Seamus Coleman, the Republic of Ireland captain and one of Everton’s best defenders for a decade, became the latest victims of a vicious tackle when he suffered fractures to his tibia and fibula in the weekend’s World Cup qualifier between Ireland and Wales. Coleman had his right leg obliterated following a wild challenge from Neil Taylor, but it was hardly surpriding given the vitriolic build-up to the game.
Last Friday, when Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane – himself renowned for his aggressive tackling style during his playing days – was asked by the media how to stop Gareth Bale, the former Manchester United legend replied, “hit him…fairly”. Both camps claimed they wanted to avoid a verbal dogfight in the lead-up but the reality was very different. Inflamed by the hostile atmosphere from the stands, players showed their emotions right from kick-off and within minutes, Irish player Stephen Ward had committed a dangerous foul on Chris Gunther.
Shane Long also showed his studs high on Ashley Williams, which caused the first confrontation between players from both sides. Joe Allen was elbowed by his Stoke City teammate Glen Whelan before the interval and another confrontation followed.
All these incidents led to one crazy minute in the second half, which began with Welsh talisman Bale arriving incredibly late for a tackle on John O’Shea, followed by Taylor’s horrendous tackle on Coleman. Coleman won’t play again this year.
Whether he can recover from the terrible experience at all – both physically and mentally – remains uncertain. The tackle again proved passion can’t be used as an excuse for blatant violence on the football field.