The Jason De Vos Column

DIVING to win a penalty or get an opponent booked is often in the spotlight, but getting a penalty at a set play when the defender virtually commits assault on an attacker, is rarely punished with a spot-kick, as it should be.

DIVING to win a penalty or get an opponent booked is often in the spotlight, but getting a penalty at a set play when the defender virtually commits assault on an attacker, is rarely punished with a spot-kick, as it should be.

This is something that Mike Austin, from Metfield, in Suffolk, asks me about and, like him, it is something I feel strongly about.

Mike asks if I accept it as common practice - part of the modern game? Or is it simply that referees and their assistants don't have the bottle to award a penalty.

As a defender I refuse to use foul means but when I go forward, I'm virtually always impeded.

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Jody Craddock at Wolves was quite blatant about it and was grabbing me at every single corner and was not even watching the ball. I asked the referee to watch for it - it is not difficult to spot but time and time again it goes unpunished.

It is not nearly as bad in this country as others. In some countries it is terrible, especially in some places I have been to with Canada. They have no interest in the ball at all. Their whole aim is to stop you getting to it by whatever means it takes. Grabbing you, your shirt, pulling, holding - everything goes - it is a joke.

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Sadly, it has become almost accepted and that is wrong because a corner is a great goal-scoring opportunity, especially when you have guys in the side as we have at Ipswich like Alan Lee, Richard Naylor, Jimmy Juan and myself, who are all capable of scoring from set plays.

It is almost akin to a striker running into the box and getting taken down - there is no difference but the referees are turning a blind eye to it. That leads to frustration and you end up thinking if the ref is not going to do something about it, I will and people end up going in late, studs up and all sorts of retaliation.

CALLUM Godbold e-mailed to ask my opinion about having a huddle before each game.

The truth is I feel it is more a show for the fans. I have played for clubs that do and clubs that don't have a huddle and if you have not got yourself wound up for a game before you come out on the pitch then something is wrong.

What is more important from the experienced players is having a quiet word with the young players to encourage them.

That is better than doing it in front of everyone else. I'm a great one for positive reinforcement rather than criticism because I believe that you get more out of someone by doing that than highlighting mistakes.

It is a personal touch rather than a group 'come on' which we do anyway.

IT is going to be hard to make the play-offs, and losing to Wolves was a real kick in the teeth after playing as well as we did and not getting anything.

It was a bitter pill but it will not stop us trying to get in the play-offs. We still have to play Preston and Crystal Palace.

If we can take points off them it could become squeaky bum time, as Sir Alex Ferguson puts it.

We also know that the team finishing sixth usually does well in the play-offs because they have momentum.

Look at West Ham. I still feel it was unjust that we went out because we were better than them but they got through and are flying high.

We will keep piling on the pressure until it is all over but whatever happens this season it already looks good for next season.

The way the young players have come on leaps and bounds, and with new players like Alan Lee and Gavin Williams adding to the squad, it can only be even better.

I roomed with Ricardo Fuller before the Wolves game and was telling him how he would love it here. He told me that after the one training session he had that he could see how much talent we have in this squad.

Obviously what we also need is the fans to come back and support us in the numbers as they did this season.

The first half of the season was as disappointing for us as it was for them but since the turn of the year we have shown we can build on what we have and be a force in this league.

If we can continue that and the young players carry on improving as they are, then next season promises to be a very exciting season and we can surprise a few people.

WHEN you see something like Alan Smith's horrendous injury as a player you can't help but think 'that could have been me'.

You take that risk every time you play and it does not have to be a nasty tackle. He was just blocking a shot. I broke my ribs falling on someone - that is the risk you take playing professional football.

Everyone in the game will be wishing him well and with the medical progress we have made I can see Alan playing within a year.

A lot will be down to his mental state as I have found that a positive mental approach will help you recover quickly.

BEN Bond sends in a tough question when he asks what has been my favourite Ipswich goal. Sadly there have not been many to choose from but I will say my favourite goal of all time that I scored came in a friendly while I was in Canada.

I was training with the Olympic side and Napoli had an Under-21 side touring and a bunch of local guys put a side together to play them and I got asked to play.

We won a free-kick about 40 yards out and as everyone was going into the box and I was coming up I said to the lad on the ball to just touch it to the side. He did and I lashed it as hard as I could. It was like a frozen rope as it made a beeline straight for the top corner. It was incredible and something I wish I could do on a regular basis.

WHAT a great result for Arsenal at Real Madrid. I didn't get to see it, as I'm being a full-time dad with my three-year-old Ella while my wife is in Canada with baby Jake. But I did see the highlights and they will be on a high but still have a lot of work to do.

They do have the crucial away goal advantage so there is everything to play for. Liverpool have a tougher task after losing in Benfica but if you can be three down against AC Milan and come back to win, then anything is possible.

FINALLY - just a quick word about how good the Winter Olympics have been. It is great to see Canada winning as many medals as we have.

Mind you, the men's ice-hockey side have not performed as well as they could and there has been a lot of criticism back home, especially as the women's side have won medals.

Our team has been awful and just as there will be a massive inquisition if England don't win the World Cup, there will be uproar if we don't win in Turin. In fact our women Olympians have been doing very well and I think I'm right in saying they have pipped the Brits for medals quite a few times. Still, I can see the guys pulling it around and still winning gold.

Remember, you can contact me by e-mail to

As told to Derek Davis

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