Football played best when you 'stay on your feet'

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Just over a year ago, former Chelsea assistant manager turned Sky Sports pundit, Ray Wilkins, became an overnight internet sensation when he coined the now familiar football phrase "stay on your feet".

On a Champions League Tuesday night in April 2011, Wilkins - who was commentating on Tottenham's quarter-final first leg clash with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu - overused the expression so profusely that it quickly became a hot trending topic on Twitter.

Although Wilkins was imploring players not to dive into tackles, the phrase was taken up as a life mantra on the social network site, with thousands of people continuing to tweet it around the world.

Twelve months on, and the "stay on your feet" slogan is as relevant as ever, having taken on another meaning - this time in reference to in-game simulation - for players who are accused of diving.

This season has seen a number of incidents involving players adjudged to be play-acting, the most recent example coming in the form of Didier Drogba in last week's Champions League semi-final first leg clash between Chelsea and Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.

Despite wasting nearly six-and-a-half minutes rolling around on the floor during the game, it was the Blues striker who had the last laugh, firing Roberto Di Matteo's side into the lead, to give them a slender 1-0 advantage ahead of tonight's crucial second leg at Camp Nou.

Barca's players initially reacted by sportingly kicking the ball out of play, but eventually became infuriated by Drogba's antics and the captain, Carles Puyol, complained to the 34-year-old.

Speaking in the Catalan club's pre-match press conference on Monday, Spanish defender Gerard Pique - who could be charged with marking Drogba tonight, having looked on from the bench last Wednesday - was diplomatic in his assessment of the Chelsea striker's capers.

"I believe in Drogba that every time he fell down it was because he was in pain or he felt a kick on him," confirmed the 25-year-old. "I don't think that, when Drogba fell down, he was trying to act or dive.

"If not, we'll start to talk about football not having fair play and being all about cheats. Football is not like that. We have to keep all the good things and diving and cheating is not good."

He added: "If he keeps doing that, you might end up thinking that's the case (that he is not hurt). But I believe in his honesty."

Unfortunately, not everyone operates with the same level of integrity, and high moral principles as what has been suggested by Pique. The English game is in fact littered with examples of players bending the rules to gain an advantage, increasingly in the form of diving. But, how do we stop such deceit?

Everton manager David Moyes has called for football's authorities to pass a motion that allows players to be punished if caught cheating. The Scot actually introduced a Goodison Park edict that enabled him to reprimand any of his squad who were seen to be diving, so appalled was Moyes at the conduct of players during the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

"I've told my players that I don't want them diving," confirmed the Toffees boss at the weekend. "Of course people go down, but I don't like it. I'll say it to them if I think they are going down outrageously or cheaply. I think all managers will.

"I think in the end it (diving) comes back to haunt you. If there's one thing I would do, it's have retrospective punishment on diving, the same way they look back to see if somebody has elbowed someone.

"If it was up to me, the best way to make our referees' jobs easier would be to have retrospective punishment on diving. Players are so good at it. But if you check after the game to see if they have done it and you see they have done, then you ban them.

"The referees will go "thanks very much" because it will start to stop diving happening and make games much easier for referees."

Moyes is adamant that the introduction of a new rule to ban players retrospectively for diving would lead to a dramatic decrease in the number of incidents.

"That is the biggest change that needs to come in," he added. "If an FA panel looks in to see if somebody punched someone off the ball, then why could they not do it with diving? I think players would be shamed (if found guilty). Right away you would get rid of the diving."

Ray Wilkins' bumbling reputation as a co-commentator may well precede the footballing insight, and advice that he can, on occasion, provide. But, there's no need for any level of intuition to understand the idiom that is: "stay on your feet"!

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Didier Drogba
Premier League
UEFA Champions League

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