Early Doors

‘The Carroll play’: Accident or jail sentence?

Early Doors

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Some called it a friendly reminder of a bygone era 'when men were men and centre forwards were centre forwards' with a hefty slice of nostalgia, others shook their heads with solemn disdain and castigated a 'blatant and unacceptable assault' - we are, of course, referring to Andy Carroll's now notorious 'challenge' on poor David De Gea.

Sir Alex Ferguson described it as "a red card: there's no doubt about that"; former Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher most likely viewed it as "an unfortunate coming together of limbs in a contact sport". Either way, the incident overshadowed (or was the highlight, depending on your perspective) the mini-round of when-will-United-put-City-out-of-their-misery-and-clinch-the-title Premier League fixtures.

Eighteen months of bench press workouts, protein shakes and dumbbell circuits with Mike Phelan have helped the 22-year-old De Gea adapt to the English game, as people so patronisingly put it, but nothing could have prepared him for 'The Carroll play' - a full-blooded, off-the-ball wipeout, that resembled something from another sport entirely. One where helmets are worn and shoulder pads fitted.

Besides putting the skinny Spaniard's meticulously sculpted quiff and waxed sideburns out of place, Carroll's destructive sea lion swoop left the goalkeeper sprawled out on his goalmouth utterly flabbergasted by a move that came straight out of an NFL playbook of 'breakneck bodychecks'.

There was, admittedly, a slight push on Carroll from Nemanja Vidic, but that did not sway uncompromising pundit Gary Neville, who also likened the forward's play to professional wrestling, in his post-match assessment of the incident: "It was either an accident or a jail sentence. You could not complain if it was a red card." Leaving a lot in between the two extremes, Neville left us with two stark and, on one hand shocking, options.

Ferguson blasted referee Lee Probert for not being the 'strong, card-wielding official' he had requested from his Choose Your Elite Official menu, and for not sending off Carroll after the West Ham striker sent both De Gea and Patrice Evra flying shortly before half-time during the 2-2 draw at Upton Park.

Inevitably, Sam Allardyce had a different perspective, lauding his players and reminding everyone that they are unfairly victimised for misplaced and damaging perceptions: "They get rubbished for some of the football they play and that's a disgrace as well." It really is hard not to have empathy for a man who expresses the injustices he and his players suffer so eloquently.

As for Carroll himself, he was anything but vague and evasive when he described his clash with a fired-up Wayne Rooney (is there any other type?) and encounter with De Gea: "It was a bit of friendly banter with me and Wazza" ... "I went for the ball. I was running straight in and couldn't stop at that moment."

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Carroll did not receive even a yellow card for the challenge, and the way he hurtled into De Gea infuriated the United players and their manager, who understandably refused to accept that the striker was simply being absurdly clumsy with the ball already well clear and out of sight.

Regardless of whether it was a red card offence or not, Carroll very clearly had a perfectly legitimate brief to bully the keeper at every set piece and delivery into the box, something which is of course entirely acceptable... at least, when the ball is even slightly involved.

The rather more pressing concern is whether referees are consistently loath to penalise reckless collisions such as Carroll's on De Gea with the severity they should because of the assumption of it being accidental. While there will always be an element of doubt in these situations, the fact that a player's safety is very clearly in danger should be enough for a yellow card to be brandished at the very least.

Ferguson's view was that a more diligent and courageous official would have dismissed Carroll and, given how high profile this evening's collision has now become, West Ham could now find that their luck runs out if a similar incident occurs in the coming weeks.

"We know how they play, the ball is in the air most of the time," he said with utter disdain. "You've got to defend those things and they're very, very aggressive so you hope there's a strong referee." He then added with a knowing look: "I'm not so sure we got that tonight."

Carroll was eventually booked following another tussle with the United goalkeeper, and later followed up his altercation with Rooney by squaring up to Vidic after a stray elbow from the defender. "Getting a few elbows and giving a few - it's all part of the game," he later said with a grin. That is, as many so proudly boast, the essence of British football.

It is one thing to mark a goalkeeper and put them under pressure at a set piece, but to come off a 10-yard run up and steam into them head first - that is an entirely different scenario. However, Carroll's collision with De Gea was undoubtedly accidental and, while referees should be harsher on patently dangerous challenges in the penalty areas, the outrage at the challenge has already been extravagantly overblown.

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By Dan Quarrell - @Dan_Eurosport


QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I think at the very most it is a yellow card. Andy Carroll is committed to try and go to the header and cannot stop. As you see in your code on the road, if you are travelling at 60mph it takes 300 yards to stop. That happens." - The final word on the Carroll collision goes to Big Sam, who compares his striker to a car. What type of car he failed to elaborate on, but perhaps a Volvo estate is what he's hinting at.

FOREIGN VIEW: If purchasing 36 one-litre bottles of Jagermeister is not enough to get a football coach sacked, then nicking a player's credit card in order to splurge the £447 on Red Bull's best friend certainly is. Josip Gaspar, who racked up 420 caps for Dinamo Zagreb, stole one of his Precko player's wallets from the dressing room and duly went to town with it - literally. Due to his fame as a former player and coach, he was quickly recognised and promptly sacked. He may just decide to lock horns with a bottle as a result.

COMING UP: In the absence of any Europa League this week, we will have to settle for the latest blog from our wheat beer-swilling Bundesliga experts, while the effervescent Jan Molby will be along with his thoughts at around midday.

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