Tuesday 21 November 2017

Comment: Last night should end the 'not that sort of player' rubbish once and for all

Wales' defender Neil Taylor (L) is shown a red card by Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli for a horror tackle on Seamus Coleman back in March
Wales' defender Neil Taylor (L) is shown a red card by Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli for a horror tackle on Seamus Coleman back in March
Will Slattery

Will Slattery

What sort of unspeakable act of horror would a player have to commit on the pitch for a manager or a team-mate to come out and say 'I'm not surprised, that scumbag is a nasty piece of work and he most certainly IS that kind of player'?

Perhaps on occasion it has happened, less the inflammatory adjective, but the alternative is so commonplace that it can be difficult to recall the instances where reckless incidents of extreme violence were greeted with the proper condemnation by all parties.

Sure, fans will pillory the perpetrator, but there likely won't be a public rebuke from the opposing camp.

Last night we had Wales boss Chris Coleman offering that Neil Taylor - the defender who had broken Seamus Coleman's leg a short time earlier - was 'not that type of player'.

Coleman also said that Taylor's challenge has no place in the game, but later added that 'your boys are not coming off the pitch with halos either', a bullish response that would have been understandable had the game merely been a tit-for-tat encounter where both sides exchanged tough non-leg breaking tackles, as well as the occasional forearm, without a player's season - and possibly career - being ended.

Instead, Coleman's reaction became the latest entry into the infuriating book of sporting excuses best titled 'not that sort of player'.

It is a stock phrase ranked highly on the list of managerial clichés, regularly used around the world when a player commits an overly violent, and usually 'out of character', foul.

It is a particularly asinine observation because if you commit the act in question, then you evidently are that kind of player - whether you mean to be or not.

Not intending to snap someone's leg isn't an excuse if you actually do it. Recklessness is as dangerous as premeditation when the result is a player hurtling through the air like a studded missile.

Irish fans are familiar with this discussion and aren't always on the right side of it. After all, some of our nation's most famous footballers have been accused of similarly dangerous challenges.

This trope isn't confined to football either, lest supporters think their sport is being unfairly demonised. Rugby and GAA people often explain away bad behaviour with a similar refrain.

You can understand why they do it - defending their player - but that doesn't make it any less empty. What is the threshold we must pass before we can all admit that a person who commits a violent foul is the sort of person who would commit a violent foul?

Does being the sort of player who would break a leg on the pitch require you to have violently stomped on a lower limb in a street brawl?

You'd wonder did American football pundits sit around in 1994 after OJ Simpson was charged with a double murder saying, 'I refuse to believe it, the Juice really wasn't that kind of player and he is such a great lad'.

Hopefully sport in this part of the world doesn't have to reach such a ridiculous point before people can look at what a person actually did on the field, rather than how they behave off it, when assessing whether or not someone is 'that kind of player'.

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