What constitutes a bad tackle? Back in the day we used to all applaud a tackle that took man and ball or sometimes just man. It used to be a way full backs would stop tricky wingers. There was no need to win the ball, just take them out of the game with a crunching tackle and they would think twice about trying to run at you again. Centre backs would be the worst. The striker received the ball and plain and simply the centre back would come crashing through the back of them, take legs then ball, and a fair challenge called.
I love watching footage of one Vincent Jones, who played most of his career at Wimbledon and, believe it or not, for Wales. From what I can gather, he once brought a goldfish in Swansea making him eligible to turn out for the Dragons. Now Vinny Jones was not blessed with fancy skill, he was more an enforcer, and I think that’s being polite. I remember watching Liverpool against Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup Final. Literally the first seconds of the match Steve McMahon received the ball and bang! Out of nowhere, Jones wipes him out. If that happened now the wiped out player would roll around the floor like he had just been taken out by a highly trained sniper. But not back then. Back then men were men. Jones flew in and took out McMahon, who simply got up, dusted himself off and carried on. Steve McMahon was no soft touch either of course and probably dished some back as the game progressed.
Now fast forward 30 years. The game has changed so much in terms of tackling. What was once applauded is now frowned upon. A tackle from behind, so famously a weapon in a centre back’s armoury is now a red card offence. If you take the player after the ball it’s probably a yellow card. If you dare pull someone’s shirt in the area, it’s a penalty. Go as far as a forearm smash into someone’s face whilst scoring a header, ah hold on that’s still ok apparently, silly me. (Ed – Lee is still slightly bitter that Bellerin let a left back score)
I am not one who likes to see players get injured, end up broken legs or loss of limbs. That’s just barbaric. But has football gone the other way in terms of a contact sport. Basically has football gone soft. Two footed tackles have been taken out the game or are punishable by red card and rightly so. But football is so quick now, especially the Premier League. If a player is a split second late, a tackle that started innocently looks like murder in a slow motion replay. Pundits discuss tackles like they were goals and we get to see said tackle from 25 different camera angles just for good measure. The thing is, from each angle the tackle can look even worse or sometimes like it wasn’t even a foul. But with the game so fast getting a tackle right every time becomes impossible.
One thing is for sure, with the various changes in tackling, football has become more entertaining and that has got to be a good thing. It has to be, right? But, for me, one of the more majestic sights in a game is a tackle that whips the player into the air whilst the defender comes away with the ball.
The rules do make a lot of sense and we do get to see all the skillful players strut their stuff on the football pitch. But I can’t stop thinking that we are missing a vital element of football.
Maybe a new rule can be introduced which allows each team three crunching tackles a match. Now that would be fun to watch! Because the way we are going the game will be tackle free and non-contact in ten years’ time.
Now Vinny would not like that. Mind you, non-contact football? Maybe Arsene is ahead of his time once again…