Wales & Ireland’s 0-0 draw this weekend was overshadowed by a serious injury to Seamus Coleman.
The Everton player suffered a badly broken leg following a reckless, lunging challenge from Neil Taylor.
The former Swansea player, who joined Villa the January transfer window, has since been the focal point of intense media & online debate.
It was a shocker.
Reckless and high. It was a ‘studs up’ lunge.
The debate around intent or malice is at best a distraction.
It was a split second, desperate, sickening challenge. To suggest there was any element of pre-meditation or desire to hurt a fellow footballer lifts the discussion out of what it actually is.
A hapless, dangerous attempt to make a tackle? Yes.
A conscious, vindictive effort to break Coleman’s leg? No, not a chance.
What this doesn’t do in any way is make the challenge “right” in any way. It’s not. However, what is important is to frame the offence correctly.
In an age of instant reaction, HD slow-motion and inescapable comment, it’s easy to lose sight of this.
Most football fans can recall the bad injuries.
The recollection of context and how those injuries came to be can clouded however.
The David Busst injury being the most noteworthy. A horrendous injury unquestionably “the worst” in living memory, but Busst’s contraction of MRSA whilst in hospital was a defining moment of both his recovery and career.
Closer to home, many Villa supporters will recall the frightening injury suffered by Luc Nilis. A career ending shattered leg & one which almost resulted in amputation, such was the severity.
Further, football fans with a not so distant memory may also recall Roy Keane’s remorseless career ending challenge on Haaland in 2001.
Whilst it’s beyond the realms of this piece to go into any detail on that, it serves only to illustrate the clear difference between wanting to hurt your opponent & a plain awful challenge.
Taylor’s challenge was as bad as they come; but he is guilty of a complete lack of control as opposed to a malicious intent.
This was well articulated in The Telegraph:
“Taylor then dived in on Coleman’s right leg. Whatever the intention, it was inexcusably reckless.”
WrexhamFan blog, published by Mark Griffiths, also delivers a stark reflection into how the incident was twisted to sensationalise, with particular reference to fake news. [Additionally, the article provides a first hand insight into Taylor’s character.]
“People can be vilified because bad-minded individuals get their thrill from maliciously misleading us, and because too many of us buy the clickbait headline without stopping to check, or think.”
With so much conjecture, it’s easy to see how a story can go from a bad challenge to the outright vilification of an individual who possibly made a grave professional error. Indeed, even those seeking to take a rationale middle ground on the matter were targeted.
One wonders how the story would have been framed, reported & reacted upon had Gareth Bale inflicted such an injury upon John O’Shea just minutes earlier in the match? Bale’s challenge was similarly poor to Taylor’s.
Whilst Coleman is rightly the immediate focal point in terms of any concern for wellbeing, why is it so inappropriate to consider Taylor’s?
This is less to do with the largely irrelevant notion of him being a ‘nice lad‘, but rather that he’s a human being who was “inconsolable”, “devastated & unable to speak” following the incident.
[For comparison, again, the same couldn’t be said in Roy Keane’s case. Indeed, two such character reference’s couldn’t differ more.]
The positive news is that Coleman has undergone successful surgery. Whilst a long period of recovery looms for the Irish international, modern medicine will hopefully see that this translates into him playing to the best of his abilities again.
From Taylor’s perspective, it has to be a case of learning from his indiscipline in that moment. As with his own serious ankle injury; A singular moment cannot be allowed to dictate how his career, at Aston Villa or elsewhere pans out.