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21st Aug 2019

‘Emile dragged Dunne, Collins and Petrov across the dressing room to get to Martin O’Neill’

Patrick McCarry

Sergio Aguero’s touchline spat with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola looked to have been settled by Gabriel Jesus, until V.A.R got involved.

The City striker had traded barbed words with his manager after being substituted, for Jesus, in his side’s 1-1 draw with Tottenham. Any bad blood that may have been simmering looked to be in the past as Jesus controlled a bouncing ball in the box and rifled the ball home.

As the City players celebrated out on the field, Aguero and Guardiola hugged and made up. All water under the bridge.

The cosy atmosphere was spoiled somewhat, then, by VAR replays showing Jesus’ goal would not stand as there had been an accidental hand-ball in the lead-up to his strike. The goal was chalked off and the Aguero-Guardiola argument became a talking point again.

On Liquid Football, JOE’s football show, Jon Walters and Steve Sidwell told host Kelly Cates that such flashpoints between players and managers are commonplace, but increased media (and social media) scrutiny has only amplified them.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had one, where you have a word back to the manager in the changing room, because you’re never going to win,” said Walters.

Walters may be in the minority as Sidwell can ‘recall loads of times the player has gone back at the manager’. One incident, during his time at Aston Villa stands out:

“We played Crystal Palace away and I think it was an FA Cup game as they were in the championship at the time. Half-time we came in and Emile Heskey – listen, great fella, lovely lad – was quiet but strong as an ox, and this was proved at that half-time team-talk.

“He wasn’t having the best of games and Martin O’Neill was on his case – Emile, you need to hold the ball up, you need to do this, you need to do that.

“I kept looking over at the corner, at Emile, and he was getting angrier and angrier. And you could just see the watery eyes just come. And that is when you’re thinking, ‘This is going to switch’.

“All of a sudden, that was it. He was up and he was trying to get to Martin. Big James Collins, he jumped on him (Emile), Richard Dunne, who’s big enough, he jumped on him; Stiliyan Petrov tried to get in the way. He dragged them, basically, across the dressing room to get to Martin O’Neill.

“Martin O’Neill was behind Seamus, who’s real name is Jim (McDonagh). He was trying to sort of duck and weave behind him.”

Sidwell said the tense situation was eventually diffused but Heskey was subbed after his changing room outburst. He was replaced by the Norwegian striker John Carew in a game that Aston Villa would need a late Petrov goal to draw 2-2.

They went on to win the replay 3-1 – Heskey was on the bench – and reached the FA Cup semi finals only to be knocked out by Chelsea. O’Neill would leave Villa by the end of the season while Heskey stayed on with the club until 2012.



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