Why we’ve all got the wrong attitude when it comes to ‘bad tackles’


Written by Cameron Sharpe for Let me ask you a question. What do you think of when you hear the name Jonny Evans? Strange query you might think, but apart from suffering an injury plagued season this time around, many will simply acknowledge a player who may well prove to be the bedrock of Manchester United’s defence for the next decade and a half.

Now, what about Martin Taylor? For many their knowledge of Taylor begins and ends on one cold February afternoon in 2008 when in the early minutes of the Birmingham-Arsenal league clash, his challenge on Croatian striker Eduardo ruled the youngster out of action for nine months with a sickening leg break.

As we return from a near two week international break, fans of Bolton Wanderers are facing up to the prospect of being without one of their finest players this season for the rest of the campaign and beyond.

Whilst many of his club team mates have been away on international duty, Stuart Holden has been coming to terms with the fact that his dream first season in English football has turned into an injury nightmare as a direct result of the tackle from Johnny Evans at Old Trafford two weeks ago.

Many will have had to look up who exactly it was that inflicted the injury on the Bolton midfielder, such has been the scarcely believable relaxed media attitude towards the challenge that ruled one of the Trotters’ brightest prospects out of the game for at least six months

Considering the devastating nature of a cruciate ligament injury, it was thus incredibly refreshing to hear Holden accept a call from Evans by way of apology and to reflect that injuries of this nature are “part of the game.”

If only everybody took this view in the world of football. Some fans may consider the comparison between Jonny Evans and Martin Taylor unfair, but it is an interesting point of reference for what can happen when a career threatening injury is sustained.

Of course, had the harm been inflicted on an Arsenal player, we would have had to prepare ourselves for an Arsene Wenger led tirade about the war on good football by mid-table Premier League sides up and down the country. Yet, in this situation, Owen Coyle almost felt he couldn’t get angry about the tackle, and the focus was on Mike Phelan’s concession that the referee had made the right decision.

This is not to castigate the United defender – but can someone explain to me the difference between Ryan Shawcross’ challenge on Aaron Ramsey last season and the tackle by Evans?

Now I am not for a moment suggesting that the Northern Irish international meant to cause damage to Bolton’s central midfielder, but it struck me, and has continued to surprise me over the last two weeks, just how accepting everyone has been of what was undoubtedly a very dangerous challenge.

It appears impossible not to conclude that there is a remarkable hypocrisy in action here. Where a team deemed to play good football suffers a loss like this, it is painted as criminal. When any other side suffers the same fate, the incident is merely incredibly unlucky.

Outrage on either side is not desirable. Whenever tackles lead to major injuries managers and players look for someone to blame. Genuine malicious challenges are not commonplace. Neither Taylor nor Shawcross had prior reputations for ruthless challenges, yet will be forever remembered as inflicting two career threatening injuries. Even if Stuart Holden never recovers from his injury setback, admittedly not a likely prospect, Jonny Evans will not be remembered in such a light.

Am I the only one to think this double standard is unfair?

Indisputable intent to harm should certainly be punished – Ben Thatcher quite rightly had the book thrown at him for his sickening challenge on Pedro Mendes four seasons ago, yet Roy Keane received only a mandatory three match ban before confessing his intention to end the career of Alf Inge Haaland. Ultimately, however, Thatcher is remembered as a dangerous loose cannon, Keane a no nonsense midfielder.

We love a sport that is fast, frenetic and intense. It is time to follow Stuart Holden’s lead and appreciate that misfortunate incidents happen, whichever side you play for.

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1 comment

  • fred says:

    How can anyone suggest roy keane be held in the same bracket as ben thatcher? Roy keane was one of the best midfielders the game has ever seen, and is the best and most inspirational captain the league has ever seen, better than any english midfielder. Every other football loving country sees him as an all time great. And you dismiss him like some average player. Footballing knowledge is not your forte is it? Maybe bitterness is.

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