Here’s a question: if I was managing a group of eight year olds and my team scored a dramatic late winner, would it be acceptable for me as the manager to go haranguing a player from the other side in the same sort of manic, aggressive way as Pep Guardiola did Southampton’s Nathan Redmond on Wednesday night?
No, of course not, even if I was trying to compliment the player, if not his team, as the Manchester City manager claimed he was trying to do with Redmond.
So why should such behaviour be acceptable at the top end of the game watched by millions? If the Football Association fail to take any action against Guardiola over the incident at the Etihad Stadium, it will not only tell other Premier League managers that it is acceptable to behave in such a manner, it will also give managers at all levels of the sport the belief that they, too, are okay to act in a similar way.
This is not about wanting to see Guardiola banned from the touchline. He is a marvellous coach and, like his team, an entertaining watch. Rather, it is about drawing a clear line about what is and isn’t acceptable. The behaviour of some coaches at grassroots level is bad enough without them being given cause to think they are fine to carry on as they please.
Guardiola is a decent man. He will watch the footage back of himself thrusting an arm around Redmond’s neck, jabbing the player in the chest and frantically screaming in his face, arms flailing, and wince.
Alan Smith, the former Arsenal striker, made an interesting point on Thursday when he suggested the incident demonstrated “how much Guardiola cares about players, no matter who they play for, fulfilling their potential” and was disappointed to see Redmond as part of a defensive Southampton set-up indulging in time-wasting.
Without getting into a debate about whether Southampton were as negative, and guilty of the dark arts, as the Catalan perceived them to be, there are still ways and means of communicating such feelings and this was not the way to go about it.
Smith thought Redmond “would have been chuffed that Guardiola thought him worth that kind of response”. But Redmond hardly looked bowled over.
Equally, is having an opposition manager in your face moments after your team have conceded a 95th minute goal in a game you probably deserved a point from really what he would wanted at the moment? What must Mauricio Pellegrino, the Southampton manager and a former Barcelona team-mate of Guardiola, thought, not least in light of the fierce post-match criticism that followed of Southampton’s tactics?
Emotion got the better of Guardiola. It does happen. Raheem Sterling’s goal was incredibly dramatic and a thrilling moment on many levels. But that does not mean the manager’s behaviour should escape censure.