Newcastle: Newcastle United are considering legal action against Wigan Athletic and their midfielder Callum McManaman following his wild tackle on Massadio Haidara as he could yet escape retrospective punishment from the Football Association.
Although Wigan have thrown a protective shield in front of their young star, with chairman Dave Whelan insisting he won the ball as “clear as a whistle”, Newcastle believe they have a strong case if they pursue compensation.
Newcastle will be frustrated if the FA refuses to take the matter any further, although the game’s governing body is yet to make a final decision.
The main complication is that, while referee Mark Halsey’s view was obstructed by Newcastle’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, linesman Matthew Wilkes saw the challenge clearly and did not deem it a serious offence. The FA has always maintained it will not “re-referee” games as it would undermine the authority of match day officials.
Newcastle are also furious with Whelan’s comments, which came 24 hours after Wigan manager Roberto Martinez’s post-match claim that the Wigan academy graduate had no intention to hurt Haidara.
“McManaman went in for the ball and got the ball, as clear as a whistle, then followed through and they collided,” Whelan said. “He hasn’t gone over the ball. That’s an accident.”
Whelan refused to back track in a later interview. “I do not think there was any intent from our lad to hurt the Newcastle player. I spoke to [Newcastle managing director] Derek Llambias after the match and, I have to say, the Newcastle people who we dined with took it all on the chin.
“I know there were some bad things said on the line. But the referee took charge of that. So, hopefully, the lad [Haidara] can start playing again next Saturday. Hopefully he will be OK and not be too seriously injured. But you are going to get injured if you play football professionally. It is a tough game.”
Wigan are keen to put the incident down to the over-enthusiasm of a young player making his first Premier League start, but Newcastle, having reviewed television footage, are unimpressed.
Haidara was in floods of tears in the dressing room following the tackle which caught the 20-year-old, who arrived in England from Nancy in January, on the side of his knee. Replays show McManaman also follows through with his trailing leg into the French player’s shin. Haidara is not in the right frame of mind to listen to an apology at this stage.
To make matters worse for Newcastle, Wigan went on to secure a 2-1 victory that gives them fresh impetus in their bid to avoid relegation, their winner coming in the last minute when Halsey also failed to spot a handball in the build-up. The damage to Haidara’s leg is so severe that he cannot straighten it and swelling around the knee means an initial scan has not yet determined the full extent of the injury. It is thought that there are no bones broken, but it is believed there is extensive ligament damage which is likely to sideline the left-back for several months.
Newcastle have been on the receiving end of similar legal action, paying Everton striker Victor Anichebe a six-figure sum in an out-of-court settlement after he was seriously injured by a two-footed tackle from former Newcastle captain Kevin Nolan in February 2009.
Many former professionals have argued that McManaman’s tackle was bad enough to end Haidara’s career. The FA can take retrospective action in “extreme cases” but it is unclear whether it is willing to put a reckless tackle seen by one of the officials at the time into this category.
There appears to have been a recent precedent set when the FA refused to ban Mario Balotelli for a similarly vicious tackle on Arsenal Alex Song last April when it had been seen by the referee and gone unpunished.
The Professional Game Match Official Limited, the body in charge of refereeing standards, keeps a table ranking match officials and assesses their performance after every game.
Despite the flood of criticism that is a constant career hazard for referees, the referees body keeps statistics that show 99 per cent of offside decisions and 94 per cent of refereeing decisions have been correct this season.