Liverpool missed a trick yesterday. Sure they acted quickly and decisively to condemn and then fine Luis Suarez, which was a whole heap better than they managed when the same player was found guilty of racial abuse, but they still missed an opportunity to take a stronger stand, that materially, would not have changed anything other than public perception.
This is about more than just their star striker's troubling psyche and his propensity for X-rated acts, it is about the reputation of a fine club. To expect Liverpool to sack or sell Suarez is fanciful but, despite their improved PR performance yesterday, there was a weakness hiding behind the bravado.
Firstly they should have banned their number 7 just as Manchester United did to Eric Cantona when he launched himself at a fan. After all Suarez is going to get a hammering from the FA anyway. Instead of leaving it to Wembley to lead, Liverpool had a real chance to steal a march and steal the moral high ground.
Secondly, if Ian Ayre the club's Managing Director really couldn't face a more forensic inquisition than Liverpool’s own TV channel, then at least he should have got the content and the tone right. In the pre-recorded interview that emanated from Anfield’s very own Pravda, Ayre should not have followed up his reporting of Suarez’s stern dressing down, with a hagiography of how the Uruguayan was a lovely man and a great talent. It may well be true, or the club may well believe it to be true, but yesterday simply wasn't the time to tell it like that.
And lastly, the donation to the Hillsborough Families Support Group: Of course it's a decent gesture and of course it's a lot of money but it is a lot of money that Suarez was going to have to fork out in fines anyway. Far better surely that he paid his fine to the club as usual and then match that figure with a donation to the families. Now that would have shown real contrition and the half a million pounds in question would have been back in his bank account when the next monthly pay cheque dropped in.
In context, there will be some who say this incident is over blown. I agree that Branislav Ivanovic would far rather nurse a bruise from a Suarez nibble than a career threatening injury from some wild, shin high lunge. But that is to miss the point.
At Anfield yesterday, I was genuinely taken aback by the number of fans who were starting to lose sympathy for Suarez. I was expecting blind loyalty, I heard frustration and irritation that he had stained the club’s name again. All said he deserved whatever medicine awaits him, some even accepted it might be time for him to move on - 30 goals or not.
There was something animalistic, barbaric even about Suarez’s choice of attack. Either that or it was the behaviour of a two-year-old, simply unable to get his own way. I will leave the diagnosis to a qualified psychologist but it was an act of near savagery that you would rather impressionable youngsters from around the world hadn’t seen.
The FA is likely to stretch his ban into the beginning of next season and so Liverpool will be deprived of their combustible genius for the start of a new campaign. In the meantime Luis Suarez needs help with his demons. I spoke to someone yesterday who has spent hours on the training ground with him and they told me they have never seen him lose his temper. Not once. But come match day, sometimes, something obviously explodes inside his head.
His street-fighting nature makes him the world class player he is but it’s a temperament that, if not controlled could mean another FA enforced spell on the side-lines after this one.
If that happened, I suspect even Liverpool would lose their patience.