One of my summer readings was ETERNAL, a new book on the life of Duncan Edwards.
Younger readers may wonder who Duncan was. However, many older readers will, I’m sure, recall him as one of the players who sadly died in the crash of the plane carrying the Manchester United team back from a European match.
I remember him as the best footballer I have ever seen, and I am glad that the book confirms my belief that had he lived, he would now be as greatly revered as Pele.
He could and did play in any position and although he was naturally right footed, he played most of all at left half. He was a member of the England team at 17.
The book also reminded me how the game has changed. It was a little tougher, one might say rougher, in those days.
Goalkeepers for instance were allowed to be charged, in fact there was a famous FA Cup final where the goalkeeper was barged over the goal line for the winning goal.
Today of course goalkeepers cannot be challenged if they have control of the ball, and this means touching it with any part of the hand or even bouncing it on the ground or throwing it in the air.
Duncan, as well as being skilful, was also robust, and one of his tackles most feared by opponents was what was known as a sliding tackle.
“It is the most spectacular tackle,” Duncan said. “It brings glamour, uncertainty and danger to the game, but one only to be used in the moments of direst peril.”
Today of course, such tackles are risky and likely to be met with a direct free kick for the Law says,’ if an offence involves contact, it is penalised by a direct free kick’.
There are in fact three levels that such challenges may fall into. The lowest level is what the Laws calls careless, described as showing a lack of attention or consideration or acting without precaution when a free kick alone is thought to be enough disciplinary action.
The next level is reckless when a player acts with a disregard to the danger or consequences for an opponent, which will warrant a yellow card and the final sanction of a red card, would be when a player uses excessive force and endangers the safety of an opponent.
It may be thought how Duncan’s sliding tackles would have survived today but it is my opinion he would have adapted to any changes made in the Laws, as easily as he changed positions.
By Dick Sawdon Smith