Crunch time: Aaron Ramsey’s broken leg is a wake-up call for the game of pain

02 March 2010 12:55
A broken leg for poor Aaron Ramsey, bruises for Carlos Tevez and a wild lunge by Liam Ridgewell that went unpunished by the referee. It's the latest riotous round of matches in the Barclays Premier League.

Last week, Sportsmail's Graham Poll argued there should have been three more red cards, including a third of the season for Liverpool's Javier Mascherano.

So is the game becoming rougher and, if so, what can be done to clean it up? Sportsmail brought together our professional panel of experts, Jamie Redknapp, Andy Townsend and Martin Keown, to hear powerful opinions on the great debate

Horror show: Shawcross was sent off after this tackle which broke Ramsey's leg

What is your view of the Shawcross tackle on Ramsey and was it worthy of a red card?

JAMIE REDKNAPP: It was clumsy, late. But was it any worse than William Gallas's tackle on Mark Davies of Bolton a few weeks ago? No. I've watched it back a dozen times. If you rely on Arsene Wenger's emotional response, then Ryan Shawcross would be hanged, drawn and quartered. If the tackle hadn't caused the break, it would have been a yellow card. But our sympathies have to go to Ramsey. He's a special player and now he's in hospital. When I was there for eight days after breaking my ankle playing for England, wondering when I would play again, it's the loneliest place in the world.

Ouch: Andy Townsend admits he hurt opponents

MARTIN KEOWN: Shawcross is drawing his foot back as Ramsey gets to the ball, so the Arsenal player is just there to be hit. At some point during that action, Shawcross knows he is going to make contact with the opponent rather than the ball. The thing is,he doesn't have time to get out of the way because he is committed to the challenge.When someone is lying there with a broken leg, it has to be a red. It's the risk you takegoing in like that. The referee had no choice. He saw the challenge at full speed and then looks across and sees Ramsey's leg lying limply. He had to go.

ANDY TOWNSEND: Any tackle committed at speed, when you are lunging, is potentiallydangerous. There are tons of them every game. This one was borderline reckless, but hang on, how much time do you think a  player has? He's not thought 'I'll go and smash Ramsey'. You don't have time to think! The ball breaks, you have to go and win it. That's your job. I remember Ayrton Senna, talking about overtaking in Formula One. He said: 'When the gap presents itself, if you don't go for the gap, then you are nothing.' In football, you have to go for it. You have to be committed. I'm not going to condemn Ryan Shawcross. I am very sorry for Aaron, who is a great talent, but if he'd managed to get his foot off the floor, we wouldn't be having this debate. It's an unfortunate set of circumstances and we are denied seeing a very special young man. It's terribly sad.

Are Arsenal victims who need more protection, as Wenger says?

Seeing red: Martin Keown admits he was hard

JR: No. Arsenal mix it as much as they take it. Look at the game at Stoke, where CescFabregas could have been sent off for two poor challenges. Arsenal are a delight to watch, but when you are that good then teams such as Blackburn, Bolton and Stokewill try to stop you. And just because Arsene Wenger professes this is the only way to play the game, it doesn't mean everyone has to agree. We don't want to see broken legs, but tackling has to remain part of the game. I played at Liverpool, a working-class area, where they would hammer you if you tried to hold back from a tackle. It's part of the culture of our game here. And, we should remember, Wenger's teams have been able to put it about too. I've still got the marks from playing against Patrick Vieira and Martin Keown!

Clumsy: Tackle on Tim Cahill that Redknapp regrets

MK: Any team that plays in the manner that Arsenal do need protection not that I'msaying they should be treated differently from other teams. They are a victim of that siege mentality that teams adopt to stop them playing their slick passing game. Theproblem is that players are publicly stating that they are going to be physical againstArsenal ahead of games. And if you hit them with lots of tackles, you run the risk of overstepping the mark. The referees need to police that approach by maybe bookingpeople earlier in games, when it is warranted. An early yellow card for people would alter their mindset and calm them down from the frenzy that is created before the game about going in hard. Look, Ramsey is lying in hospital this morning and we don't want to put people in that position.

AT: No, of course not! It's nonsense to suggest that. It's two years since the Eduardo injury and the Gallas tackle against Bolton shows they give as good as they get. I didn't condemn Gallas, either, because tackling has to remain a part of our game, orelse we will end up with a non-contact sport, like netball. Despite the perception that you get stuck into better teams, managers will tell their players to stay on their feet, and not to dive in. If you dive in, you sell yourself, they will pick you off and pass it around you.

Have you ever regretted a poor tackle you have made?

JR: Playing against Tim Cahill. It looked horrific when I watched it later and he accused me of trying to 'do' him. It seemed like I had gone over the top, but I was tryingto protect the ball and shield it from him. I was in control, but he came in quicker than Ianticipated. It was clumsy.

Escape: Mascherano wasn't cautioned for this nasty tackle on Gareth Barry

MK: I was a hard player and went into tackles hard but the only ones I ever regretted were the ones that ended in penalties.

I never went out to intend to put someone in hospital but there were times when I put people out of a game with an elbow or something when I mistimed things.

There's an element of luck involved when you go in hard and maybe I was a bit lucky that nobody was ever badly hurt. People were on the wrong end of some fierce challenges from me.

The worst tackle was in training at Arsenal which broke our back-up keeper Rami Shabaan's leg. We went for an innocuous challenge and his leg completely snapped.

It played on my mind a lot. Another one I regretted for different reasons was on Blackburn's Matt Jansen in 2002. That time, I broke my own leg in the collision.

AT: I once broke David Fairclough's nose with an elbow, but I never broke an opponent's leg. I've hurt opponents, seen them limp off and felt a sense of satisfaction! I'd be a liar if I didn't admit to wanting to knock an opponent up in the air. You always want to see off your rival, that's how you start a game. I had my shin broken too, just like Aaron Ramsey. I had just moved from Weymouth to Southampton and part of the deal was that we went back and played a friendly. I was caught with a late tackle by a former team-mate, Paul Arnold, 20 minutes into the game. Did he mean it? Of course not. It proves my point it can happen when you least expect it, or deserve it. There was no mal ice that day. Just l ike Shawcross.

What's the worst tackle you have seen?

JR: Wolves' Kevin Muscat on Matty Holmes, who was later awarded £250,000 in court.Mick Tait on Bobby Savage, of Bournemouth, from the 1980s. I remember that as akid. We don't get those tackles in the modern game.

MK: In my early days at Aston Villa, I was on the receiving end of a terrible tackle from Billy Whitehurst. We were going for a 50-50 ball and then, all of a sudden, he eased off so I would get there first. I did and then he clattered into me to make his mark. I hadtramlines all down my leg, my shinpad snapped and I was lucky not to break a leg.I had to miss international week because of it. The worst tackle I've seen, though, waswhen I was 19 at Brighton and Crystal Palace's Henry Hughton Chris' brother went over the top on Gerry Ryan and broke a leg. There were bones hanging out all over the place and, honest to God, nobody wanted to carry on with the game.

Bruiser: Michael Ballack earned a second yellow for this tackle on Carlos Tevez

AT: An obvious one, but Harald Schumacher, the German goalkeeper, on Patrick Battiston, of France. That was ridiculously bad. We all think of Roy Keane on Alf IngeHaaland, but it wasn't in the same league. Should there be a sliding scale ofpunishments? The worse the tackle, the longer the ban?

JR: Yes. Or else you end up with Rio Ferdinand getting a four-game ban for a slapon Craig Fagan, but leg-breaking tackles take a maximum of three games. That can'tbe right. The worse the offence, the worse the ban. It shouldn't be down to referees todecide, though. They sometimes don't know how bad a tackle is. There should be adisciplinary panel made up of people who played the game.

MK: Having longer bans depending on the challenge would make some players reconsider how they tackle. Just like with Ben Thatcher's challenge on Pedro Mendesa few years back there should be the option for the disciplinary panel to hand outlonger bans, depending on the intent of the player. In Shawcross's case, I think hewouldn't get a longer ban as he'll be able to prove he was going for the ball but you have to look at each case on its own merits. If someone has done something awful, you want some justice, don't you?

On the slide: Liam Ridgewell's wild lunge on Wigan's James McCarthy

AT: A referee should have the power to nominate an especially bad tackle for a panelof ex-professionals and ex-referees to decide if it is worthy of further punishment. It has to happen. How can you have the same punishment for a leg-breaking tackle as aprofessional foul? The art of tackling: who's the master?

MK: As a young player at Arsenal, I always thought Kenny Sansom was a particularlygood tackler. But Stuart Pearce was probably the best I've ever seen. He wasincredibly hard but reasonably fair not that a lot of wingers would tell you that! AndTommy Smith back in the day was a very fierce challenger. In those days they did justtake people out.

JR: Tackling is much harder now, because the game is quicker and there are so manyyellow cards for mistimed tackles. Looking at the modern game, the best tackler in theBarclays Premier League is Scott Parker, of West Ham. I played against him and histackling is hard and fair, but his timing is excellent.

AT: I played at Southampton with Jimmy Case, who could shake a stadium with histackles. Paul McGrath, a brilliant player, was different at Villa. He slid in with timing andtook the ball cleanly, a bit like Bobby Moore. Both were players I was pleased to see onthe same teamsheet as me. In the modern day, Scott Parker slides in and nicks the ball. Lee Cattermole, of Sunderland, can tackle, so can Liverpool's JavierMascherano, but Case and McGrath would be my top two.

 Stoke stars leap to Ryan Shawcross' defence following Aaron Ramsey horror tackleWe'll win the league for Ramsey! Arsenal star Thomas Vermaelen targets championship to ease injured Aaron's nightmare


Source: Daily_Mail

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