FANS’ VOTE: Was Paul Jewell right to punish Jimmy Bullard and Michael Chopra differently?
IPSWICH Town manager Paul Jewell says Jimmy Bullard and Michael Chopra were ‘both guilty of the same crime’ by turning up late for training last week – but says handing out different punishments was ‘the best thing for the team’.
The Blues duo both turned up ‘15 to 20 minutes’ late for training on Thursday after reportedly visiting a string of night clubs in Newcastle late into Wednesday evening.
Veteran midfielder Bullard has been suspended on full pay for two weeks, while Chopra – who took his goal tally to six in six today as Town brushed aside Bristol City 3-0 at Portman Road – has been fined two weeks wages, but can continue to train and play.
“Those two players were out in Newcastle on Wednesday, in places they shouldn’t have been at times they shouldn’t have been,” explained Jewell. “They were 15 to 20 minutes late for training the next day and that left me with a decision to make.
“I decided to suspend Jimmy because if there’s one thing that Jimmy loves it’s playing football, so I decided that maybe the best punishment – the best way for Jimmy to learn – was to suspend him.
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“Chopra will get fined. They’re both guilt of the same crime, and to some people it might look a bit strange, but I felt it was the best way to deal with.
“I felt to suspend Michael Chopra – with his well-documented (gambling) problems – might be counter productive.
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“For anyone wondering why the decision has been made and how the decision has been made, they’re the reasons.”
Jewell continued: “It’s not an easy decision to suspend a player who I’ve signed two times already and is the life and soul of the dressing room, but I’ve got to do what’s best for the team and what’s best for the club.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had a problem with Jimmy. but he’s let himself and his team mates down and I’ve dealt with it. I understand I’m going to get questions, I’ve told you what I’ve done and why I’ve done it and there’s not too much more I can say really.”
Pressed further on the issue, the Blues boss continued: “Plenty of people are late for training, but there are circumstances surrounding why they were late for training and that’s why they need to be punished.
“I don’t want to get into details (of the night out) because if you listened to every rumour none of us would get out of here alive.”
Asked if Chopra – who has been given emotional and financial support by Town this season during his battle against a gambling addiction – had let the club down, Jewell said: “He has – no doubt about that, but the biggest person he’s let down is himself.
“I just thought that sending Michael away for two weeks would be counter-productive.”
Asked how the rest of his squad had reacted, Jewell said: “The rest of the players were extremely unhappy when they turned up late on the Wednesday.
“Life goes on , I’ve dealt with it and Michael has had a good game today. Some people might say I’m treating people differently, but one thing I’ve learnt in football management is that you can’t treat everyone the same.
“You like to think that everybody is the same, but you have to deal with people differently to get the best out of them. Ultimately that’s what it’s about.
“If I said you can’t do anything to do with journalism – a job that you love – you wouldn’t be happy. Jimmy would have been happy with a fine, so that’s why we didn’t do it.
“We’ll know his whereabouts over the next two weeks because players have to give an overnight address for everyday for the drugs tests.
“I know Jimmy, he’s a fantastic lad, he loves football and loves training. He’ll be devastated we’ve taken that away from him for two weeks.”
Confirming that both Bullard and Chopra had apologised to him, Jewell added: “Both lads know they’ve let everyone down, but hands up here who has never made a mistake.
“I don’t want to lambast the players, they’ve made a mistake – a bad mistake – I’ve dealt with it, can we move on?”