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Sam Allardyce defends Kevin Nolan


West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is continuing to raise the bar for managers making excuses for their players’ on-pitch behaviour. This time, he’s defended Kevin Nolan after he was sent of for what was a dangerous two-footed lunge at Millwall’s Jack Smith. After the match, there was absolutely no concession by Allardyce whatsoever. He refused to accept that tackles like the one his captain made were worthy of red cards and he couldn’t even bring himself to trot out the usual “in the current climate” argument that we hear so often at the moment.

Here’s a transcript of the interview that was broadcast on Saturday night on the BBC’s Football League Show:

Interviewer: Under the current rules the referee I suppose has to show a red card.

Sam Allardyce: (interrupting) Not really no, no.

Interviewer: But it wouldn’t have been a red card a few years ago.

Sam Allardyce: Well it shouldn’t be now. Y’know, not every one’s a red card. Y’know. They can’t keep going around saying every one’s a red card every time something like that happens. If you have a look at the situation and Kevin’s in control, he’s not over aggressive. He doesn’t go to ground until after the tackle’s made. Yes, there’s two feet there, the left foot’s miles away from where the player is. He’s not going through the player. His right foot’s going for the ball and his follow through catches the player. Y’know. Now if they’re instructed that all those tackles are going to be red cards, we’re going to destroy the game because too many games every week are going to be ten versus eleven.

From this transcript you’d think that Allardyce was referring to either a clear mistake by the referee or a tackle that was at least debatable. It was neither of those things. In fact, Nolan’s tackle was one of the clearest examples of a two-footed lunge that you’re likely to see all season.

Almost every claim Allardyce makes about the tackle is demonstrably incorrect. Nolan was definitely over-aggressive. He left the ground with both feet, so he wasn’t in control of his body. His full weight would have landed on the player he tackled if he hadn’t tried to get out of the way. Although Nolan may have been aiming for the ball, the only reason he didn’t go through the player and the only reason his left foot was “miles away” was because the player saw Nolan coming and tried to get out of the way. He was still caught by Nolan’s right boot though. But that misses the point. Even if there hadn’t been any contact, it was still a dangerous tackle. Surely every player knows what’s going to happen if he does that now.

Allardyce also makes the usual straw man argument about football being ruined if tackles like that can’t be made anymore, although he stopped short of raising the spectre of football becoming a non-contact sport. It’s nonsense, of course. If the players stop making tackles like that they won’t get sent off. It’s up to them to adjust.

The kind of tackle Nolan made absolutely should be a red card every time. It’s no good Allardyce lamenting a golden era when that was acceptable. Players are quicker and stronger now and a lot of money is at stake. The reality now is that football has moved on and players and managers need to move with it and adapt or they’ll find themselves left behind.


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