It took Ashley Young several seasons of tumbles, plunges and carefully choreographed collapses to earn a reputation as a diver.
Jurgen Klinsmann needed a couple of major international tournaments to confirm his status as a frequent faller.
While Didier Drogba had to move from France to London before we realised that such a seemingly robust unit had serious balance issues.
But in 2014, in the era of total TV coverage, social network saturation and greater media scrutiny than ever before, Ross Barkley has been branded after one illuminated incident.
That’s the only conclusion which can be drawn from the yellow card brandished so recklessly by Andre Marriner at the young midfielder on Saturday night.
Reckless is a harsh word to use with a match official who we can safely assume was making a decision honestly, if impetuously.
But that’s the only conclusion we can draw.
To draw even more attention to a young footballer, to point even more accusatory fingers in his direction – to effectively label him as a cheat, you have to be sure that the individual has, indeed, cheated.
And it was impossible to do that on Saturday, because Frank Lampard clearly made contact with Barkley.
Marriner might argue that the midfielder was on his way to ground already – “anticipating contact” as his manager might have argued; not unlike James Milner in the moment which earned Manchester City a match-winning penalty.
But if Andre Marriner is going to consistently book players for simulation for identical offences this season, he’s going to have a very sore arm.
Of course, he won’t.
Because the Midlands official showed at the Etihad that consistency is not one of his greater qualities. And knee jerk reactions appear to be his modus operandum.
Not for Marriner a couple of seconds of careful reflection before giving his verdict.
He points to the spot or reaches for his card like a child playing Snap.
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His performance wasn’t quite as dreadful as the afternoon he sent off Kieran Gibbs instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, or forced referees’ chief Mike Riley to apologise to West Brom for another soft penalty award at Stamford Bridge, but it wasn’t far off.
He awarded a penalty that even Manchester City weren’t looking for, he failed to red card Eliaquim Mangala for an assault Bruce Lee would have been proud of, merely yellow carded Fernando for a recklessly high boot which connected with Gareth Barry’s head, but most depressing of all, booked Ross Barkley for that Lampard challenge.
An incident against West Ham a fortnight ago when Barkley clearly dived to win a free-kick from Kevin Nolan – and was quite correctly highlighted by Match of the Day – was obviously uppermost in his mind.
That Hammers incident was strange – and out of character. Barkley has been playing Premier League football for more than three years now, full international football for six months – and before that incident had never once been accused of going to ground early.
In fact rather than just accused, I can’t recall a single incident where Barkley has tried to earn a free-kick by diving.
Maybe he really did “anticipate contact” from Nolan. Perhaps his time with the full England squad has given him an unwanted insight into the dark arts of diving. Or perhaps he just became fed up of being booted around a football pitch and not receiving free-kicks and decided to take the law into his own hands.
Whatever, Barkley will learn a very harsh lesson from that incident.
Because Marriner’s action on Saturday night means that every tumble he now takes will be scrutinised by match officials, while away fans will jeer every time he hits the turf.
Such are the consequences of Mr Marriner’s ill-judged decision.
It may actually do Barkley good in the long term, even if he has to endure even more gashed ankles, bruised calves and bumped shins as his manager pointed out.
Because it’s rare in the modern game for a free-kick to be awarded – even if contact is made – unless a player actually falls.
Read more: what we learned from City 1 Everton 0
Barkley was only on the pitch for a little over half-an-hour, but he made a significant difference to Everton’s play which had hitherto lacked any kind of pace or penetration.
He made a difference.
But while Barkley was a zesty mix of penetrative running and the occasional misplaced pass, for the second successive away game Gareth Barry struggled.
A massively influential lynchpin last season, perhaps he has rushed back from injury too soon this time.
For the second successive away game an error he made was pounced upon in the build up to a goal.
This time he left a pass short and City took advantage, with significant assistance from Mr Marriner once again.
You’d think the referee would have learned his lesson after being laughed at so widely for the even softer penalty he awarded Chelsea last season when West Brom were on the brink of a first league win at Stamford Bridge since 1978.
But no. Phil Jagielka and Jame Milner came together. The City man fell, didn’t appeal, and instantly tried to clamber back up and chase the ball.
But Marriner was already pointing to the spot.
That award resulted in one of just three City shots on target all afternoon. Everton only managed two, but the bottom line was that if the official hadn’t pointed to the spot Roberto Martinez’s men would have left the Etihad with a hard-earned point.
That they didn’t had nothing to do with the efforts of their veteran central defensive partnership – almost 69 years between them.
In their fifth consecutive 90-minute run-out in 14 days Phil Jagielka and Sylvin Distin were excellent.
They will surely now be handed a well earned rest before Queens Park Rangers visit next Monday.
For Ross Barkley there will be a week of soul searching.
He is in danger of earning an unwanted reputation after one solitary incident.
Such is the way of the modern world … and an impetuous decision by a Premier League referee.
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