Stopping at the Red Lights
Reading the media this morning, typified by the Collymore article below, and over the weekend it is hard not to return to the awful consequence of the Stoke game even though so much has been said already. I tend to look for the positives in most situations but I find it very difficult to see that football has even begun to understand what the tackle on Ramsey should be telling the game. It is misleading to say that anyone is seriously claiming that the Shawcross tackle was malicious or made with the intent to break Ramsey's leg but it was most definitely made 'in a manner considered to be careless, reckless or using excessive force' to use the laws of the game. What was Shawcross trying to do? Certainly not win possession of the ball as many claim. He tried to launch the ball and anything in its orbit into the stands. There is no need to make a tackle of that nature at anytime but certainly not against a player 5 yards inside his own half.
Those using the Gallas tackle that brought so much furore in a game against Bolton a short time back as though it justifies Shawcross`s are looking at the issue from the wrong end of the telescope. But it is still useful to illustrate the difference between controlled and uncontrolled tackling. Gallas was on his feet when tackling in a controlled manner as required by the laws of the game but mistimed it as the risk of any tackle can carry. The Bolton player however was off his feet lunging at the ball in an uncontrolled manner which he stood no more chance of winning than Gallas. The fact that the Bolton player wasn't seriously injured despite his own 'careless, reckless use of excessive force' was precisely because Gallas didn't use excessive force. Had the Bolton player exercised the same care and degree of control as Gallas he might have contested the ball with even less risk of injury.
It isn't possible to prove intent but you don't have to in order to eradicate playing "in a manner considered to be careless, reckless or using excessive force" which is where the real danger lies. That is what most of this debate is missing. No-one is out to demonise any player but Shawcross who was previously criticised for a tackle that broke Francis Jeffers ankle 30 months ago and for other incidences since was defended then as now by Stoke officials who seemingly have failed in their duty to educate their young players.
"Jeffers was playing well at the time and it was probably a new experience for Ryan to get frustrated, maybe that`s why he chased down the ball and made the tackle." Explained Stoke`s assistant manager at the time as though frustration is justification.
Nicklas Bendtner, one of Ramsey`s close friends describes the incident on Saturday "I was standing right next to Aaron, when it happened, and immediately there was no doubt at all, that he broke his leg. It was a terrible, totally mad tackle from Ryan Shawcross, and he is really smashing hard into Aaron.
"I don`t believe that anybody would try to intentionally to make an injury on another player, a fellow professional, but the way he is going into the tackle is out of control, and that doesn`t belong anywhere."
Therein lies the real issue behind this obfuscation of maliciousness, intent or partisan jibes at Arsenal for daring to highlight that footballs ostrich like mentality towards genuine problems does little to help anyone. Right now Shawcross can be made to feel he has just been unlucky and has done nothing wrong as that is what he is being told. There is little to encourage the belief that English referees will use the laws of the game to clamp down on carelessness, recklessness or the use of excessive force as the laws of the game already allow. So there is little reason to believe Shawcross and the managers that encourage players like him will understand that he has a responsibility that he and they have too often ignored in the past. Along with the pain suffered by Aaron Ramsey that is the great regret here.
There are red lights in football that players must be made to see. It`s too late to wait for the red cards. The damage has already been done by the time they see them. They need to be told they are there but right now it seems too few people can even begin to admit they exist at all.
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