Mar 20, 2013

Intent And Innocence


The FA have announced that no retrospective action is possible on Callum McManaman’s “coming together” with Massadio Haidara in Sunday’s Wigan v Newcastle fixture which left Haidara in hospital, the extent of his injuries as yet unconfirmed. Newcastle and Haidara’s sense of injustice, though enhanced by a performance from referee Mark Halsey which could most charitably be described as incompetent, is based not on displeasure at losing the game. All teams have suffered decisions which have lost them a game here, or a game there. These things do not even themselves out over a season as goes the comfort of the soft-headed, but even so all have fallen victim at one time or another. No, the injustice arises from the tackle, from falling victim to something so evidently, demonstrably wrong and that wrong then going unpunished both on the pitch and off it.

Explaining their standpoint, the FA released a statement:

…in the summer, it was agreed that retrospective action should only be taken in respect of incidents which have not been seen by the match officials.

Where one of the officials has seen a coming together of players, no retrospective action should be taken, regardless of whether he or she witnessed the full or particular nature of the challenge. This is to avoid the re-refereeing of incidents.

In the case of McManaman, it has been confirmed that at least one of the match officials saw the coming together, though not the full extent of the challenge. In these circumstances retrospective action cannot be taken.

Their rule, and it is theirs’ alone, not FIFA’s or UEFA’s, has a gaping hole at its heart. Retrospective action cannot be taken if the match officials have seen the incident. Even if, as in this case, no official saw clearly the full extent of the challenge. In effect the officials have seen the offence enough for there to be no comeback after the event, yet not enough to deal with it at the time. As stated, this is to prevent officials’ decisions being revisited. It certainly isn’t meant to ensure justice is done, if anything this rule is designed to enable the FA to shirk away from confronting mistakes and having to correct them. In this, as in so many other things, the FA fall down in the execution of their responsibilities, and what is worse they do it by choice. They seem to believe that the authority of officials must be protected above all else, even when faced with evidence that this authority has been used incorrectly.

A lot has been said in defence of the tackle itself. There have been a few main threads of this defence. Firstly, McManaman got the ball first before following through into Haidara. Secondly, there was no intent to harm him. Thirdly, McManaman’s youth, the fact he was making his full debut and his fine personal qualities mean we should give him some leeway on this. Finally, these things happen in football and we should all move on.

Any contact with the ball before striking Haidara was fleeting and incidental. Haidara’s only chance of escaping injury was to leap out of the way, something he was unable to do. McManaman was always going to fly into his opponent whether he got the ball or not. The factors which turn a foul deserving of a booking into a straight red are recklessness in endangering your opponent, and the use of undue force in the tackle. I’d argue both those criteria were met in the tackle on Haidara, and that means it doesn’t matter how much of the ball he got.

The arguments regarding the intent in the tackle are puzzling. How can anyone know the intent in McManaman’s mind as he decided to make the challenge? It looked to me like he meant to leave his mark on his opponent at the very least, but that’s my opinion, one I know many will disagree with in the North-West. More importantly his intent and my or anyone else’s opinion on it doesn’t really matter. A footballer has a duty of care, one not to endanger an opponent. By hurling himself into the challenge in this way, McManaman did endanger Haidara. Whether the harm was premeditated or not, it might as well have been because he chose to ignore his duty not to risk the health of his opponent. I’d compare it to drink-driving (obviously not in the scale of its effects). When you choose to drink and drive you relinquish your right to claim you didn’t mean to harm anyone should the worst happen and this is the same.

McManaman’s youth and the fact it was his first Premier League appearance is neither here nor there. He could easily have made it Haidara’s last. Yes, his circumstances will have made him more excited than others on the pitch, but every single player on that pitch at one time made their debut as a youngster and not many of them will have done anything like this. I’m sure he’s full of remorse now, and no doubt helps old ladies across the road when he can. The idea that his character is somehow divorced from his actions is bizarre. He is that kind of player. We have nothing else to go on but what he has done, and 1 hospitalization per Premier League start is one hell of a ratio.

These things do, of course, periodically occur in football. That’s no reason not to criticize and to punish when it does. Much of this might come across as an attack on McManaman himself, but that’s not the purpose of this. He made a bad decision, and should have been punished for it. That’s it as far as he goes. The arguments made here are more against the crass excuses made for him and for everyone who ever finds themselves in his situation. For the part of the FA, does anyone think their governance and disciplinary procedures are anything other than chaotic? Every time a question is asked of the FA they come up short, on any subject it seems. If change is provoked by this then maybe something of worth can be salvaged from a situation which up to now has had nothing to redeem it.

Author: Mark Brophy

Website: for a back catalogue of Mark’s writing.

Follow Mark on Twitter @mark_brophy


  • Spot on. Agree with everything you say. I also think that he intended to, at the very least, as you say ‘leave his mark’ on Haidara. The kind of “let him know you’re there” type challenge. Noone in their right mind goes in purely for a bouncing ball studs first with an extended leg. No one. Not unless they have an alterior motive. He knew exactly what he was doing and his reaction afterwards demonstrated as much. I said I thought he intended it yesterday and got pelters for it but like you say, how can anyone say with any certainty he didn’t intend to hurt Haidara? They can’t. I just wish the spineless FA had thrown the book at him. What they have done hasn’t surprised me, but it has certainly infuriated me.

  • A brilliant summation of events amid the Chaos.

    Mark I wonder if you caught “The Mag” statement from Monday about Mcmanaman’s previous form.

    I think it goes a long way to demonstrate just “what kind of lad” he actually is, as well as his intent, (relevant or not):-

    “Interesting to read about an incident just over two years ago when Callum McManaman was playing against Wigan reserves against Manchester City.
    These are extract from a match report at the time on MCFCReserves website, see if you can spot anything familiar…
    ‘Gai Assulin was stretchered off in injury time with his right leg in a brace, following a wild challenge by Callum McManaman, which caused some friction between the two benches.’
    ‘Just as the clock ticked into the 90th minute, Gai Assulin picked the ball up just inside Wigan’s half and Callum McManaman ran from City’s half and dived in very late and caught Gai on his right leg with the studs showing.”
    I can see what Roberto Martinez and his boss mean now about what a canny lad he is, wouldn’t hurt a fly, salt of the earth etc etc”

    In the mean time, the F.A. have once again shown themselves to be incompetent buffoons, while the rest of the world of football gaze on and snigger up their sleeves with incredulity.

  • Excellent article Mark and I don’t think anyone can disagree with what you’ve said (except those muppets at Wigan).

    What do you think of the rumours that Dave Whelan has business associates at the FA?

  • As the referee was unsighted,the other official was only able to see the full extent of the coming together (the tackle) This gives the PFA,FA etc the right to examine TV/Video footage.This is as clear as day,never mind “no appeal”,no re-refereeing an incident.Any orgaization without an appeal system is not an organization surely.This follow through with intent is in my opinion crimminal,and has reulted in the removal of a key player affecting the results for the other teams involved in the relegation battle.Implications for all teams with possiblymillions lost or gained,directly affected by a “tackle”.This could have been a world class striker,what then for the following match results.

  • Hi Tom, I did see that report from his youth team days, yes. He’s clearly not a shrinking violet and it just makes the post-match statements in defence of him seem even more ridiculous. Having said that, and despite the fact that I think he should be taking a good long look at himself right now, as stated this wasn’t meant to be an attack on McManaman. He’s not the first to injure an opponent and he won’t be the last. The issue here is that he’s got away with it scot-free, and the refusal by some to admit what is obvious to anyone who will see. If you were the type of player who was inclined to do this kind of thing it seems to me this incident would make you more likely to try it and that can’t be a good thing.

    Phil, The FA is the world’s most extensive Old Boys Network. I have no idea who Dave Whelan does business with, except it’s not Mike Ashley if he can help it.

  • Spot on Mark.

    I was sat up in the stand right at the side of where that happened on Sunday and had a pretty decent view of it at the time.

    In full speed it looked like a 50/50 where McManaman had got the ball and then the players had crashed into each other. (McManaman had made enough contact with the ball to send it in completely the opposite direction to which it was travelling before he caught Haidara’s leg.)

    Within a minute or two I’d had a text off my mate who was watching in the pub with the benefit of the slow motion replay saying “Should’ve walked for that tackle! Shocker!”

    I replied “Ah behave, he got the ball” and received ” and then full studs into the knee!”.
    “Accidental on the follow through?” “He didn’t mean it but still dangerous play. Seen players sent off for much less.”

    At half time me and my mate (who’d also had similar texts from his brother watching in Australia) discussed it and felt that based on the judgement we’d received by text that he was lucky to still be on the pitch.

    McManaman has been playing more and more regularly this season after the odd sub appearance here and there over the last couple of years and plenty of people talking him up after seeing him in the reserves.

    What happened on sunday we felt had an air of “it was gonna happen sooner or later.” I can’t go into specifics as my memory isn’t good enough to remember all the times he’s tried to tackle this year but I’ve got a vague sense of a few times where he’s been lucky not to catch someone. Nowt as bad as sunday but like I say there’s been a couple of times where I’ve thought he was close to getting booked.

    He’s young and hopefully this will make him learn to channel his enthusiasm in the right way.

    In little over a week he went from being one of the stand out players in our demolition of Everton in the Cup to the villain in what became a temper-ridden game against your lot.

    Yes, it was reckless, (whether he meant to harm him or not cannot be proven one way or the other).

    Yes he should have walked and therefore got a 3 match ban.

    He didn’t and then FA should’ve dealt with it in the correct manner and I don’t think you’d find a Latics supporter who’d argue against that.

    What happened after that – the media meltdown has been nothing short of madness, not helped by either club’s representatives, the FA or a million clowns on twitter.

    I’ve said this on twitter to Mark and I still believe if this was a Fulham/Norwich match for example it would have been sunday night/monday morning thing and that would’ve been it.

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  • NUFC blog varying from inane rantings to precision statistical analysis. Alternative match previews & reports plus a broader based (and heavily biased) footballing opinion on anything worthy of annoyance.

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