Predictably, given the fact that Wilfried Zaha was awarded two penalties against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon, fans across the country have been demanding retrospective action be taken against the 25-year-old but his manager Roy Hodgson has been quick to defend him from any accusation whatsoever of “diving”.
Regular readers of these pages will no doubt be aware of the deep-rooted adoration I feel towards Wilfried Zaha; an emotion which is only made greater by the anger he seems to generate in the hearts of neutral fans. Within moments of the Ivory Coast international hitting the turf against the Cherries, social media was ablaze with sweaty-thumbed oddballs demanding retrospective action be taken against him, regardless of the fact that Begovic clearly grabs hold of his foot during the tackle. Luckily for me, Roy Hodgson decided to fight Wilf’s corner in the national press and for that, I can’t help but love him.
It strikes me that, were Zaha not a constant threat for opposition defences, this desperation to label him unfairly as a “diver” wouldn’t be anywhere near as strong. On Saturday, Bournemouth’s away section chose to boo him in the opening minutes of the game, presumably for no reason other than a preconceived idea of his character, built by the tub-thumping idiocy of the opinions they gobble up from the mainstream media.
Indeed, in the aftermath of the game itself, Martin Keown had his quotes displayed on the BBC Sport website claiming Begovic made no contact with Zaha, accompanied by photographic evidence of the keeper holding the winger’s boot. The desire to tarnish his reputation is often so blatant, that I’m regularly left wondering about the true motives behind the smears but that’s for another day altogether.
Whilst I will happily admit to questioning Hodgson’s appointment when it was made a few months ago, I am warming more and more to his methods, tactics and general approach to the role as each day passes. He’s never afraid to call out lies and half-truths when he sees them being peddled in the press; a fact proven perfectly by his response to the latest bout of speculation surrounding Zaha’s efforts against Eddie Howe’s men.
I can’t even begin to tell you how the “expert FA Panel” will view the penalty incident from Selhurst Park on Saturday but it’s good to know that Roy stands fully behind Wilf.