Further condemnation of the Michael Essien’s horror tackle on Didi Hamann came from Wigan chairman Dave Whelan last night, who believes Essien should be given at least a 10-game ban for that tackle. Whelan’s reasons for giving the player such a long ban are because he is qualified to comment on the dangers involved in such a challenge – his own playing days were ended by a similar lunge.
German referee Herbert Fandel was unsighted for the incident and failed to punish the Chelsea midfielder. The fact that the referee didn’t see anything means UEFA have been able to step in and after seeing the video nasty they’ve now started disciplinary proceedings, charging him with “gross unsporting conduct”.
Whelan was astounded the player had seemed to get away with the foul: “It was diabolical, and I just can’t understand how the referee can allow anything like that without taking some sort of action.”
Whelan was playing for Blackburn in the 1960 FA Cup final when a challenge from Wolves’ Norman Deeley left him with a broken leg, his career in ruins. Seeing the foul brought all the painful memories back: “Essien should be out of the game for 10 games. You cannot go in over the ball like that. It was exactly the same sort of tackle that broke my leg and finished my career.”
Football is renowned as having been much harder and tougher during the sixties than it is today, which is all the more reason for Whelan not to expect to see that type of challenge any more: “There is no place in the game for that sort of thing. It was the worst tackle I have seen in a long, long time. You should get a minimum six to 10-game ban. It was very dangerous. How the guy didn’t break his leg I don’t know.”
Whelan has put all of his efforts since he left the game into becoming a successful businessman, and this success has allowed him to build the JJB stadium for Wigan Athletic and the Wigan Warriors Super League side. It’s also allowed him to help turn Wigan into a Premiership side, and a good one at that, just a short time after they were playing non-league football. Tomorrow sees Wigan travel to face Essien and co at Stamford Bridge, where Wigan fans are hoping for the same sort of luck that got Chelsea a victory at the JJB in the opening game of the season.
Whelan recalls that Deeley’s foul on him also went unpunished: “When it happened to me they didn’t even give a foul. Nothing. He went straight over the ball, and the next thing I know I’m being stretchered off.”
Essien is unlikely to be given such a lengthy ban by UEFA.