Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday February 24 2008
I'm not entirely sure if I'll post a match report, I may attempt one later. But after yesterday's match I think everybody's thoughts are firmly in one place. I can't ever recall seeing something happen on a football pitch that has left me feeling so utterly deflated as Eduardo's misfortune. The dire nature of the injury was not graphically apprent from the Railway End. I was a good seventy yards away, indeed it was not immediately apparent that Taylor's feet were so high. In truth, it looked fairly innocuous peering through the throng of bodies. But Cesc Fabregas' reaction immediately told me something was gravely wrong. When I saw him implore the medical staff to hurry, my initial reaction was 'that has to be a broken leg.' However, once the medical staff arrived on the scene,I saw Fabregas' hold his face and look away. The Arsenal players did not surround the perpetrator, instead expressing concern for their stricken team mate. One by one they turned away in horror. I watched Hleb walk to the half way line with his face buried in his hands. Adebayor moved to the Birmingham six yard line and fell to his knees.
Anybody who has watched a serious accident, possibly a traffic incident, or who has watched severe pain inflicted on another person will be aware of the all over body shock that permeates you. I won't go into personal experience, but an example of a friend of mine who watched a man beaten half to death by three men outside a bar in Bolivia. The experience instantly drained the considerable amount of alcohol he had consumed and sobered him instantly, such was the shock. Eduardo's injury yesterday would have provokeda similar kind of response. As Eduardo stayed down for minutes at a time, phones around me begin to buzz with activity. Text messages flooded to my own phone. The underlying message was that Sky Sports were refusing to show replays of the incident as the footage might prove too upsetting. The name on everybody's lips was David Busst. This wasn't good. The mood began to drain as the shock was absorbed. I think Imust have stood with my hand over my mouth for a good two minutes, an entirely involuntary action. Once it had all sunk in, we began to talk about the prospect of Eduardo ever playing again. He still had not even been carried off the pitch yet.
I don't blame the players for not looking up toit after that. It isn't just the shock of seeing a friend prostate with an injury that severe, but the fear that it could so easily happen to you as the tackles snap in. Having had time to reflect, I cannot help but pick upon some of Wenger's post match comments (some of which he has now retracted). I sent the following sentiment to Paul in a text message, and Wenger's interview uncannily reflected my won. I reflected on John Carew's challenge on Alex Hleb,Mark Noble'schallenge on Alex Hleb, Dirk Kuyt's lunge at Philip Neville, Jon Obi Mikel's lunge on Neville in the Carling Cup, Stephen Hunt's disgusting abberation against Man City (I think). This sort of thing has been waiting to happen for a long time. Arsenal have undoubtedly been the most vocal in their opposition to crude challenging. With the fast, technical game we play,often we have been targetted by the bully boys. Infuriatingly, when we have had the temerity to complain, we have been told by opposing managers and pundits alike to stop whingeing and that Arsenal 'don't like it up em.' Hansen and the like have snorted dersively as Tugay rakes his studs down Fabregas' shins. As Neville kicks Reyes up into the air. Alan Shearer's last ever game against Arsenal saw him commit four of the most sickening fouls I've ever seen. (How Senderos' eye stayed in its socket I'll never know). Yet Shearer was lauded as a hero for stuffing it upthose uppity Frenchies.
Manuel Almunia was nearly knocked out in a collision with Jason Roberts (then of Wigan) in a Carling Cup semi final. Paul Jewell's dry reaction to Wenger's objection afterwards, 'you breathe on Arsenal and they moan.' Mark Noble's assault on Hleb in September was dismissed by Match of the Day as 'yellow card at the most, we don't want to remove the passion from our game.' Well ladies and gentlemen, congratulate yourselves. You got exactly what you were asking for yesterday afternoon. Martin Taylor, with the media discourse of 'get into Arsenal, they don't like that' ringing in his ears went to challenge the fleet footed Eduardo, studs showing with liberal abandon and over the top of the ball. Now a young man's career hangs in the balance. Don't get me wrong, I don't for one second think Taylor achieved his objective in hospitalizing Eduardo. But this is exactly the type of recklessness we are witnessing week in week out, violence posturing as 'passion' and this was always likely. But apparently protesting about it makes you a whinger, one of those fancy dan pansies who wouldn't have lasted a second in the Seventies hayday of hardmen.
Some morbid curiosity made me watch the tackle again on YouTube when I got home.I really wish I hadn't, it's just so utterly depressing. I am gutted for the guy. A man who worked so hard to go from Brazil to Croatia, and earned his shot at the big time. He belongs in the big time too. Never once opening his mouth to complain when he wasn't in the side early in the season. He again kept his head down, worked hard and earned his shot. He took it too, scoring a myriad of crucial goals (even in the rainy, windy confines of Goodison Park in December) and he was starting to really show how good a player he is. It's funny, because as the players warmed up yesterday, I reflected very briefly at how much of a fixture he has become of late, his inclusion in the starting line up now passes without mention. It was a fleeting thought which concluded before it began really. But it stands t reason that now I feel the need to elaborate and expand on it. So get well soon Eddie, I only hope your entirely unjust misfortune makes a few others think before they fly into the next wing heeled fancy dan with their studs showing. As for the 'it's not violence, it's British' brigade. I hope you feel as though you got your money's worth.LD.
Date:Sunday February 24 2008
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