We don’t know exactly what he plans to say, of course, but if Pep Guardiola gets his meeting with the PGMO Limited I’d like to think it won’t lead to any concrete changes.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand exactly what’s happening and I do believe in protecting all players when it comes to other players pushing the boundaries of acceptable tackles, but there is a very big but indeed coming, and one we ignore at our peril.

Revenues for televised football are already down on the next contract and the last thing we need right now is to turn our league into just another one, no matter how much other European federations may prioritise the technical over the physical.

Let’s face it, haven’t we come on leaps and bounds as it is, by anyone’s standards, when it comes to the technical elements in our game? Challenges that were the norm not so very long ago are being highlighted, and rightly so, but I would counsel in the strongest terms against moves that would have a knock-on effect on the unrivalled worldwide popularity of the product we call English football.

Better clubs will always feel that the smaller clubs have no option but to get stuck in against them, and that is never going to change. But tell me, how did the beautifully-constructed, all conquering Liverpool pull off their own win over City recently if it was not by pressing and getting after them before earning the right to impose their will and their own style of play?

Add that to the kind of pitches that are now commonplace around the Premier League, which reward possession football and actually discourage players from sliding in like they used to in the mud. Now there’s the ever-present fear of doing their own knee by getting stuck in some of the sophisticated knitted materials that go into the surfaces they play on, so the trend is surely only going in the direction Guardiola is advocating already.

Some have pointed to tackles from David Silva and Fernandinho, even by Vincent Kompany in days gone by, as if to mitigate those from Dele Alli, Harry Kane, Jason Puncheon and Cardiff’s Joe Bennett, whose scything strike to the ankle sidelined Leroy Sane and seemed to bring the debate to a head.

And UEFA referee chief Pierluigi Collina was also quoted as the Champions League knock-out stages kicked off, saying: “We need to have players playing, so there must be protection for them on the field…

Pierluigi Collina 2

“We do not want situations where a player’s future is put in doubt because of serious injury caused by a challenge, whether it is intentional or unintentional.

“Players must understand they have to respect their opponents and show the same positive behaviour to them they would want to receive themselves… Football is a beautiful game, and we want it to stay that way.”

So Pep is far from the first to cry foul, as Jose Mourinho kind of puts it, and it most certainly helps you make your case when you are talking from a position of relative strength, as the primary spokesman for our champions elect.

For me, however, while we have a duty to look after all players, whatever division they are in, we have a parallel duty to continue to produce the kind of football that values commitment every bit as highly as technique.

It can never be just one-way, Pep, I’m afraid, and even if that means every now and again a tackle will cross a line that we can all agree on, the price of changing what makes our brand of the game so great is simply too high.


  1. Mmm!
    Our PL is not popular around the world because of leg crunching, career finishing fouls Mr Townsend, but because it has strength in depth and is competitive.
    Revenues for TV have fallen because they were over-hyped and people are thinking again about the excessive cost – ask BT and SKY about their falling numbers of subscribers! All that has happened is that the additional funds that have gone from the TV boradcasters to the clubs have been used to send player transfer values and wages beyond the eye watering to plain stupid and unsustainable. The writing is on the wall and that £65m Leicester sneered at for Mahrez may be looking very attractive in a few months time.


  2. These wonderful pundits completely miss the point. The issue is not about removing tackling from the game but referees producing the right card when the bad tackle has been made. Each one quoted by Townsend received a yellow card when it should have been red. This allows the perpetrator to continue the physical assault on these better players. If red cards had been handed out, they and their managers, would think twice abut trying to level out the playing field by physical assault rather than trying to improve the football they play.

  3. Guardiola asked for the proper punishment for players that make dangerous tackles. I remember Vincent Kompany getting sent off for frightening Nani in the Manchester derby a few years back. There wasn’t any contact between the two players, yet all the pundits were telling us that it was the correct decision even though Kompany won the ball. Now this numpty is trying to tell us that the tackle on Sane and similar tackles are what makes the English game a spectacle? Andy Townsend should be sacked for having views like that. What a fool.

  4. This issue that most commentators seem to be avoiding is not that these tackles can happen in the frantic english game, but the fact that in each of the seven instances I can remember from the top of my head, where a City player has been taken out with no intent to win the ball, not one of the offenders has received the obvious red card that should have followed. They have either been ignored entirely or the cop out yellow card has been issued, which results in no retrospective action being taken, because ‘the referee has seen it and dealt with it at the time. What happens as a consequence? The opposition feel they can get away with one, without repercussion. If the inept officials that referee our game actually applied the rules to punish dangerous play there wouldn’t be the increased possibility of repeat offences. Playing with the knowledge that diving in studs up after the ball has gone will actually result in a red might just give that player pause to consider his timing and wait for an opportunity to actually attempt to play the ball, rather than taking out a ‘danger man’ because he can get away with it.


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