Please Tackle Responsibly: An open letter to Alan Hansen

Dear Alan Hansen,

I am writing to take issue with your claim on Saturday evening’s Match of the Day that Johnny Evans was unlucky to be sent-off after his tackle on Stuart Holden in Saturday’s Manchester United Bolton game.

While I appreciate that you did not know at the time that Holden, as was confirmed on Monday, will be out for around six-months as a result of the collision between his knee and Evans’s studs, I still regard your comments as inappropriate and irresponsible.

Your first claim was that Evans ‘got a lot of the ball’. This is true; his left knee does make contact with the ball. His right foot was, of course, crushing Holden’s knee at the same time. How do you explain this? An unfortunate coincidence, perhaps, but one for which we cannot hold Evans responsible? I disagree.

My real problem, however, is with your second assertion, that ‘there’s no intent there’.

First, what difference does it make whether or not there’s intent? Given the state of Holden’s knee, and his resultant six-month absence, the state of Johnny Evans’s mind before the tackle is really irrelevant and the three-match ban it will cause him is paltry in any case. If we are to feel that one of them was unlucky then surely it should be your fellow (sort of) countryman, no?

In any case, what qualifies you to speak for Evans’s intentions. These are private mental processes, of which the thinker is often only implicitly aware, and therefore by definition unknowable by another human. I acknowledge that, unlike your good self, I have never played professional football but I have met humans before and have generally found that the best way of gauging their intentions is through examining their actions. In this case, Evans’s action was to challenge very very hard for a loose ball for which another player was clearly challenging. That Evans took the ball with his knee, while allowing his foot to obliterate his opponent, suggests to me that the former may have been a secondary concern.

Anyway, let’s not talk about that unsavoury incident anymore. Let’s talk about you.

You have made your position on tackling in the modern game abundantly clear. Like those guys who can still dry-stone wall or build thatched roofs, you obviously see yourself as a champion of a dying art. I can respect that (I love dry-stone walls, and thatched roofs are very energy efficient).

That said, I take it as a sad statement on the state of your own mind that you regard laughable defenses of the indefensible as the best way of furthering your cause. If it is genuinely the case that Evans’s tackle had a place in your day (which I doubt), then we’re better off now. Especially since it is simply not true that you never see a good tackle these days. The same Man Utd. Bolton match that ended Holden’s season also included an absolute peach of a tackle from Gary Cahill. Disappointingly, it didn’t get a mention in the ‘analysis’ section of Match of the Day, presumably so that you could spend more time complaining that the art of tackling is dead?

I appreciate that you have worked hard to craft a media persona of belligerent negativity but please. If you want us all to enjoy a tackle as much as you do then I advise you to devote your time in front of the nation to the examination of good ones.

After all, Jack Daniels doesn’t promote his product with thirty-second clips of young men hunched over their pans vomiting a putrid brown liquid, does he? Of course not.

I am not saying, and nor is Jack, that this is not a familiar component of the Jack Daniels experience, but he covers it up with a simple ‘Please Drink Responsibly’ warning. Why, oh why, can’t you do the same?

Kind Regards,

The Big Man.

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24 Responses to Please Tackle Responsibly: An open letter to Alan Hansen

  1. Aussie Red Devil says:

    Watch the tackle again. Evans gets the ball with his foot. Not is knee. Not his elbow. Not his earlobe. Two players sliding in for a tackle in a contact sport. There are sometimes going to be consequences. You watch every match and you will see many studs first tackles and nothing is done about them. It is an inevitable part of the game. Cahill’s tackle on Evra was studs on the ankle (you choose to mention Cahill’s peach but neglect to mention this tackle). Why was that not a red card based on your logic? If the tackle misses and it is studs first then by all means you pay a price. Carragher on Nani being a good example. (Which reminds me…where is your open letter to Carragher?). Carragher missed the ball completely and it was very fortunate that Nani’s standing foot was pulling back or it would have been much, much worse.

    If Evans was slightly later would it have been Holden sent off? If Evans didn’t slide and it cost the team a goal then he would have had Fergie to contend with or possibly an injury himself.

    The game has no place for thuggery but a certain amount of common sense must apply to a scenario where there are studs, opposing forces and an increasingly fast game.

    • Calum says:

      Ok biased fan, you’re right: Evans should never have been sent off, Cahill should and Carragher should be shot.

      That would make an excellent blog post, thanks for your input.

      • Aussie Red Devil says:

        Toys out of the pram alright…….instead of critiquing my response you throw a tantrum. Superb journalism.

        You spend 50% of your article talking about the tackle and then suggest your real point is Hansen’s attitude towards tackling. Perhaps you should have thought of that before you spent 50% of your time on the article where you use Evan’s tackle as a premise to attack Hansen.

        I would be prepared to discuss Hansen on his own merits if your premise was sound but Hansen is hardly alone in thinking that the tackle was ok.

        The sending off was a pivotal point and can hardly be described as otherwise. That United overcame that pivotal point speaks volumes about the team. If not for the International break United could be in much more trouble.

        You point out Evans walking as a justification to his send off. Noone ever gets a referee to change their mind and perhaps Evans just figured it was pointless wasting his breath. His face didn’t indicate he agreed with the ref.

        As for the biased toy that you threw out of the pram, I don’t have a problem with a United player getting sent off if warranted or outright thuggery being cracked down on it football. Rooney should have been sent off for the elbow. Vidic pushed his luck too far and was silly.

        Discuss the issues with those that disagree with you and you might earn a little more respect with your perspective.

      • Calum says:

        You seem to have misunderstood what’s happening here. I am not a journalist and this is not an article.

        I didn’t engage with your original comment because I thought it was ridiculous – especially when you asked indignantly where my open letter to Jamie Carragher is, it doesn’t exist and why on earth would it? Your comment smacked of United bias, let’s not forget that Carragher’s horrendous challenge was followed almost immediately by an almost equally bad Rafael one.

        If you don’t think Evans’s tackle was a bad one that’s fine, you are perfectly entitled to. I think that it was and that the red card, and subsequent three match ban (which, by the way, United are not appealing), was more than warranted. I used it in my post as the latest example of Hansen’s general position on challenges of this type. ‘He got a lot of the ball’ and ‘there’s no intent there’ are stupid cliches spouted by Hansen every time a tackle of this nature occurs, as it happens this latest example involved a United player and as a result attracted the attention of one of the largest and most blinkered of fans groups who wish to see (in spite of, as you point out, 50% of the piece dealing with Hansen in deliberately general terms) the post as yet another example of anti-United bias, which it isn’t. As you (and another commentor) suggested, Holden could have been sent off himself had things turned out differently – I completely agree, but he is out FOR SIX MONTHS so let’s be clear on who is the victim here.

      • Aussie Red Devil says:

        Writing articles to be read by the masses on the Internet is not Journalism? Hmmmmm. Not a very good journalist perhaps but journalism nonetheless.

        You didn’t engage because it opposed your point of view and as you are self-assessed as arrogant you believe there is no other point of view. Just don’t expect people to think you write brilliant stuff and not get criticised.

        Once again you throw up the United bias. I have already said I have no problems with United players getting sent off when in the wrong. Rafael was rash and if he doesn’t curb his tackling he will have a short career with United despite his potential. I didn’t point out the the whole post at any time as ABU. You brought that into it and continue on that crusade as if it’s personal. You introduce the “most blinkered of fans” terminology. It seems like someone has a chip on their shoulder.

        Six months out…….did you accidentally hit the caps lock or was that a little bit if journalistic creativity?

        If, as you insist, you are having a go at Hansen (I am not a for or against Hansen) for his generalisation, then in future don’t use a specific example to string him up. Pick out several examples to back up your article and then you might have people thinking you have a more considered point of view.

        My perspective doesn’t come from supporting United……but then you aren’t really interested in that are you??

      • Calum says:

        I am really not a journalist, apart from anything else I don’t get paid. If you want to check out my views on the ideological distinction, they’re available here:
        The Outspoken Minority: Football’s Blogging Community

        ABU? What is that? It looks like it might be some sort of acronym for Anti-United Bias? I’ve got a chip on my shoulder…

    • Aussie Red Devil says:

      Brilliant…introduce all this ABU talk and then turn it around and blame me for it!! You just don’t get it. I don’t care if you things get fairly pinned on United and have said as much several times now. You seem to have a lot of trouble accepting that but that would be the your arrogance kicking in again would it not?

      Love your faux surprise at the discovery of the ABU meaning….stupendous discovery and genuine emotion all in one.

      Journalism does not by it’s definition mean paid. You really should consider consider going pro. They will introduce you to dictionaries and all sorts of other big books.

      Alas you will stick to your idealogical distinction of being just a blogger……and I don’t need to read any more into your Idealogical Distinctions………..I have seen enough ineptitude for this week.

      It’s been fun discussing your journalistic shortcomings.

      Enjoy your weekend 🙂

  2. Dave says:

    not a fan of either side but it was a 50-50 and its a shame holden has picked up such a serious injury and evans seems to get the ball will his foot and then holden slides into his path.

    the cut might of been on his knee but the tackle wasnt a high one, holden jumped into and if he/evans goes a couple of 10ths of a second earlier then it might of been evans with the injury.

    you attack the guy above for bias but your article is also biased and he pointed out a few points, which rather than address, you thrown your toys out of your pram.

  3. William says:

    were you addressing yourself there Calum when you said ‘ok biased fan’ as evidently you are looking at this all from a rather tinted specs perspective. your childish response to a valid comment on you article does you no favours either

  4. Calum says:

    Having collected toys…

    The point of the article is that I don’t want to spend ages rehashing the rights and wrongs of Evans’s (or Carragher’s, or anyone else’s) tackle. To my mind, it was clearly the right decision to send Evans off, even if it wasn’t he’ll miss a fraction of the games that Holden will, but that is a secondary issue.

    The article is about Hansen’s boring negativity and his irresponsibility. Cahill undoubtedly put in a brilliant, goal saving challenge yet Hansen only did his usual rant about how you can’t tackle in today’s football – when clearly, as Cahill showed, you can. This is, first, boring and, second, irresponsible since he argues it through a veiled attack on referees meting out punishment for tackles that cause serious injury to an opponent.

    Evans, for the record, walks off without complaint. He knows that, whether he meant to or not, he has seriously hurt an opponent and takes his punishment quietly. I respect him for that,

    • SpursSimon says:

      Last paragraph – absolutely agree.
      He knew he had done wrong, accidental or not, and walked.
      Far too rare in todays game

  5. Graham says:

    I do not enjoy people getting seriously hurt and in my opinion that happens most often in football, when tackles are made by players going in too hard with their studs up. Sure they may be 50 – 50 tackles with the ball there to be won and players may not go in to hurt each other but in all aspects of life we have to weigh up the risks involved in an action. Those sort of tackles carry too much of a risk. I don’t really care if the player gets all of the ball and then follows through and breaks someones leg, for me that is still a red card because it is reckless and dangerous.

    Hansen and Lawrenson continually condone that sort of tackling, which has the knock on effect that it is still considered in the mainstream ok to tackle recklessly hard. Each time a leg break happens they will say it’s such a shame for the player concerned but never deduce that the challenges they publicly suggest are ok are the ones to blame. Like players have this tag of role models placed on them, so should pundits. Players should not commit to tackles which have a high injury likelihood and pundits should not be braying for them to do so.

    • Dave says:

      holden also jumps into a tackle, which is a 50-50 and he does get the ball.

      injuries can happen from awful tackles but they can also happen from fair tackles, its just life.

      • Calum says:

        What’s your point? That Holden should have been sent off too? Or that Evans shouldn’t have been?

        If it’s the former then I sort of agree with you, except that he misses the next six months anyway.

        Do we honestly think that football is improved by players jumping mindlessly into so called ’50-50s’? Surely it’s better if neither goes to ground, thereby removing the risk of serious injury and/or red card. It is ridiculous to claim, as Hansen does repeatedly, that this is ‘part of the game’. It’s just another example of footballers’ stupidity being encouraged.

      • Dave says:

        theres a reason both players jumped in, its because they both wanted to win the ball, if only one jumped in they would probably taken the ball cleanly.

        not all 50/50s end in such a tragic way but some do and tackling is a part of football.

        any tackle can cause an injury and its a contact sport.

  6. kt says:

    Hansen isn’t stupid though is he? He and Lawrenson were classy defenders who won everything yet they and most ex-pros usually defend these sort of tackles. It’s too easy and arrogant to dismiss their views.

    • Calum says:

      I don’t think that one person can be wholly stupid, nor wholly clever. You’re right of course, Hansen and Lawrenson were quality defenders. Hansen in particular was notoriously ‘clever’ on the pitch (with the exception, of course, of his (in)famous World Cup collision with Willie Miller), but that doesn’t make him a clever pundit (see Match of the Day’s other Alan).

      In any case, the above piece is not (primarily) directed at Hansen’s views – I disagree with his views on Evans’s tackle (and others) but I do not, as you say, dismiss them. It is actually focused on his presentation. Why, if he wants to promote the tackle, does he attempt to justify one that ended a player’s season when a perfectly safe, goal saving challenge in THE SAME GAME which would have been an excellent topic for a formerly great defender and tackler to analyse is ignored.

      Yet again, we had to listen to the same boring whinge about how a player who only has to spend three and a half games on the touchline is ‘unlucky’ when he has inflicted a serious injury on his opponent.

      I didn’t say Hansen was stupid, I said he was boring and irresponsible. I stand by that.

      – I am arrogant though.

  7. Sean says:

    If two players jump into a 50:50 is it possible that one would get the ball and the other would get a knee? Sounds like a 70:30 to me. 50:50 is a cop out term used as an excuse for bad injuries and tackles.

  8. Harvey says:

    Ask yourselves on quick question – if it had been Kevin Davies on Nani you idoits would be calling for a life time ban. Typical red tinted glasses from a bunch of global armchair fans. The tackle was reckless because Holden came in from the side (hence could pull out of the tackle) but Evans couldn’t pull out of the tackle as he went straight over the ball studs up. Watch the replay Evans does get the ball – with his trailing leg – pity his other one is smashing Holdens knee. Straight red card every day of the week. Guess why he’s not appealed against his ban – because he’d get it extend. A player is out for 6 months with a serious injury – so do your time Evans and move on.

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  11. Kate says:

    A few things,

    I am a Man United fan. However I do not suffer from this bias you have spoken about. When I saw the tackle I thought it was a red and was glad to see Evans walk off without a complaint. The fact that it has not been appealed means that the Man U staff also agree (we all know Fergie, if there was even a chance he didn’t agree he would have appealed). Secondly, I was also very annoyed by Hansen’s comments that night on Match of the Day saying it was a good tackle. Intent or no intent the player got seriously injured and is out for six months, it therefore couldn’t have possibly been a good tackle. The ref knew it, Evans knew it, Fergie knew it and this non-biased Man U fan knows it.

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