Why Chris Dunlavy be­lieves slide tack­les are on their last legs

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - Chris Dunlavy

ANY cen­tre-half who has ever been left for dead by Jamie Vardy will tell you the Le­ices­ter striker is pretty rapid.

Now OPTA have clocked the Eng­land striker hit­ting 35.4 mph – roughly equiv­a­lent to your av­er­age race­horse and faster than any other player in the Premier League.

At that speed, even an 11-stone waif like Vardy would hit another player with a force of 2000 New­tons, more than enough to break bones.

Which, in a round­about way, ex­plains why Luke Shaw’s leg was snapped so grotesquely by a slid­ing Hec­tor Moreno on Tues­day night.The Man United man will now miss a min­i­mum of six months and, most likely, next sum­mer’s Euro­pean Cham­pi­onships.


In the af­ter­math of blood­cur­dling in­juries, ev­ery­one wants to string up a cul­prit. And some­times, the witch-hunt is jus­ti­fied.

But in this case? I don’t think so – de­spite what Man United boss Louis Van Gaal be­lieves. “A penalty and a red card,” said the Dutch­man. “It was a bad tackle, with two legs.”

You can for­give an emo­tional Van Gaal for go­ing over­board but come on – does any­body re­ally be­lieve that?

Moreno got the ball, ac­ci­den­tally plough­ing through Shaw’s planted foot with his trail­ing leg. In F1 terms, it’s what you’d deem a rac­ing in­ci­dent.

If Moreno was reck­less, so is ev­ery player. No­body ever makes a tackle on the ba­sis of ra­tio­nal thought. Be­fore Moreno leapt into his chal­lenge, did he whip out a cal­cu­la­tor and think ‘OK, I’m 12and-a-half stone, my ve­loc­ity is 30 miles an hour so I’m go­ing to hit this lad with… let’s see, about 2,500 New­tons’?

Of course not. He saw a black shirt burst­ing through on goal, had a split sec­ond to re­act and did so in­stinc­tively. Like ev­ery player, in ev­ery game.

Just last week, I saw Derby’s Chris Baird strapped to a spinal board and carted to the lo­cal in­fir­mary af­ter get­ting knocked spark out in a clash of heads with Joe Garner. Did ei­ther of them con­sider the con­se­quences when they jumped sky­wards? Then they, too, are reck­less.


So can we ever mit­i­gate against leg-break­ing chal­lenges?

One op­tion would be to hand out lengthy bans for any­one guilty of caus­ing an in­jury, ir­re­spec­tive of in­tent. But while this would prob­a­bly in­hibit head­hunters, it’s un­likely to pre­vent flat-out


The other is to ban slide tack­ling al­to­gether, is­su­ing red and yel­low cards to any­one caught leav­ing the ground. As hereti­cal as this sounds, I don’t be­lieve it would change the mod­ern game all that much, with young de­fend­ers (just watch John Stones) now taught that stay­ing up­right is the gold stan­dard.

History tells us that rules are al­ways changed to favour the at­tacker. And with play­ers get­ting faster and stronger – and thus more dan­ger­ous – all the time, I am con­vinced slide tack­ling will go the way of the back­pass in my life­time.

But un­til that day comes, we will just have to ac­cept that in­juries like Shaw’s – and reck­less tack­les like Moreno’s – are an in­trin­sic part of the game.

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