Why we all need a Karl Henry

Tackling they say, is a dying art.

For every perfect bit of triangle passing or cheeky back heel flick nothing can replicate the sheer primal surge or excitement you feel when one of your teams boys goes full stretch with a last ditch tackle to win the ball.

To that end every team requires the sort of player to carry out these tackles. As wonderful as it is to watch Lionel Messi’s mastery on the ball he’s not one to “get stuck in”.

No matter how fancy the play or how nimble the footwork every team needs a hard b*****d right in the middle of the action, holding the team together.

Even Barcelona, arguably the best team on the planet, have a solid spine of Javier Mascherano, Gerard Pique and Sideshow Bob Carlos Puyol.  All battle hardened veterans who act as their teams enforcers allowing the show ponies to strut their stuff and pass teams to death.

Players like Karl Henry and Joey Barton are often on the receiving end of some quite harsh criticism because of their uncompromising playing style. That said Barton doesn’t really help himself with incidents like the one at the end of last season against Manchester City when he kicked Sergio Aguero and then tried to head butt Vincent Kompany after already being sent off.

Or the time he assaulted Ousmane Dabo on the training pitch. Or the time he stubbed a cigar out in a youth players eye at a Christmas party. Not bad for a man who considers himself a pacifist. 

No one likes to see players being hurt because of a cynical or reckless tackle. The sickening photos of Eduardo’s foot literally hanging off following a strong challenge by Birmingham’s Martin Taylor  reinforce how potentially short a footballs career can be.

Especially when players go around kicking one another in the heart. In a World Cup Final. I’m looking at you Mr De Jong.

These sorts of players inevitably pick up numerous amounts of bookings and red cards, Newcastle’s Cheik Tiote picks up more cards than an overly flirty 15 year old girl on Valentine’s day.

But it is worth remembering how important tough, physical players are to a team. With the absence of Ivan Drago lookalike Nemanja Vidic last season Manchester United lacked not only their captain but a serious physical presence in the heart of defence, and their performances suffered as a result of it.

Most successful teams are built on a solid foundation; you don’t have to line up like Stoke or any of Sam Allardyce’s sides but it is important to have one or two players who you wouldn’t want to mess with in the starting eleven.

Roy Keane let Paul Scholes get on with all the business of creating chances and passing while he dealt with the physical side of things. And staring a people like he was about to murder them, he was good at that too.

As football heads more and more to becoming a relatively non contact sport the days of the old clogger in midfield may be drawing to an end. More often than not the slightest touch can result in a player writing around in mock agony as they attempt to get their would-be assailant sent off.

And if we do enter an era where tackling is all but eradicated from the game, then for me that would be the biggest travesty of all.

Robert Lock