After the news that Michael Owen finally called time on a career that had long petered out as a result of injury, what better way to close the chapter on an unpleasant week for Wigan Athletic than to receive the good news that Newcastle player Massadio Haidara has not suffered serious injury after the much-discussed Callum McManaman challenge last weekend. Bone bruising and soft tissue damage was the extent of the injury, which just goes to show you that dodgy hamstrings can damage a career plenty more than a bad tackle, while the most innocuous of scuffles can end in a broken leg — as Ben Watson discovered earlier this season.
As with many associated with Wigan in the past week, I’ve been given a bit of stick for what some perceived to be a failure to address the seriousness of McManaman’s tackle. To be clear, I neither believe the tackle was clean as a whistle, nor do I believe it was done with any intent to injure. It was an avoidable accident — a mistake — a crude tackle from an inexperienced attacking player. In a quiet news week, media coverage was bloated and sensationalistic, with the words “career threatening” fanning the flames well before any diagnosis had been made on the severity of the injury.
Of course, we now know — almost a full week later — that the player’s injuries are essentially bruises. Results of x-rays and MRI scans, needed to rule out broken bones or ligament damage respectively, do not take more than a few hours each. If Newcastle knew there was no serious injury early in the week, they chose to keep it to themselves to strengthen their case for McManaman’s punishment or compensation.
Having scored a brilliant goal in the FA Cup tie against Everton and set up the opening goal on his first Premier League start, McManaman was making his long-awaited breakthrough.In retrospect, I suspect a majority of Wigan supporters would have chosen a ban or suspension over the vilification he has received that now threatens to stunt his progress. If Wigan’s reputation has been tarnished by this, so too has Newcastle’s after some of their supporters unleashed a truly obscene barrage of tweets toward our young player which even culminated in the arrest of one fan for making death threats. No one has benefited.
As a reflection of society, football has always been and will always be charged with emotion, bias, and hypocrisy. The hope is that we can all shift our focus back to the fact that Wigan and Newcastle have a tendency to produce some fantastic football matches, neither side is out to get the other, and no lasting damage has been done. Lets hope Massadio Haidara’s bruises heal quickly and he enjoys a successful career in England, while young McManaman learns to channel his energy in a more controlled manner and continues his exciting progress free of any bullying or threats.