McGrath and Roberts slam Liverpool over Suarez T-shirts
Published 13:20 22/12/11 By David Maddock
Liverpool have been criticised by three black footballers after they wore T-shirts in support of Luis Suarez at Wigan last night.
Every squad member, as well as Reds manager Kenny Dalglish, warmed up in a shirt printed with the striker's picture, name and number 7 in a show of defiance over his eight-match ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra.
But the stance was condemned by former Manchester United defender Paul McGrath, who Tweeted: "As ex footballer having experienced racist comments throughout my career I was saddened to see Liverpool players wear those tshirts"
He added: "I would have been much happier if they had worn anti racist tshirts."
Blackburn striker and 606 pundit Jason Roberts also wrote on Twitter: "The stance on the Suárez issue from LFC has bemused me… are United going to print Evra shirts now????? Some issues are bigger than football."
And former Newcastle defender Olivier Bernard, now an anti-racism campaigner, told Sky: "I really didn't think it was fine to wear the T-shirts. I can understand the club's side of it, but in society we can't accept racism and give support to a player who has used racist words.
"It's not OK to use racist language and the message they sent out yesterday was a bit wrong. I don't mind them giving support to Mr Suárez, but I just think it's a bit wrong to wear the T-shirt because that means they have allowed racist language. I just don't understand it."
The Anfield club now look certain to extend that support with an appeal against the suspension handed down by the FA after Suarez was found guilty of aiming racist abuse at Manchester United's Patrice Evra.
An appeal carries its own risk, however, as the FA can EXTEND the existing ban if they deem there is no merit in the grounds for challenging their decision.
An independent three-man disciplinary committee - led by QC Paul Goulding - spent a week examining the evidence, before delivering the shock verdict on Tuesday.
But as they warmed up before the clash at the DW Stadium, the Reds' players offered their own verdict via their matching Suarez t-shirts.
Dalglish joined in, wearing one of the shirts during a pre-match TV interview.
Earlier, the squad joined together to issue a collective statement in support of Suarez, who has 14 days after receipt of the committee's written verdict to decide on an appeal.
The statement read: "Luis Suarez is our teammate and our friend and as a group of players we are shocked and angered that he has been found guilty by the FA.
"We totally support Luis and we want the world to know that. We know he is not racist. We are a squad of many different nationalities and backgrounds. All of us support the Club's commitment to fighting racism.
"All of us accept there is no place in the game for any form of discrimination. As a group of players we totally support the Kick it Out campaign. We have lived, trained and played with Luis for almost 12 months and we don't recognise the way he has been portrayed.
"We will continue to support Luis through this difficult period, and as a popular and respected friend of all his teammates, he will not walk alone."
Had Liverpool accepted the ban immediately, Suarez would have missed the Wigan match but been back in time for the second leg of the Carling Cup semi final against Manchester City on January 25.
His presence on Wednesday's team-sheet suggests there will be an appeal, which cannot conceivably get underway until the end of January at the earliest.
That would allow the striker to play in both legs of the Carling Cup semi and some important festive fixtures, but creates the possibility of him missing most of the rest of the season - especially if the ban in extended if the FA deem the appeal frivolous in any way.
Suarez may be risking a further suspension as he goes in search of the innocence he still passionately proclaims, but he looks likely to avoid the prospect of a court case similar to the one England captain John Terry is now facing over his own alleged racist comments to an opponent.
Merseyside police have confirmed they would only investigate if Evra makes a formal complaint, and he is unlikely to do so at this stage of the proceedings.
Liverpool have 14 days from the time they receive the written judgement to decide on an appeal.
And as the document is unlikely to arrive until after Christmas, it will be at least a month before a second case can be heard.
Because it is a case with a precedent, it means the eight-match ban could easily be extended - especially if the FA take exception to Wednesday's events in Wigan.
Suarez is also facing another FA charge, for allegedly aiming an obscene one-fingered gesture at Fulham fans last month.
The Uruguay star has vehemently maintained that although he used the term 'negro' in an exchange with Evra, it was not in a racist context.
Dalglish maintained the player's innocence of all charges, and praised the decision by the entire squad to wear t-shirts in support of their team-mate.
"For anybody that doubted the support there is for Luis Suarez from the football club, players or anybody associated with the club, they are under no illusions now," the Scot explained.
"There will be a lot more, a groundswell, totally on his side - the people that he's played with and for. They are under no illusions."