AFTER a humdrum week of cup football, one question jostled for attention above all others; what has become of the great English love of mime?

Chaplin must be arching an eyebrow, pursing the Little Tramp’s saddest face, and turning expressively in his grave. A legacy discarded by his people.

For the most part, George, if we can call him George, has buckled and embraced the dubious ways of the exotic creatures that now walk freely alongside him. He has taken to diving like a gull to water; he has donned gloves and complicated undergarments; the bravest George of all, John Terry, wears his socks provocatively above the knee. When he is really keen to show off, George now looks to take the ball short off his back four.

But one low act remains firmly beyond the pale; the waving – even brandishing – of an imaginary yellow card. Issuing a red one – mime specialists will note the marginally sterner flourish – is, literally, unspeakable.

You can say pretty much what you like about Wayne Rooney these days – chances are it’s been said before – but there’s one slight Wazza won’t allow stand. “I didn’t wave any imaginary card,” he insisted, appalled, as the fallout continued all week over his advisory role to Chris Foy in the Vincent Kompany sending-off last Sunday.

Mime – officially the last resort of the scoundrel, as Roberto Mancini quickly learned after his imagination targeted Martin Skrtel from the Etihad dugouts the week before. The apology came quickly – a man who knew the locals were not for turning on this one.

After all, during the eighties and nineties, the finest British minds exercised themselves detecting and shaming anyone who mimed on Top of the Pops. Sure, Mr Bean was tolerated for a while – though even he grunted a bit now and again to take the bare look off things – but Atkinson soon tore the arse out of that.

Undoubtedly, it was Marcel Marceau who ruined it for them. Once it became a French thing, mime was finished in England and not even a BAFTA for The Artist is likely to change that.

So, the only appropriate medium through which an appeal for good old British fair play can be delivered remains a vein-popping, spittle-flicking rant in the referee’s face, a prompting constructed chiefly of the soundings; oi, facking, hell, fack and sake.

Here, however, the goalposts are gradually shifting. For a man with a union background, Alex Ferguson has expressed pretty mixed views on organised protest. When Rafael da Silva was sent off against Bayern Munich a couple of years ago, Fergie objected to the picket line that enveloped Nicola  Rizzoli.   “Everyone sprinted towards the referee – typical Germans.”

It was – you will have noticed – three English players – Rooney, Ferdinand and Welbeck – who rushed Mr Foy last Sunday. “I think it was a natural reaction to a bad challenge from an opponent,” sniffed Fergie.

Ich bin ein Berliner.

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