Time we all remembered football’s a contact sport

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IT is one of England’s great footballing mysteries.

More perplexing than Paul Tisdale’s dress sense. As confusing as Sir Dave Richards’ rise through its corridors of power.

I am referring, of course, to the lost art of tackling.

Or, to be exact, why ex-players turned television and newspaper pundits have happily become complicit in its demise.

Thankfully, League One has so far escaped the worst excesses of this theoretical movement. The ridiculous notion that even the merest hint of contact from a defender attempting to dispossess an opponent in the penalty box warrants a spot-kick.

But if I was Neill Collins or Harry Maguire, the most combative members of Sheffield United’s rearguard, I would be fearing the day when, inevitably, this argument seeps down through the divisions.

Or, to adopt a more positive stance, they help the South Yorkshire club reclaim its place in the top-flight. Whichever comes first.

The day when centre-halves, full-backs or hard-working midfielders and forwards find themselves unable to challenge for anything other than a loose ball.

One victim of our voracious appetite for rolling news - the incessant debate and analysis it demands- has been, as John Terry’s loss of the England captaincy demonstrates, a fundamental tenet of law. Another is the physicality of our national game.

As far as I’m aware, the governing bodies have not re-drafted its rules and regulations. But ex-professionals who now earn a living commenting on games have.

Think I’m wrong?

Count the number of times in any given week you hear the phrase “well, there was contact so the ref’s got to give it” trotted out to justify another unjustifiable decision. It’s the type of stance which, to be totally frank, only encourages the likes of Adam Johnson to perform the type of swan dives we saw influence matches last weekend.

With many footballers happy to ride roughshod over the principle of fair play, managers can help to ensure football remains a contact sport.

An excellent disciplinary record and consistent selections have been the driving forces behind United’s climb to fourth in the table ahead of tomorrow’s encounter with Wycombe Wanderers.

Danny Wilson’s men average 1.4 cautions every 90 minutes this season. Last term, en route to relegation from the Championship, it was 1.5 despite the fact they played only 48 games. When the present campaign draws to a close, United will have taken part in 55.

Do the math and draw the obvious conclusion.

Turning a blind eye when one of their number cons an official one week and then complaining when they are harshly sent-off the next due to some dubious theatrics doesn’t cut it.

It would be nice if Roberto Mancini dropped Johnson and explained his reasons for doing so when Manchester City face Aston Villa on Sunday?

Failing that, the FA must use retrospective evidence to punish divers and cheats.