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What it's like to be on the end of a hammering - and to dish one out!
3:00pm Wednesday 12th February 2014 in Sport
Arsenal were on the end of an old fashioned thrashing by Premier League rivals Liverpool at the weekend.
Four goals down inside 20 minutes was the beginning of the end for the Gunners and meant the game was over by half-time.
It finished 5-1 and left Arsenal licking their wounds all the way down the M6 back to north London.
Sad to say, I have been on the end of a few hammerings during my career and I can tell you, it’s not very nice at all.
One of those nightmare games that sticks out in my mind was when I was playing for Wycombe Wanderers in the 2009-10 season. Huddersfield Town destroyed us 6-1 at their place.
The game was live on Sky Sports, which made the defeat even worse.
Humiliated, embarrassed and ashamed were just some of the feelings I felt during and after the game.
You don’t want to speak to anyone outside the dressing room – to be honest, you don’t even want to talk to anyone INSIDE the dressing room.
I clearly remember the post-game inquest conducted by Gary Waddock, the Wycombe manager at the time.
He was not long into the job and like all new managers, was trying to put his own stamp and identity on the team.
He was making threats about players’ futures at the club and some, if not all, of his comments were aimed at me.
He didn’t name me directly, but it wasn’t hard to work out who he was talking about when he started most sentences with “I don’t even care if you have Champions League experience . . .”
The humiliating defeat was bad enough, but then to be singled out indirectly as the reason was like adding salt to the wound.
Assistant Martin Kuhl’s talk to the team was very different. He was very aggressive in his tone and body language, and I actually thought he wanted to fight the whole team at one point.
I didn’t think all the negativity and aggression shown was constructive to anyone.
I wanted to say something to them both, especially the manager, but having just conceded six goals, I bit my lip because anything I said would have carried no weight at that moment.
That day, it wasn’t a case of ‘good cop, bad cop’, it was more like bad cop, angry cop. The silence in the dressing room after that was so marked, the only the noise you could hear was the running water from the showers. No-one spoke, it was all about getting dressed and onto the team bus as quickly as possible. Watching TV or reading a paper the next day are some things you try to avoid, but in reality there is no getting away from what has happened.
In fact the best remedy and hangover cure is the next game – and that can’t come soon enough.
For me, I wasn’t to play the next game or the next, or the game after that, but I saw it coming!
Thankfully, I have been on the other end of a football thrashing and I know what it’s like to hand one out.
It was at White Hart Lane against Spurs in the Premier League during the 1997-98 season, while I was playing for Chelsea.
We battered them 6-1, with Norwegian forward Tore Andre Flo grabbing a hat-trick and the match ball.
For someone who grew up just ten minutes away from the stadium, I felt great.
The contrast in the dressing room atmosphere afterwards is like chalk and cheese.
Ruud Gullit, my Chelsea manager at the time, was just smiling and full of joy, but he never had to say much after a game.
Proud, happy, ecstatic and excited are some of your feelings after a win like that. Everyone is talking and this time, you can’t hear the noise of the showers. And yeah, you do want to read a paper and watch this game on TV the next day.
I can imagine what it felt like to be in both dressing rooms after the game at Anfield on Saturday.
The home dressing room would have been the place to be, but sometimes the best lessons come out of the other one.