Ryan Giggs a force for good in tackling game's 'dark side'

19 March 2009 09:43
In appealing for strong governance from the Football Association and the introduction of technology to help referees, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association also called for restraint from players on and off the field, urging them to emulate Ryan Giggs, the "classic role model''.

Having played for Bolton Wanderers, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers and Bury before starting work at the PFA in 1980, Taylor is well placed to assess how English football has changed. "I worry that crowd behaviour is starting to go over the top,'' Taylor said on Thursday.

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"There's a lot of banter between rival clubs, a pantomime humour about 'the villain', but just because spectators pay the money doesn't give them the right to subject players to abuse. That's why players have to be careful on the pitch and with using words like 'hate'. Footballers have to do all they can to make sure the game is played with sporting integrity.''

For all the current ills, Taylor stresses that football has been through worse. "In the Eighties, the arenas were full of hatred and venom. I saw people in the car park at Gigg Lane banging heads on the tarmac. The police were saying: 'Don't interfere, Gordon, stay out of it'. I thought: 'What has this come to?' Those were bad days and it is so easy for them to come back if you don't keep the lid on it.

"It needs everyone in the game – players, media and governing bodies in particular – to extol its virtues and make sure they get on top of the dark side.

"That includes respect for fellow professionals on the field of play, like [forbidding] tackles from behind, dangerous, career-threatening tackles, elbows, abuse, bad language. It's a message that has got to go out.

"Not one of us, including me, can turn a blind eye to it. As the governing body, the FA has to show itself capable of looking after the best interest of the game for clubs, players and spectators.''

The "dark side'' must not be allowed to cloud the good that footballers do. "There were 18,000 visits to community activities by our members last year – children charities, cancer charities, National Literacy Trust, Princes Trust,'' said Taylor. "I lose track of them all. PFA members raised £1 million for the rehabilitation unit in the new children's hospital in Manchester. Phil Neville is big into that.''

So is a current Manchester United luminary. "You can't ask for a better example to today's youth than Giggs. Ryan has been a classic role model. He doesn't seek the limelight. He's modest. We presented an award recently to Ryan at Old Trafford.

"One of the union lads with us died shortly afterwards so I wrote to his family to say how sorry I was, and his mother said, 'Well at least he achieved one of his ambitions – meeting Ryan Giggs'.

"Ryan's very much in the style of Tom Finney; you could put him anywhere along that line in midfield. If he was in goal he would do a job for you! When United had difficulties against Inter Milan, Ryan came off his position on the wing and calmed the team down.''

For all the ugly challenges that can fly in from the likes of Kevin Nolan and El-Hadji Diouf, creative forces like Giggs can express himself. "The game has made a lot of progress,'' stressed Taylor. "In my day, we expected defenders to come in waist-high on us. I played in the days of Tommy Smith and Norman Hunter!

"In my day, Cristiano Ronaldo would never have been able to become World Player of the Year with his tricks and abilities. It [Ronaldo's style] invites defenders to have a go and sometimes he gets accused of arrogance.

"But, for the most part, good players are allowed to play these days with the banning of the tackle from behind.''

Because football "is so much faster than before'', Taylor believes officials need recourse to video replays. Technology might have prevented the sort of error by Mike Riley that allowed William Gallas, standing in an offside position, to head Arsenal's winner against Hull City.

"We have seen bust-ups following bad decisions,'' Taylor said. "For us to continue to ignore technology on crucial decisions when it is so clearly used to advantage in rugby union, rugby league and tennis is amazing. Eventually we are going to have to use it.

"It's not an insult to referees; it's an aide memoire. So many managers' careers are on the line every week that we have a duty to make sure results are fair.''

Hull's enraged manager, Phil Brown, afterwards accused Cesc Fabregas of spitting, an allegation that surprised Taylor. "I know Fabregas and I have always thought of him as top class, a young role model and very, very personable.''

Speaking generally, Taylor added that spitting cannot be tolerated. "I would put spitting [as an offence] with racism, the tackle from behind and the use of the elbow. It is something we cannot accept for one second.'' The "dark side'' must be tackled.

 

Source: Telegraph