Football Expert & Columnist
Graeme Souness: Turn your face away when tackled? The daftest thing I've heard!
"[The guidelines have] been written by someone who has never played the game and doesn't understand the game"
Last Updated: 14/05/20 9:19am
Graeme Souness says the suggestion that players should turn their face away after tackling is the daftest thing he has heard so far about football's return.
According to a report in the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, the Premier League will detail significant "cultural changes" that must be accepted by players for football to return, including suggestions that players should turn their face away as they get up from a tackle and to avoid face-to-face contact where possible.
But speaking on The Football Show, Sky Sports pundit Souness criticised the suggestions, claiming players will not be able to focus on such a change.
"[The guidelines have] been written by someone who has never played the game and doesn't understand the game," said Souness. "So you're meant to make your tackle and turn away? What if you make the tackle and end up with the ball at your feet? That's the daftest thing I've heard so far about us returning to football.
"When you're playing football at the highest level, you get yourself to a place where you're only focused on the next five seconds, that's how you get through 90 minutes. You haven't got time to think about anything else.
"Corner kicks, free-kicks... you have to look at the man. That isn't going to change. Defenders are paid to keep the ball out of their net, that's their focus.
"The only thing that may change is the celebration. But the rest of the game cannot change. You're in the moment.
"It's not a rule, it's a suggestion, a recommendation. But if you're a player, you're only interested in what is a metre in front of you, and you've been programmed like that for many years."
Neville: Impossible to change behaviour
Also speaking about the suggestion, Gary Neville says suggestions like these are a result of a raft of misinformation and poor communication coming out of the Premier League, and the Sky Sports pundit also fears it would be impossible for players to change their behaviour in this way on the pitch.
"If you are a player fearful of coming back, this story would make you more fearful," said Neville. "Even a player who wants to come back, that might make that player worried. It's instinctive, and as Graeme says, it's nonsense.
"This is what happens when you have an information vacuum. Misinformation and a lack of communication has occurred from day one here. Players are finding things out in the media, whether it's their 30 per cent deferrals, or having to turn their heads in tackles, which might be complete nonsense, but when you don't communicate properly and openly with players and the public, you end up with this vacuum and misinformation.
"I don't think they're going to have an easy ride with the captains on the call on Wednesday, I think some of them are going to give them a difficult time. There has to be a continual journey that you bring people on when you're deciding things like this.
"What do you do at a corner when you're face-to-face, so close that you can smell their breath, as bad as it seems, but you can smell the player's breath! If we're saying that is putting players at risk, they shouldn't be playing football! That would make me incredibly fearful, but I'm imagining it's not true, so we're speculating here.
"It's impossible to change behaviour on a pitch. Impossible."
Paul Scholes says it's important for the Premier League to stick to the government guidelines and must not train until it's safe to do so following the suggestion that players should turn their face away after tackling.
Speaking to Sky Sports' The Netball Show, the former Manchester United midfielder said:" I wouldn't have coped with it.
"That's just not real. It has to be safe to train, first of all, and it has to be full on. There's no, you can't not tackle, you can't get in people's faces when you are playing football.
"We are trying to stick to the guidelines and the guidelines are that there is no professional football until June 1. So, I think if we are going to do that and stick to government guidelines, we try and get as close to that date as we can.
"Players these days are so fit. They are like machines half of them, so I think they only need two weeks full training, get back into it and hopefully by June 10, 11 or 12 they should be ready to go.
"Domestically, I think we can get the league done and the FA Cup done. I think it's going to be very difficult for European competitions with the Champions League and the Europa League. It's going to be difficult to get that done but domestically we can get the season finished in five or six weeks, hopefully have a little break and get into next season as well."
Webber: By the time we play, this won't be the case
Norwich City sporting director Stuart Webber says he would not be comfortable with players having to change their technique, but insists we are at an early stage of the guidelines, and believes these suggestions will be off the table by the time football returns fully.
He told The Football Show: "At the moment, the Premier League are only talking about the first stage in returning to training. By the time we get to full contact training and games, I genuinely believe these things will be off the table - because if not, we're changing the rules of football, we may as well have 12 or 13-a-side if we're going to start changing the rules.
"This is stage one. As we move through it, some of these more slightly silly things will come away from it naturally. But it's trying to get this thing up and running, and if that's something which appeases the government... well, we can't tackle anyway at the moment because there's no contact.
"I wouldn't read too much into that. It doesn't overly concern me because by the time we get to it, it won't be the case.
"Would I be happy sending a player into a full-contact training session or game with that rule, well, no. Because that fundamentally changes the tackle technique which maybe the player has done all his life which could cause a player to get injured or an opposition player to get injured.
"We keep saying safety is paramount here, not only COVID, but the sport itself has to be safe. We can't do anything to make it worse."