Friday, February 16, 2007

Ivan't A Break

I’m sure it’s of some comfort to Hearts fans to know that Mr Romanov is not the only man in Edinburgh with a monkey on his back.

Step forward Hibs winger Ivan Sproule. Ivan does everything quickly: running, talking and losing his temper. All in the blink of an eye. Arguably the only thing he does slowly is think.

On Saturday Ivan, sent on as an impact substitute against Celtic, got sent off. The decision was probably a bit harsh but Sproule’s recklessness meant that, once again, he put himself in a difficult position.

Apparently Ivan felt hard done by because if he’d been booked for an earlier foul (on the same Celtic player) he would never have made the second challenge. Which shows some sort of logic but I’m not sure I can find it.

Anyway it’s been bit too much for Ivan:

"I'm really annoyed and down and I just can't understand it. [Stuart] Dougal has sent me off before, and the boss said things about me 'tightening the nut', which I felt was unjust. I just can't understand it but it's the kind of thing that will maybe force me out of Scotland. I would hate to leave Easter Road because Hibs have been fantastic to me. All my team-mates have backed me - they have been brilliant as we are a close-knit team."

Ivan Sproule is 25 years old. He should, by now, be able to understand what happened. The referee gave a close decision against him. It happens.

Stuart Dougal sent off Sproule at Hampden in the Scottish Cup semi final last year. Hibs were being hammered by Hearts. Sproule stamped on Mikoliunas. It was a red card. No argument. In Ivan world, however, it appears that Dougal should not send him off again.

His other red card came at Ibrox. A second yellow for throwing the ball away. Harsh, not always punished, but a bookable offence. No argument.

The common theme is not victimisation. Big games, big temper. Ivan blows a fuse. All of which would have made John Collins perfectly correct to tell Ivan to screw the nut. Except he didn’t.

Collins said: "It was definitely not a red card. I think it was harsh - but I'm biased. I think it was a yellow card."

"I always ask my players to be committed in the tackle and put everything into it but we have got to screw the nut I suppose sometimes as well."

Not the words of a man victimising his own player. Three years ago Ivan Sproule was playing part-time football in Northern Ireland. He’s come a long way since then but on the football pitch he still has a lot to learn.

Off it, perhaps, he is learning more quickly. Having seen the fuss caused when Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson asked Hibs for transfers, Ivan has maybe come up with a plan: “Play the victim and say I can’t handle it in Scotland any more. Then big money move down south and I’m blameless.”

Ivan Sproule. Not as daft he might seem?