In an era where chairmen of Premier League clubs are as elusive as the offshore bank accounts that house their wealth, Dave Whelan represents a throwback to the day and age when chairmen were the face of a football club wearing dodgy but expensive suits, puffing cigars and dealing in brown paper envelopes. The chairman was the main man and they weren’t afraid to let people know it (see Barry Fry).
Dave Whelan is a larger than life character who wears his heart on his sleeve and has never been afraid of voicing his opinion. As a player he characterised all that football traditionalists love about a footballer -strong in the tackle, hard working, honest and fair- and as a chairman he has become admired by many people within the game with how he is a true ‘football man’ who understands the game and shows honour and loyalty to the men he employs.
Dave Whelan may have won a lot of fans, but he may lose a few with his latest comments in the wake of Wigan’s victory against Newcastle.
Wigan’s win was marred by Callum McManaman’s horrendous knee-high challenge on Massadio Haidara that made all the headlines. The challenge left the Magpies’ defender with suspected ligament damage and the well-liked Whelan with a damaged reputation after he refused to acknowledge McManaman’s role in the incident.
McManaman, who made his first Premier League start on Sunday, appeared to be distraught after realising the full extent of the event, and while nobody is accusing the Wigan player of committing to the tackle with any malice, Whelan’s stance left many observers puzzled.
Whelan, after all, is a man whose career took a turning point when he suffered a fractured leg in the 1960 FA Cup final as his Blackburn Rovers succumbed 3-0 against Wolves, leaving Whelan to join the list of victims of the “Wembley Hoodoo”
“It’s horrendous when you do have an accident like that,” explained Whelan in a tear-sodden press conference ahead of his team’s FA Cup quarterfinal against Everton last week.
While Whelan’s lack of resent towards Norman Deeley – the player who committed the foul – is admirable “We both went for the ball. I got the ball and he got me, but I’m not saying it was deliberate because accidents happen when you’re both fighting like hell for the ball. He did come over the top, there’s no question about that. I’ve still got two stud marks in my leg. But I don’t think it was deliberate” his defense of Callum McManaman’s challenge is not.
Whelan stated “The ball was there and McManaman got the ball as clean as a whistle, then followed through and they collided. The referee was 15 yards from the tackle. I don’t think his view was blocked. He had a clear view. I had a clear view in the stands”
The fact that Mark Halsey appeared to see the incident and didn’t deem it worthy of punishment is totally irrelevant, and should the FA decide to take retrospective action of McManaman then Whelan, Martinez or the player himself will have very little room for complaint.
Such tackles should be punished as a deterrent to others and Whelan should not promote tackles like McManaman’s as acceptable in the way he did. The Premier League has seen some horrendous tackles throughout the years, Roy Keane on Alf-Inge Haaland, Martin Taylor’s tackle that derailed Eduardo’s career at Arsenal and Ryan Shawcross’ challenge on Aaron Ramsey to name but a few, but the game has seen a marked decrease in bone-crunching tackles, and while the game has undoubtedly become softer, the players are also safer.
Whelan, a football romantic who has never made a mystery of his disdain for modern football, recalled how Tom Finney refused to take him on in his first game after his injury.
“Finney said ‘You’ve had some bad luck son, and I’m not going to take you on, I want you to get through today’s game and get back into the first team.’ I’ll never forget him saying that to me. He was, and still is, a total gentleman,” explained Whelan.
Sadly, with Whelan’s comments about the McManaman tackle, he missed out on a big opportunity to emulate Tom Finney and remain to be seen by many in football as one of the nice guys in a modern game that is now sadly lacking in gentlemen.
Has Dave Whelan overstepped the mark with his defense of McManaman or is it all a major overreaction prompted by Newcastle and Alan Pardew? Do you think tackling in the Premier League has got better? Leave your comments below and have your say. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the best that the football world can offer.