Neal Maupay’s tactic of winding up rivals isn’t working… Brentford star is lucky Roy Keane and Vieira retired long ago

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IN SOME ways Neal Maupay is to be admired.

It’s one thing to poke fun at big, bad James Maddison’s goal celebration to get a rise out of Tottenham.

Neal Maupay has rattled several opponents recently including Kyle Walker

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Neal Maupay has rattled several opponents recently including Kyle WalkerCredit: Reuters
A fuming Walker could only file his complaint with referee Jarred Gillett

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A fuming Walker could only file his complaint with referee Jarred GillettCredit: Getty

But it’s quite another having a sly pop at Kyle Walker, a walking wardrobe with enough testosterone to fill five Olympic swimming pools — if his tangled love life is anything to go by.

Yet Brentford’s occasional striker and prolific wind-up merchant is choosing to add the dark art of sledging to his other job of scoring goals once in a blue moon.

Apart from the fact it clearly isn’t working — as Brentford lost both games in which the slippery-tongued forward has tried slating the opposition — Maupay is obviously a clever man.

You don’t need to be an expert lip reader to decipher Walker’s claims that Maupay tried pricking the Manchester City full-back with digs about his kids.

The Frenchman is lucky he was only threatened with being “knocked out”.

But with so many cameras at every single Premier League game now, the day of the genuine football hardman has long since passed.

Most of us know what Walker would really like to have done there and then with Brentford’s little stirrer. Instead, he was forced to complain to referee Jarred Gillett and take the moral high ground.

Walker would have been a shoo-in for PFA Player of the Year had he waited until no one was looking, then dished out some old-fashioned retribution to put Maupay back in his box.

We’re not talking leg breaks, maybe not even a bunch of fives. It wouldn’t have taken much.

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Perhaps a slightly late and robust tackle landed somewhere particularly painful to give Brentford’s agent provocateur pause for thought.

Be in no doubt, there are some players from the recent and quite distant past who wouldn’t have stopped to think about the repercussions before dealing with Maupay.

Arsenal’s spiky midfielder Patrick Vieira would have found a way to “resolve” the situation with his fellow countryman. Roy Keane’s answer makes you wince just thinking about it.

Duncan Ferguson, Graeme Souness, Vinnie Jones, Graham Roberts,

Dave Mackay, Ron Harris — street-fighting men who got physical first and asked questions after.

Maupay should count his lucky stars Kevin Muscat has retired and won’t be in the Wolves team awaiting Brentford at Molineux tomorrow.

Aussie Muscat was once dubbed “the most hated man in football” for a particularly ferocious challenge during a match against Wolves’ regional rivals Birmingham. He was even considered too aggressive by Millwall.

Nobody should want reckless violence and there’s no need to bring in New York vigilantes the Guardian Angels.

But there used to be a certain reassurance that annoying characters like Maupay would eventually get their comeuppance.

So far it has been left to teenage Tottenham rookie Jamie Donley to give a bit back.

The 19-year-old managed to land a hefty tackle on Maupay during his 60 seconds as a late substitute when Spurs came from behind to beat Brentford 3-2 last week — raising a cheer from the home fans.

Maupay will carry on using his verbal elbows for as long as he can get away with it, even though it’s not a hugely successful policy.

Interestingly, Brentford play City again in just 11 days’ time and Walker will be waiting.

Roy just a realist

Poor old Roy Hodgson getting it in the neck over Crystal Palace’s travails.

Down at Selhurst Park the blame game is definitely a priority over the beautiful one, which begs the question… just what do the fans expect?

Hodgson has been criticised for lamentable results when, in truth, what he says about the club is spot on — but punters don’t want to hear it.

Since returning to the Premier League in 2013, Palace have never finished higher than tenth or lower than 15th. They have never finished with more than 49 points or fewer than 41 — a spread of just eight points.

One end of Selhurst Park is a supermarket.

Not so much the real deal as a meal deal.

It is a sad fact of life that, for the vast majority of clubs, life in the top flight is about existence.

There probably is a genuine gripe with chairman Steve Parish, who has not taken the club on like he vowed but that will require serious investment and time. Sacking Hodgson isn’t going to change that.

Sacking Roy Hodgson will not solve Crystal Palace's problems

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Sacking Roy Hodgson will not solve Crystal Palace’s problemsCredit: Alamy

It’s utter Lap trap

IF you still need to be convinced a European Super League would be treacherous, shark-infested waters, then let Barcelona president Joan Laporta put your mind at rest.

While flogging his dead-horse idea that the biggest European teams should split from Uefa and form a breakaway division, the Nou Camp’s top man unwittingly revealed his priorities.

He reportedly said: “We have Barca, Madrid, Inter, Milan, Napoli, Roma, Marseille, Sporting Lisbon, three Dutch clubs . . .”

Three Dutch clubs? That will be Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven, who between them have been European champions six times — six more than Roma, Napoli and Sporting Lisbon, whose names he could remember.

Enz well for Poch

Last Friday, despairing Chelsea coach Mauricio Pochettino lamented his team lacked a ‘specialist set-piece expert’.

He went on to say he and his eagle-eyed team of coaches had been discussing the issue only that day and banging their heads together, wondering about signing a good free-kick taker this summer.

But where to find one? If only there was someone who could deliver an armour-piercing shot from outside the box over a defensive wall and into the opposition net?

One world-class 25-yard corker at Aston Villa later and it appears the answer has been right under Pochettino’s nose in the shape of his £106million World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez.

Poch… you should’ve gone to Specsavers.

Mauricio Pochettino may have found his set-piece specialist in Enzo Fernandez

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Mauricio Pochettino may have found his set-piece specialist in Enzo FernandezCredit: Getty

Selfie aware

There’s been a lot of talk about celebrations on the football pitch.

Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard was criticised for taking photos after last weekend’s win over Liverpool.

But when it’s not about celebrating, it’s about not celebrating — a much bigger concern to anyone ­hoping to keep football in perspective.

Richarlison’s moody stroll around the penalty box after scoring against his old club Everton on Saturday was just one example of deliberate underplay.

Would Everton fans really care if Richarlison had pumped his fist in delight or Samba danced across the 18-yard box? Selling the Brazilian forward to Spurs after four years and 100-odd games was not like losing Dixie Dean or when Harry Kane left Tottenham.

The reason some players play down goals is not because of regard for their former club, it is through sheer self-importance.

In celebrating, they are making a point that their departure was so significant that it would be wrong to rub salt into the wounds of a club left in despair by their exit.

I am not saying that was Richarlison’s motivation but it’s getting ridiculous now.

Just before Christmas, West Ham defender Konstantinos Mavropanos scored against former club Arsenal and refused to jump for joy — out of regard for his seven memorable Gunners appearances over four years.

Players not celebrating goals against their former clubs is a sign of self importance

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Players not celebrating goals against their former clubs is a sign of self importanceCredit: Alamy
Jamie Carragher tells Odegaard ‘get down the tunnel’ after Arsenal star’s bizarre celebration following Liverpool defeat





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Neal Maupay’s tactic of winding up rivals isn’t working… Brentford star is lucky Roy Keane and Vieira retired long ago

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