So, in the cold light of day, what had Chris Brunt actually done to deserve being struck in the face by a coin?
If you assumed it must have been something serious, you’d be wrong… it was much worse than that—he’d lost a football match; and as Bill Shankly famously said….
Strictly speaking, Chris Brunt didn’t lose a football match, he was part of a team that lost an FA Cup tie; and for that heinous crime, someone in the crowd took it upon themselves to be judge and jury and project a coin of the realm in the general direction of the nearest player after the final whistle.
Only the throw was a little more “accurate” (if that’s the right word) and struck the West Bromwich Albion defender in the face… an inch or so, I’d say, from his left eye.
I lived just across the river from Newcastle upon Tyne for two decades, so I am well aware of the passion that is engendered by “the beautiful game”, but that’s what it is… a game. Of course results can have financial implications, but in a sense it’s no different than a business competitor performing better than a rival. If (extremely) well-paid employees fail to perform to expected or required standards in whatever their line of work, there are ways and means of addressing the situation—but they absolutely do not include acts of violence perpetrated by a disgruntled individual.
There are situations where things happen in the sporting arena that can be appropriately dealt with by a club or governing body; likewise there are occasions when something happens that crosses the proverbial (or, indeed, legal) line—and this is one such example.
Forget that Chris Brunt and the rest of the West Brom squad on duty at the Madejski Stadium are on the kind of wages that the average person can only imagine—they are not responsible for market forces; they just happen to be better at their chosen profession than the overwhelming majority. The Northern Ireland-born defender, along with his team mates, simply had a bad day. They lost to Reading… a disappointing performance and result, but nothing that would stop the sun from rising the following morning.
Yet Chris Brunt could have woken up on Sunday minus the sight in one eye—permanently blinded because he went to thank those supporters who had spent their time and money in the ultimately unfulfilled hope of seeing their team progress into the quarter-finals. Throwing that coin was an act of cowardice, for which there is no excuse.
Brunt showed remarkable restraint given the initial shock and subsequent anger at what had transpired. Maybe there is a part of him that feels incredibly lucky that he has no more than a cut on his upper cheek… because it could very easily have been so much worse; but in the heat of the moment he showed commendable self-control, a salutary lesson to one particular member of the visiting “support” [a term used here with heavy irony].
He even threw his shirt to a young fan; thereby making some child’s day just moments after the direction of his career… his life could have changed forever.
Obviously I readily accept that the coin did not hit Chris Brunt in the eye and the worst scenario thankfully was not realised, but that is purely down to fate; yet there was another example of coin throwing at Stamford Bridge yesterday—although at least the Chelsea fans deigned to hurl loose change at the opposition players rather than one of their own [heavy irony part 2].
I can’t believe that Brunt’s assailant won’t be found. The simple physical act of throwing can’t fail to have been noticed by other supporters and surely it’s only a matter of time before the net closes and the culprit identified.
When that happens, I hope the club and perhaps more importantly the legal system impose the heaviest possible penalty; not only to recognise the circumstances and severity of the incident, but also to send out a message to any other potential idiot who thinks that they have some right to use a game of football as some sort of justification to break the law.