That excitable but likeable hombre, Everton manager Roberto Martinez, took it upon himself to give a stern lecture to the Brazilian-born Spaniard Diego Costa after Chelsea’s sensational 6-3 victory at Goodison at the weekend. Costa, who operates on the field with the speed and directness of the bullet train and will bring Chelsea the Premier League title, I guarantee it, had indulged in a spot of mild gloating after the Everton defender Séamus Coleman, who otherwise had a fine match, had plonked the ball into his own net.
And that was what Martinez took exception to. He wasn’t alone, either: the Everton keeper Tim Howard carried on as if Costa had tried to murder his family. Costa, said Martinez, should learn and respect the traditions of English football. In the interests of cross-border harmony, here are some of those key traditions for him to take on board.
• Remember, referees don’t like to rock the boat too much, so you can pull any opponent’s shirt as much as you like inside the penalty area, and the referee won’t blow up. But woe betide if you do it too visibly anywhere on the rest of the field.
• If you score, never celebrate a goal against your former club. Follow the example of Norwich’s Lewis Grabban, who behaved as if he had been shot after scoring against Bournemouth last weekend. If you are going to celebrate, embrace the badge in a frenzied way, then make a slightly baffling sprint round the corner flag, with your finger to your lips shushing the opposing fans, before settling on a routine involving either the birth of a baby or some obscure nightclub dance moves. On no account try to snort the touchline. It was quite funny when Robbie Fowler did it, but it’s not really appropriate these days.
• Don’t bother to try when playing in League Cup matches but when it comes to the FA Cup tell everyone that the Cup Final was a huge tradition back in your homeland, and the entire family would gather round the small TV and watch from beginning to end. Including the arrival of the team coaches. And ‘Abide with Me’.
• Learn to spit. This is a forgotten art these days outside sports arenas, but a powerful gob looks good on Match of the Day. Just spit on the pitch though, not opponents, except in South America. By the end of the game the grass should be almost covered.
• Applaud excessively travelling supporters, especially when you’ve lost. You never know when you will need them. And join the team huddle as often as possible, whatever the match situation. You cannot get too much of your captain saying ‘Let’s do this…’ or, more famously from Steven Gerrard, ‘Don’t let this slip now.’
• Keep your strength up for perhaps the most important part of the season, the Christmas fancy dress party. Here you will be expected to get bladdered and be the subject of a couple of kiss-and-tell stories in the tabloids. Make sure the girls are very good-looking: you don’t want to let the side down. When shopping at Waitrose, do park your baby Bentley in the disabled space if nothing else is available.
• Finally, like most of your overseas colleagues, make sure that you end up speaking English better and more idiomatically than any of the locals, albeit with a slightly strange accent like Jan Mølby. And keep abreast of any developments in swearing. Remember the example of Andrei Kanchelskis. The Ukrainian had just joined Manchester United, indeed just arrived in England, and was having treatment at the club’s old Cliff training ground. In those days the press were allowed in. Kanchelskis was leaving when a journalist called out, ‘How’s the ankle, Andrei?’ ‘It’s fucked,’ came the reply.
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Roger Alton is an executive editor at the Times.
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