The infamous late challenge by Callum McManaman on Massadio Haidara has to be right up there on the all-time list of bad tackles. It was a horrendous challenge. A lot of bad fouls we’ve seen over the years have been around the ankle or shin area, but this was high and very dangerous.
It’s a challenge where there’s not a lot the victim can do to protect themselves against it. You’re just a sitting target awaiting potential damage to your knee. It was as bad a challenge as I’ve seen.
That said, the challenge was definitely more a case of stupidity than it was maliciousness. I think we all know when a challenge is done in spite, and this wasn’t the case. He’s got over-excited and somehow convinced himself that it was important that he won the ball in that area.
Looking at where he was on the field at the time, it wasn’t that important at all but he just got carried away in the heat of the moment. He’s dived in and it’s turned out to be a horrendous foul.
In terms of the referee not sending him off or even booking him, TV camera angles will probably show his view was blocked at the crucial time. It happens sometimes, and as a player you’re not going to just own up to it, but nonetheless it was a big moment for Halsey to completely miss.
I’m not sure what exactly the FA can and will do about it in retrospect. They have said that they will review the incident and possibly issue a ban anyway.
Even if McManaman is punished retrospectively, it will be scant consolation to Haidara, Alan Pardew and the rest of Newcastle United. They were really unlucky in the end, especially when you consider the nature of Kone’s winner, though I thought Wigan played really well in the first half.
The tackle, in a roundabout way, appeared to benefit Newcastle’s performance for the rest of the game more than Wigan’s. They seemed fired up by the whole situation and got the equaliser, and if not for the handball for the winner they would have picked up a nice away point, all things considered.
It was one of those days in the end for Pardew and his men , and you could see that he wasn’t the only one of the backroom staff who was incensed by the turn of events. It was like a flashback scene from 30 years ago, with the pull-apart brawl down the tunnel.
To be honest, I think Callum was feeling bad enough about what he did as it was. He didn’t mean any harm in what was just a moment of blind madness, and probably just wanted to get through the tunnel at half-time and try to gather his thoughts.
The last thing he needed was to have John Carver coming at him, eyes popping out of his head, as if Callum had deliberately tried to cripple Massadio. It was a grim sight and the fact that it carried on for so long made the situation even more unsavoury.
It was unnecessary. The boy could apologise all he wanted, but it wouldn’t make it any better and conversely, Newcastle staff reacting in that manner did not solve anything, either.
I read a piece by Roberto Martinez a while ago about McManaman as a player, about how he gets really nervous anyway. You apparently can’t tell him he’s playing two days in advance because he starts overthinking and loses his sleep pattern.
Mentally, he’s quite weak anyway. So this incident may end up damaging his career as well as Haidara’s.
When you look at players like Roy Keane, who committed his fair share of ugly challenges and even admitted to deliberately hurting Alf-Inge Haaland, who are mentally strong enough to shrug off such incidents, you do wonder if McManaman will ever be the same again.
He’s only 21 and if he’s going to spend the next 10+ years travelling around the country, and perhaps even Europe, in front of crowds in excess of 15,000, with those fans willing to vilify his every touch to give their own team an edge and maybe even really get on his back every time he goes for another challenge, it could be very difficult for him to deal with.
All of this takes nothing away from the fact that it was indeed a horrendous challenge. But it could well be one which damages two promising young careers, not just one.
Haidara may end up getting away with it, and we can only hope the damage isn’t too bad, but either way it is something which will have a massive impact on both men.
It will take a long time for both of them to get over the whole ordeal. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee either man will at all.