Date: 14th March 2007 at 10:59pm
Written by:

With the emergence of foreign talent in the Premiership, the dirty tricks like play acting and diving have crept in and become common-place on our own doorstep, but what irks me more than this, is the fact that while supposed efforts to wipe this from the game seem to fail at every turn, old fashioned traits like the crunching tackle or good old-fashioned shoulder barge are getting more and more less common. Referees and getting stifled in their handling of the game, Roger Milford was a great ref from the eighties and early nineties (except one game against Leicester I recall!), he used to let the game ebb and flow and use common sense rather than rush out a yellow card at every mis-timed challenge. These days he would probably be relegated from the top flight to the lower leagues to brush up on his card flashing.
The long lost art of tackling is as part of our game as wing play and dribbling, but as the latter still are encouraged, any slightly mis-timed tackle gets a straight yellow, and thus the player holds back for the rest of the match in fear of a red. As recently as 15-20 years ago I used to stand on the Fratton end and scream on heroes like Yosser Tait, Micky Kennedy and Martin Kuhl, players who would spend more times banned than playing these days. The thing is you used to have players who could pass the ball and skip around defenders, and then you had players who were on the pitch to stop them and give then give it to their team mates who could perform such skills. Now though I fear our beloved game is heading the way of basketball, where no contact can be made and the more agricultural player will become extinct, players like the above and others like Stuart Pearce, Souness, Butcher and the like will never grace the higher levels.
It seems now that diving is here to stay, to me it is more of a blatant offence than a scything tackle, if you hack someone down you know whats coming to you, if you do a dying swan and get away with it you get rewarded with a free-kick or penalty and your opponent gets a card! If you are rumbled by the ref the worse you get is a yellow card offence. Tackling though is harshly punished, I’m not saying players should be able to hack players out of matches as in the seventies a’la Chopper Harris on Gray of Leeds, but a genuine but failed attempt to win a ball should be punished with a free-kick and not accompanied with a yellow nearly every time. Referees are now told to give free-kicks for tackles with aggressive intent, even if the ball is won, this used to be known as a calling card, where a defender tackled as hard as he could to give a striker or winger something to think about next time he tries skipping round and step-overring into the box, a fair crunching tackle should be part of the game, the studs up stuff is rightly getting removed.
To validify my point, if you were to ask any knowledgable fan ‘who is the greatest ever player?’ and more often than not two names crop up, those of Pele and George Best, players who shone in the days when tackles were hard and players who were made to look brilliant by their ability to skip past a lunging attempt for the ball and make the less able cloggers look stupid.
I know times move on , but if diving gets to flourish in the way it does and tackles get more and more punished, the game will suffer, the Premiership is already stuffed with over-paid primadonnas, and the English players of old don’t get much further than League 1, I want my football to be played with passion, not by having better actors on my side than the others, maybe its time for a breakaway league in the style of Rugby league and Rugby Union where one set of players play under one set of rules, and another play under a set where diving and play-acting are punished with the red cards, and honest fouls are allowed, keepers don’t get a free-kick every time they drop the ball, players can celebrate a goal by waving their shirt around their head, and a defender can shoulder barge a nippy winger off the ball.
I think my point is clear!