Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce has warned that efforts to clamp down on the physical side of English football could prove disastrous.
Tackling has been under the spotlight again in recent weeks after Birmingham defender Liam Ridgewell’s controversial challenge on Theo Walcott, which left the Arsenal and England winger with a knee injury that is likely to keep him out of action for a month.
Although match official Lee Probert did not award a free-kick at the time, former referee Dermot Gallagher has since suggested that such robust challenges are “outlawed” and have no place in the modern game.
But Allardyce, whose team play Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday evening, believes that tough tackling is a vital ingredient in the success of the Premier League.
“This is a physical contact game and fans love the commitment,” Allardyce said.
“You take that commitment away and you haven’t got a product. If you don’t have a product, you don’t have the money that you have got, you don’t have the worldwide recognition – you will destroy the game.
“(That is) irrespective of what other managers might say. The big managers will say, yes, let’s outlaw it, because they don’t want their big stars tackled, but it is a big part of the game – the fans love it, the whole of the world loves it.
“I’m a bit passionate about it, because it has become a game for pansies to be honest with you.”
Allardyce dismissed Gallagher’s comments as “nonsense”, arguing that a player should never give anything but 100% commitment when tackling.
“When I see Dermot Gallagher justifying that Ridgewell’s tackle against Theo Walcott should be outlawed, then I want the Football Association and the referees to justify to me how Ridgewell can tackle without making contact,” Allardyce said.
“Does he put a 60% challenge in? Does he put a 25% challenge in so it’s not quite as fierce? No – its absolute nonsense, what he (Gallagher) is talking about.
“If you go for a tackle, you go for a tackle. The tackle takes the ball and your impetus takes you through the player.
“There’s nothing you can do about that. You can’t start asking a player to be weighing up what pace he is running at or whether he should slow down before he does it. It’s a complete nonsense.”
Allardyce will be looking for a battling performance this evening from his Blackburn team, who go into the match having not picked up a point for nine consecutive away fixtures in the league.
“It’s about the mentality of the players and we have to have the same desire to compete against the opposition away from home as we do at home,” Allardyce said.
“We just seem to stand off the opposition, whereas at home, we are all over them like a rash.
“That’s what you need away perhaps even more than at home. It is a big concern for me, the staff and the players.