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ELLIOT WASN'T A WRIGHT NUTTER; He was reckless - Arsenal man's was sinister says hardman Butch.

Terry Butcher knows a thing or two about tackling - and he knows a bad one when he sees it.

That's why the former Rangers skipper winced when he saw Ibrox kid Derek McInnes' right leg buckle under David Elliot's Sunday shocker of a challenge.

But although big Tel reckons Elliot deserved his red card, he insists that there was no way the Easter Road player meant to `do' McInnes.

Unlike the other tackle that shocked Britain this week - Ian Wright's two- footed lunge at Manchester United keeper Peter Schmeichel.

Butcher believes that one WAS premeditated - but Elliot's was a mistimed tackle that could have had disastrous consequences.

He said: "As soon as I saw the tackle and saw Derek's leg bend, I thought it was a bad one.

"Thankfully, it was soon obvious that he was OK. If you've broken your leg, you lie motionless. Derek was rolling about a bit. It was a sore one, but it could have been so much worse.

"A split second either way and it could have been a broken leg.

"But Elliot is not a sinister person. He's an attacker playing in defence and he didn't make the tackle properly.

"I think he tried to take the man and the ball - I've done it often enough-- but he badly mistimed it and we all saw the result.

"But he DID try to win the ball - unlike the Wright incident with Schmeichel.

"It's annoying to think that Wright escaped a red card for a tackle that was worse than Elliot's because the intent seemed to be there."

Butcher reckons the way the game is played these days makes it inevitable there will be more X-certificate tackles hogging the headlines.

He said: "With the tackle from behind being outlawed, there are far more challenges being made when the ball is between two players.

"If there is a mistimed tackle when two players are facing each other, there is more likelihood of injuries occuring.

"Also, the pace of the game means that everything is more ferocious and with so many players flying about in the middle, that area has become a killing zone. Thankfully, Derek avoided serious injury - but it could have been very different."

John Greig, who had tackling down to an art form, yesterday declared that Elliot's tackle on McInnes was down to nothing more than poor timing.

He said: "I don't think it was malice. It was a one-off incident, a mistake in the heat of the game."

In an era when square-jawed hard men patrolled football pitches, Greig was one of the toughest around and he fears the art of tackling is being outlawed.

The former Rangers captain said: "I get the impression the authorities are trying to make football a non-contact sport.

"There are two aspects to football, the first being that you try to score a goal when you have possession.

"The second is you try to win the ball back as quickly as possible after having lost possession so you can try again to score.

"A player, to my mind, needs to tackle. I just can't see anything wrong with a perfectly timed and fair tackle."

That's a view shared by former Celtic hardman Davie Hay, now the Parkhead club's chief scout.

Hay fears that tackling is becoming a lost art and admitted: "Fewer players seem to be drilled in tackling and I believe that is sad.

"I'm forever searching for players who can tackle properly and legitimately for Celtic, but the art is being lost.

"Yet, do you know what brings the loudest cheer from a crowd apart from the sight of a goal? It's a good, solid tackle."

Airdrie tough guy Kenny Black also winced as he watched Elliot's crunching tackle.

But he claimed: "Although it was a terrible challenge, I honestly don't believe there was intent to injure McInnes.

"From past experience of games against him, I know he's not a dirty player.

"For me, what happened was totally out of character.

"I'm sure Davie will be looking at the tackle again and wincing himself. He'll realise now it was a bad challenge.

"The bottom line, though, has nothing to do with the fact Elliot got sent off, or that Hibs lost.

"It's that Derek McInnes did not suffer serious injury. That's the most comforting aspect."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:McCARTHY, DAVID; Traynor, James
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 25, 1997
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