Trevor Sinclair: Players do not plan to dive before a match

By James McMath & Luke ReddyBBC Sport

Wayne Rooney's tumble to win a penalty in Manchester United's 3-1 win over Preston on Monday night has reignited the debate over diving.

Are players right to take evasive action? Can diving ever be condoned or is it simply cheating?

Former England winger Trevor Sinclair, 41, tells BBC Sport he believes no player plans to dive but argues that hitting the deck is sometimes the only option.

Ex-Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton striker Gordon Watson, 43, was widely criticised for a dive during a 6-1 defeat by Leeds when he was at the Owls in 1992. He says the controversy that followed the incident set his career back by a year.

And BBC Sport pundit Kevin Kilbane, 38, who began his career with Preston, believes Rooney was focused only on gaining an advantage for his team.

What do players really think about it?

Sinclair: "I've got quite firm views about diving. If there's no contact and it's not a case of a player taking evasive action, then certainly I'm all for that being stamped out.

"But if you're an offensive player and a defender comes flying in at 100 miles per hour and that causes you to lose momentum, then I think players are entitled to go down.

Tom Daley rates famous football dives

"People are naïve if they think players are going to stay on their feet. A player has a right to go down, football is not this Walt Disney world a lot of people think it is."

Watson: "No one in my dressing room battered me for the dive. I was the baby of the squad.

"Not once in my career did I see a player take stick for diving. You are looking to win a game and that may sound cut-throat but it's win at all costs. That's what players think."

"It's not Diego Maradona handballing the ball into the net. It's still the referee's decision at the end of the day, he doesn't have to give a penalty."

Kilbane: "All Rooney was thinking was 'can I gain an advantage for my team?' The worst that could happen was he would have been booked and it came at a key time because it killed the game for Preston.

"I don't imagine it was spoken about in the dressing room after the game. If it was, it would probably just be as a laugh between team-mates."

Former Southampton striker Gordon Watson
Gordon Watson joined Southampton from Sheffield Wednesday in 1995

Do players practise diving in training or is it instinctive?

Sinclair: "No. Some players might get into a situation on the pitch, perhaps when they get into the box, and have it in the back of their mind that they will go down but I do not believe that any player goes into a match planning to dive.

"For some players, it's a choice between taking evasive action or spending a few weeks on the medical table."

Watson: "A lot of players invite it. The one I don't like which has come into the game in recent seasons is when a player dangles his leg into a defender to get tangled up. That is gamesmanship.

"Sometimes they look like a dive but it's not. Players are travelling at such speed these days and they may go over someone but they haven't dived. If we look at replays of the same incident in slow motion we are not looking at the same thing."

Kilbane: "It's definitely instinctive. It's ingrained more in some players than others and that's why it happens more with some than others but I don't believe any player goes out thinking 'I'm going to win a penalty today'."

Do managers or coaches tell players to dive?

Sinclair: "I don't think so. A lot of it is about better defending. They need to stay on their feet and defend properly and then the referee would not have a decision to make. I'm a coach at Lancaster City. One of our main messages to our players is to stay on their feet and be disciplined."

Watson: "Trevor Francis was my manager and he'd not encourage it but he always told us, if you get clipped in the box, go down. He used to say that all the time."

Kilbane: "You might get a manager asking a player why he didn't go down in the area after a match but I don't think a manager would tell a player before a match to go down."

Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj
Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj was booked for diving against West Ham in December 2013

What happens when a player earns a reputation as a diver?

Sinclair: "If you get a reputation for diving, it's probably because you have been diving. If decisions start going against you because of it then it's something you need to put right by not going down as easily and possibly taking a few whacks.

"It's not cheating. It's almost an unwritten rule that if you get your body between the defender and the ball then he can't touch you.

"He can't slide down the side and he can't tackle you from behind. If you feel contact, you go down."

Watson: "Saint and Greavsie (TV pundits Ian St John and Jimmy Greaves) battered me. It was on the back page of The Sun and they called me a cheat.

"That put me back about 12 months. My confidence was shot, every ground I went to I was slaughtered. I had to grow up pretty quickly.

"These days there are 15 games a week on TV and it's very different. Diving was in its infancy when I did it and it made the reaction a bit different."

Kilbane: "We've seen it recently with certain players getting a reputation and increasingly it is not just players from overseas. Diving used to be known as the 'foreign disease' but Premier League players of all nationalities have been accused of diving.

"This is not the first time Wayne Rooney has faced criticism - he was accused of diving against Arsenal to end their unbeaten run in 2004-05."

Chelsea midfielder Oscar
Chelsea midfielder Oscar was booked for diving against Southampton in January 2014

Did you ever dive?

Sinclair: "I was too honest and too dumb. I was from an era in the late 1980s and early 1990s when offensive players did not get a lot of protection from referees. I wish I'd played when referees protected offensive players better because I'm sure I would have played more matches.

Watson: "It's the most disgraceful dive you'll ever see. My son still batters me for it. Live on TV, 19 million people watching as it was the only game on TV that week.

"We were playing Leeds, a local derby, we lost 6-1 and I remember Chris Whyte clipping the back of my ankle, I took a step and went down.

"I had players screaming in my face and I had no idea why but when I watched it back I thought it was unbelievably bad. It was the fact I took a step before going down, I over-egged it."

Kilbane: "I genuinely don't think I did. I'm sure someone will correct me on this but, hand on heart, I don't think I ever dived."

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