I’m generally reluctant to criticize opposing players. What we see as a cynical foul when we’re the victims is a great piece of professionalism when executed by one of our own, and we should bear that in mind when we judge others. However, the behavior of Mike Fondop has gone well beyond the pale this season, especially when you consider the source of his inspiration.
My recollection of Fondop’s departure was that it wasn’t acrimonious. Bryan Hughes eventually offloaded him, and he was the third manager to come to the conclusion that he wasn’t a good fit for us. There didn’t seem to be any resentment about the situation that I can recall though. Indeed, when we were struggling for goals quite a few fans asked whether we’d jettisoned him prematurely. I think it’s fair to say he has burned his bridges now.
Fondop’s misdemeanors began when Chesterfield beat us at The Racecourse last October. I don’t remember him getting a rough ride from the crowd, but if you look back at the video of Michael Chambers’ laughably awful own goal, you’ll see Fondop smash rather unnecessarily into Rob Lainton as the keeper looked the other way, even though the ball is a long way from them and he had plenty of time to apply the brakes.
Four days later we met again at the Proact Stadium, and the impression began to form that he was targeting Lainton. He flattened the goalie with a wild late challenge which led to a confrontation in the goalmouth. This was the point where he started baiting Wrexham’s fans too, although quite what he resented about a club which gave him an opportunity at this level is tricky to fathom.
Last Saturday took the biscuit though. He smashed into Shaun Pearson long after the ball was gone, leaping as if to block a clearance but jumping forwards rather than upwards so he landed on the Wrexham skipper’s ankle. He turned his back on Pearson in mid-air to add an accidental appearance to the manouevre, which remarkably fooled the officials if no-one else.
Within a minute Wrexham allege Fondop deliberately stamped on Pearson’s injured foot again, in the scrum before a corner was taken. The match video is inconclusive, but there is a suspicious tangle of legs with Fondop in the middle of it.
Pearson, of course, would hobble off and leave the ground on crutches. Meanwhile, Fondop would take his aggressive behaviour towards the away end to new levels, particularly after the late winner and after the final whistle, when he seemed to take considerably more pleasure in goading his erstwhile fans than enjoying the win.
What compels me to point out this errant behavior is the one consistent thing about Fondop. In virtually every sentence of his interviews, the striker attributes his success to God. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but when a person proclaims they are devout but then acts with unprovoked aggression towards others, I must admit that I’m confused. How does Fondop square his desire to follow God’s example with violence against others? Did he skip “Turn the other cheek”, or somehow misinterpret that message as an invitation to anger?
Whatever the explanation, I don’t think I can accept it. Fondop has got away with some unpleasant behavior – he certainly won’t be paying a price in this life. We might though, as losing Pearson makes a big hole in our defence, especially as his form has been highly impressive in recent weeks. Fondop looks to have finally made an impact on us, but not in the way we’d have wanted.