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My guide to tackling the big issues destroying the game I used to know.

Byline: Robbie Savage

I USED to play a game called football - a contact sport where you picked up the odd bruise, but everyone understood the rules.

But after a rash of rescinded red cards, debatable handballs, diving rows, confusion over the offside law and unwelcome interference by petty officials, I'm not not sure I recognise the game I played any more.

And I only stopped playing 20 months ago. For a decisive tackle, where you win the ball cleanly, you now run the risk of being sent off.

When the ball is hammered at you in the box from two yards away and you have no chance of getting out of the way, you run the risk of conceding a penalty.

Go down when you are clipped and you can get a yellow card for simulation.

Go down when you are not even touched, like Southampton's Jay Rodriguez did last weekend and you can win a spot-kick.

The offside rule - whether players are active or interfering with play - has more grey areas than managers have grey hairs.

And for daring to celebrate a goal with your own fans, you are booked. Or a linesman who dares to tell players they should applaud the fans who paid PS62 to watch them is dropped from his next match.

When you appear on the Match of the Day sofa, two pundits cannot even agree on the same interpretation of an incident. Whether you are a player, manager, pundit or supporter, you are entitled to an opinion. But all of us are entitled to believe that games are governed by the same set of rules - because the inconsistency is becoming a joke.

TACKLING WHEN Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany won the ball with a positive, commanding tackle on Arsenal's Jack Wilshere last Sunday, my instant reaction at the time was to applaud his commitment.

I was staggered that he was sent off. Referee Mike Dean, in my opinion, got it spot-on when he red-carded Laurent Koscielny for a rugby tackle on Edin Dzeko. But if Kompany's challenge warranted a sending-off, the game has gone mad.

There will always be certain camera angles where you can make a case that a defender has launched into a tackle two-footed, with excessive force or recklessness, or that he was not in full control of the challenge. o. But enge g-off, d. be es e r a hr t ol But Kompany's tackle was an old-fashioned ckle ned example of how to win a 50-50 ball. He didn't set out to hurt Wilshere and he won the ball cleanly.

I made 631 appearances in my career and since a big part of my game was tackling, I like to think I know a bit about the subject.

In that time, I probably made 3,000 tackles and I was only sent off once - and that was for handball.

I defy anyone to tackle an opponent without both feet leaving the ground, even for a split second, in the act. If Kompany was sent off because he had both feet off the ground for an instant, 100 players should be redcarded every week.

My old chum Graham Poll thought it was a sending-off, but the FA review panel said it wasn't - I know whose side I'm on.

We need to know where to draw the line before tackling becomes extinct.

To 'exc resc Car Dg Too many red cards for 'excessive force' are being rescinded - like West Ham's Carlton Cole and Everton's Darron Gibson in the same game the other week - which means nobody knows where we stand.

Remember Dirk Kuyt's two-footed challenge on Phil Neville in the Merseyside derby five seasons ago? Why was he only booked and Kompany was dismissed? I know which one was worse.

s o wa whi HANDBALL WHEN Luis Suarez stops a goal-bound header on the line, two-handed in the dying seconds of a World Cup quarter-final, it's deliberate handball.

Penalty, red card, no debate. But when Aston Villa's Andreas Weimann is adjudged to have handled a corner at Manchester City, and there is not even any contact, it's a penalty as well.

We are seeing too many ridiculous handball decisions - usually when players can't get out of the way when shots or crosses hit them on the arm.

Penalties have to be conceded by defenders, not won in some pinball lottery in the box.

OFFSIDE EVEN now, I still don't know whether Jonny Evans' own goal at Old Trafford in Manchester United's 4-3 win against Newcastle should have stood because he was distracted by Demba Ba, who was standing offside. Some people think it should have stood, others - notably Sir Alex Ferguson - are convinced it should have been disallowed.

But one way or the other, that incident proves the offside law as it stands is a joke. For me, the old system - either you were offside or you weren't - worked better.

SPOILSPORTS WHAT is the world coming to when players are booked for going to their own fans to share the joy of scoring for their team? Who are the jobsworths who ordered Manchester City fans to take down a banner highlighting the sky-high PS62 ticket price for their seats at Arsenal? esman ght) s t p And who thought it was a good idea to axe linesman John Brooks (right) from the West Brom-QPR Cup replay because he urged City players to go and applaud their fans, who had paid through the nose? o gh

CAPTION(S):

dangerous dirk ?Kuyt's flying tackle on Neville

HANDS UP Suarez made no effort to disguise goal-line block

OFF DAY Ref Dean originally disallows Evans' own goal

VINDICATED The FA saw sense to overturn Vincent Kompany's red card sRIGHTLY
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Title Annotation:Sport; Opinion, Columns
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 18, 2013
Words:954
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