Date:Tuesday January 23 2007
Royals` coach Wally Downes finds himself in hot water, and faces disciplinary action following his ugly touchline bust-up with Sheffield United chief Neil Warnock during our latest victory.
Downes, who has had an on-going feud with Warnock dating back a number of years, shoved the Blades boss during a fracas seconds after Blades` winger Keith Gillespie had been shown a straight red card for aiming a forearm into Stephen Hunt`s face.
Downes and Warnock were both sent from the dug-out by referee Mark Halsey, who will report the incident to the FA. I understand Downes is likely to be hit with a misconduct charge and could face a touchline ban, a fine, or both.
However, Warnock, who has a four-match suspended ban hanging over him following an incident against Leeds United at the end of last season, may escape punishment.
Players and coaching staff from both sides became involved, but neither club is expected to face a charge of failing to control their team. The Reading bench believed Warnock had used a stamping motion to suggest that his players go and kick Steve Sidwell as retribution for an earlier foul - claims which were quickly refuted by the Blades boss.
Royals` manager Steve Coppell is unlikely to take any action publicly against Downes, but the FA will almost certainly step in.
Coppell said, "The player [Keith Gillespie] was sent off and then after that it got a little bit frantic.
"As always accusations are made and Neil, and I don`t know what he was meaning, was making a challenging shape.
"It looked to be an aggressive gesture. I think it was wrong. I think it was wrong at that particular time.
"The insinuation was to raise the aggression level in what was at that stage a game that looked to have been played 100 per cent in the right way.
"I thought it was the wrong thing to do. I don`t want my players being kicked.
"I am very happy to play football against anyone but it looked as there was response required to that gesture.
"To be fair to the fourth official (Kevin Friend) I think he had the matter in hand.
"At that stage it`s not the kind of thing you want to see. Other people will make judgements.
"Wally reacted to the action. I have got no question about Wally`s intent.
"I have no problem with what he did. From what I can see now I will not do anything about it, but that`s not to say other people won`t. I`m sure the referee will write a report and then the FA must do what they have got to do.
"They are the arbiters of the game and we have to abide by anything they do."
The dismissal took the shine off of another strong Reading performance. Shane Long, Ulises De la Cruz and Stephen Hunt were all on target for the Royals, whilst late substitute Christian Nade grabbed a consolation for the visitors.
But Reading`s chairman John Madejski was quick to condemn the incident.
He said, "I find all that stuff distasteful and totally unnecessary. There always seems to be controversy. It`s no good for the game and it is just not needed.
"I won`t be saying anything to Wally in particular. Obviously the manager will take that role on if he feels it`s necessary."
Warnock was also sent off last season when Reading beat Sheffield United 2-1 at Madejski Stadium in a battle at the top of the Championship.
He and Gillespie confronted referee Grant Hegley after the official denied the Blades a penalty after James Harper tripped the winger in the box. The official also failed to send Blades` goalkeeper Paddy Kenny off despite a save being made outside of his area.
Hegley was suspended for 14 days for failing to apply the rules.
Whilst I agree with Downe`s reckoning that Warnock`s actions were inappropriate, he clearly broke the rules when he breached Sheffield United`s technical area, and as a result, deserves to be punished. To what severity, I`m unsure.
Reading and Blades fans alike - what`s your view on the latest page in the ongoing Warnock/Downes saga?
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