Max Gay explains why the tackles on display in the Merseyside Derby this weekend have no place in the modern game.
“Game’s gone soft, I miss the good old days.”
It’s a staple of those who watched the hatchet men of teams such as the Wimbledon crazy gang and Don Revie’s Leeds United. Huge challenges going in and cards at a premium. Now, however, the game appears to have changed, with these sort of tackles becoming far rarer.
This weekend’s Merseyside Derby, however, was something of a throwback to the old days.
Jordan Pickford, Andrew Robertson and Richarlison all throwing themselves into challenges that were worthy of a red card. There is an inevitable sense of drama and entertainment when there’s a red card challenge.
The drama, the and the inevitable vitriol between players after a challenge like that is always entertaining for fans.
However, there’s a fairly obvious drawback and the reason why these challenges need to be outlawed. They simply endanger players. Virgil van Dijk could be out for the season, while Thiago Alcantara is lucky not to have a broken leg.
Aaron Ramsey, Seamus Coleman and Bernd Leno are just some of those who have felt the effects of challenges like this in recent times.
It’s something the Premier League simply can’t afford to return to. The game has moved on from the times of Billy Bremner and Graeme Souness and it needs to stay ahead of it.
Accidents can happen, of course, a mistimed tackle, or a slip can easily result in horrible injuries. However, not punishing tackles like Pickford and Robertson’s set an awful precedent for the game.
Of course, referees are fallible, mistakes will be made, but this is why VAR is there.
The responsibility of referees is as well as controlling the game to protect the players. The Merseyside Derby may not be a surefire indicator of what is to come, but the risk can’t be taken for a return to this kind of culture.