’t one in which he emerged with huge credit, either.
But here’s the thing. He’s 17 — ludicrously old to be a ballboy, perhaps, but an age when mistakes, boasting and delusions of self-importance are pretty much par for the course.
Last week he got carried away in the heat of the moment and ended up not just as Europe’s most famous ball boy but also as the latest symbol of a sport that forever seems to be groping around for its moral compass.
But how many of those lacing up their metaphorical steel toecaps for use on him over the past week didn’t do things they regretted when they were 17? How many of them didn’t brag for Britain at the same age?
The key is that he learns from the incident. He isn’t a master criminal guilty of the crime of the millennium so far. He is a kid who ill-advisedly got caught up in an episode that took on a life of its own and exposed him to ridicule.
No-one died, the world didn’t stop spinning, but the resultant furore meant that Swansea City didn’t get the credit they deserved for an outstanding two-leg triumph over the reigning European champions.
Hazard? If he had kicked a fellow player he would have been sent off, so the referee was absolutely right to send him packing.
Last but not least are those individuals from Kent, Sussex and West Wales who complained to police over the incident. We can truly believe they felt the episode to be sufficiently serious that the already overworked and hard-pressed South Wales constabulary should look into it.
Or we can view them as time wasters who just wanted to inflame the situation.
That’s a tough one, that.
Let’s just say they don’t come out of the affair covered in glory, either.