There is a line in Hud, a 1963 movie starring Paul Newman that springs to mind when contemplating Tottenham Hotspur’s talented but conscientiously suspect winger Gareth Bale.
“Little by little the look of the country changes because of the men we admire,” reflects Melvyn Douglas’ character Homer Bannon. “You're just going to have to make up your own mind one day about what's right and wrong”.
Both sentiments apply somewhat to Bale and Tottenham, and were evident in actions on and off the pitch at the Stadium of Light on Saturday with their 2-1 defeat of Sunderland.
After a Carlos Cuellar own goal and a fine individual effort by Aaron Lennon cancelled out John O’Shea’s opener, the Welshman created the talking point of the final half hour when he went down under the challenge of Craig Gardner.
In the opinion of the home crowd and referee Martin Atkinson it was a dive, with the latter giving the offender his fifth booking of the campaign (meaning he’ll miss the next game against Reading).
The travelling Spurs fans vociferously made known their support for Bale when he was substituted late on, and you imagine will have overlooked (or even ignored) the indiscretion of a player whose talent they value so highly they are willing to feign obliviousness.
A noticeably irritated Bale, speaking to Sky Sports' Geoff Shreeves in a post-match interview, defended his actions.
“It's the same thing every time - it's the third time this season I've been clipped,” the 23-year-old told Shreeves.
"There is nothing I can do about it - the referees have to look a bit closer. If I get contact there it is a penalty or free kick”.
Bale is evidently unclear about what warrants a genuine foul, as while Gardner made contact it was nowhere near enough to send him tumbling to the ground (even accounting for the tired and unsound argument that any contact can alter a player’s running motion).
Most disappoting though was the fact that had he chosen to stay on his feet, the ball was well within reach in a dangerous position in the penalty area.
As good as Bale undoubtedly is (and it goes back to the quote from Hud), it is worrying that he so often chooses the easy route in these scenarios instead of attempting to keep possession, especially when it is increasingly permeating throughout the Spurs team.
Jermain Defoe comically dived in the first-half with no Sunderland player even attempting a challenge, while Kyle Walker went down too easily on one occasion.
The North Londoners were not alone in enhancing football’s reputation for theatrics on this day —Stephane Sessegnon was the Black Cats’ most frequent offender in refusing to stay on his feet when a trip to the floor would earn him a free-kick more often than not.
But if there are concerns over some aspects of Tottenham’s character, in other areas the attitude on display was second to none.
With each passing game Spurs are showing signs of having eradicated (or as good as at least) the lapses in concentration that had cost them several late goals.
Hugo Lloris and Michael Dawson were sizable contributors in this regard, dealing with the threats around them with commendable timing and judgement as the game wore on and Sunderland searched for an equalizer.
Lennon and Sandro were in fine form yet again, and are two of several who have notably flourished under the management of Andre Villas-Boas.
Much credit too must go to left-back Kyle Naughton, a player who has previously struggled on his weaker side when faced with any legitimate above average opponent, but here performed with the composure of a man who learning from his experiences and making them count.
Bale mustered moments of brilliance in a comparatively (compared to his previous outing) quiet performance from him, something which has sadly been overshadowed by his other major contribution.
Just how much admiration we should be giving this type of man, you will have to make up your own mind.979650