First things first, I’m a Newcastle supporter. A lot of Newcastle fans see this affair as summing up a tough season for the club. With injuries piling up throughout the year to key players like Cabaye, Coloccini, Ben Arfa and Debuchy, McManaman’s challenge caused the frustration to boil over. As a result, McManaman will be the subject of some criticism for what was, undeniably, a terrible challenge. However, does the blame lie entirely with him, or are there other people to complain about?
Let’s start with the tackle itself. It’s certainly a poor first touch from Haidara, and as a result the ball is briefly there to be won. One could ask whether McManaman is even trying to tackle Haidara, or simply attempting to smash the ball clear. If he’d managed to get under the ball before Haidara’s touch, then he might have won possession. However, with Haidara so close to the ball at the time, using so much force so far off the ground can definitely be considered dangerous play. So, you have to ask yourself if McManaman simply misjudges his tackle or has some sort of malicious intent.
I don’t believe that McManaman went into the challenge trying to hurt Haidara. He misjudged the flight of the ball, which is understandable given the amount of spin before it bounces. He then mistimes the challenge horribly and in the end it was dangerous, and should be met with punishment. You still can’t justify the tackle if it was misjudged and mistimed – you can’t go in that high and that hard without expecting a red card. I don’t know if it was a rush of blood to the head or something else, but McManaman should never have tried that, no matter what.
Even players who mistime tackles this badly are allowed to admit that they were wrong. Just look at the example Ryan Shawcross set after his tackle on Aaron Ramsay – he was utterly distraught by the injury he had caused. He broke down into tears on the pitch. Callum McManaman, however, ran from the scene of the challenge and then intentionally handled the ball out of play. After such a jarring impact, I can’t believe that McManaman didn’t think to check his opponent was all right. Even if you were going for the ball, even if you didn’t see the other player, even if the ball bounced strangely or you mistimed the tackle, even if you did nothing wrong but it ended up with the other player needing a stretcher, an apology is par for the course. I don’t think McManaman’s conduct is anything like what it should be.
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan’s comments are quite interesting to say the least. He claims, firstly, that McManaman won the ball “clean as a whistle”.You only have to watch a video of the challenge to see that he does not. He clips the ball with his trailing leg, but as far as I’m aware, most footballers don’t go in at knee height with their studs up to block the ball with their standing leg. The tackle simply cannot be defended. The player perhaps can be, but the tackle was so dangerous that something has to be done.
So where does the blame lie? Is it with the referee and his officials on the day? My immediate answer would be that Mark Halsey’s view of the incident was blocked by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Newcastle boss Alan Pardew claims that he apologised at half-time for missing the incident, which seems fair enough. If none of the officials see what happened, you can’t punish the player, but you can certainly accept that a mistake has been made if a player needs a stretcher. So no, the match officials were unfortunate to miss the tackle, but took the right action given what they knew.
So, should the FA have taken action? Well, their official stance is that if an incident is seen by an official, even if not to its full extent, then retrospective action should not be taken. So, if any of the four officials looking at the game saw McManaman going for the ball, even if from an angle where they didn’t see quite how dangerous it was, then the FA should stay out of the situation. Because the assistant saw the tackle from the touchline, strictly speaking, they can’t re-referee. This has to be a wake-up call for the FA to change their rules on these sorts of incidents. McManaman deserved a red card, and the fact that he could be playing in a couple of weeks is just not right.
As far as the action that the FA did take goes, I’m not going to try to defend John Carver. His actions were out of order, and I’d say the same thing about Graham Barrow. But what I don’t understand about that is that they were both punished at the time by Mark Halsey. He saw their actions and sent them to the stands, and yet the FA still feel the need to apply extra punishment for them. How is that re-refereeing any more than banning McManaman? Derek Llambias may have had a point when he claimed that the FA’s disciplinary process is “not fit for purpose”.
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