As fans of Bolton Wanderers Football Club, we have all seen our fair share of bad injuries and even worse tackles. Many of the injuries sustained by Bolton players in recent seasons have been relatively innocuous, be it an awkward landing or a misstep. Yet, we have also seen tackles end seasons and cause prolonged lay-offs thanks to lengthy recoveries.
Stu Holden and Chung-Yong Lee are the two that come to mind for Bolton fans (along with Tyrone Mears but that was an injury sustained in training) but football fans all over the world have experienced similar. Arsenal come to mind as well with both Aaron Ramsey and Bacary Sagna (among others) suffering broken legs lately. Tough tackles are a very large part of football and there are a number of players known specifically for their abilities to hit and hit hard but how many of them actually mean it? How many are actually "dirty?"
Joey Barton (on more than one occasion), Kevin Nolan (at Newcastle), John Terry, Ryan Shawcross, and Karl Henry, among many others, have all played the aggressor but how many of them can be likened to Roy Keane's "tackle" (more like assault) on Alf Inge Haaland? This is where the separation between a bad tackle and a bad tackle with intent is important. Late challenges and high challenges happen much more often than anyone would like but the vast majority aren't meant that way.
Enter, their defenders.
Whenever one of these "bad tackles" does occur, you'll quickly see someone jumping to the culprit's defense. In the case of Ryan Shawcross, it was Tony Pulis with the famous "Ryan isn't that sort of player" line.
When Newport County's Tom Miller broke Chung-Yong Lee's leg, it was the club's director that stepped in, saying:
"Tom, as most supporters would have seen, was visibly distraught after the challenge and actually asked Anthony [Hudson] if he could be removed from the field as soon as was possible."
Which is all well and good, these athletes mostly are not "that sort of player." They aren't hunting out the opposition and trying to break a leg or damage a knee. The issue is that the damage is done and simply saying "he didn't mean to do it" is not an apology and does no one any good.
This, of course, comes on the heels of this weekend's rash challenge that saw Wigan's Callum McManaman go very high and send his studs into the leg of Newcastle United's Massadiao Haidara, just below the knee. The tackle, a very bad one at that, went unpunished on the field but Haidara was forced off and straight to hospital where the suspicion is knee ligament damage.
If you're so inclined, you can see the aforementioned tackle here but be warned, you'll feel it.
Dave Whelan, owner of Wigan Athletic, defended McManaman in the wake of the incident but his comments did nothing more than get on the nerves of bystanders. Whelan, of course, had his own leg broken in the 1960 FA Cup Final so he was speaking from experience. Even the, his comments may have crossed the line:
"The ball was there and McManaman got the ball as clean as a whistle, then followed through and they collided.
"There is not one ounce of malice in Callum McManaman. He is an enthusiastic young boy. He has got great prospects. He was very upset by it all.
"The referee was 15 yards from the tackle. I don't think his view was blocked. He had a clear view. I had a clear view in the stands.
"I always try to shake hands with the referee and linesmen before and after the match because it is a very difficult job. Mark Halsey is a very experienced referee."
Defending your own player is one thing but defending that tackle? There's no justification for that.
Back to the original point: how many of these players actually mean it? A public apology, not a defense, should suffice.