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?
The Big Man.