When “injured” players just need a breather
I get asked frequently whether players are really injured when I run on to the pitch or are they faking it? How do you know if it is serious? Does it annoy me running on for a potential serious issue only to find out there is nothing wrong?
The most important factor is to know your players. Know the ones that go down easy. With these, I hesitate before sprinting on to the pitch and invariably, given a bit more time, they are fine. Many times I have run on to the pitch, asked the player what is wrong and they whisper: “I’m fine, just need a minute”. Then we go through the motions of “faking” an injury.
As I have mentioned before, I have done this a couple of times before an international break in order for the player to avoid going away with his country. Some referees kill me by calling me on to the pitch too soon, without checking with the player. I get halfway there and the player runs away!
This has caused a few problems in big games because, as soon as I step on to the field to assess a player, they have to come off until the games restarts. If that is during a corner in the 89th minute and we are 1-0 up, and the player is a strong centre half intending to mark their big centre forward … you can see my dilemma.
I know it’s serious when the player, who you know can carry a strong tackle and normally jumps up after an incident, stays down and takes longer to get moving. I then spring into action. In reality, serious incidents are not that common. This season, the amount of times I run on and the player is safe to continue far outweighs having to remove the player from the field.
It is completely understandable that players maximise every possible situation to gain an advantage over the opposition and being tackled is no exception. It would be naïve to think otherwise. But it has got worse with the minor contacts … or no contacts at all!
It is a fine line. A genuine foul due to significant contact or no contact at all (ie. a dive)? Some players exacerbate the contact by going down easily and some are more genuine and only go down if they physically cannot stand. I have never heard of a manager or coach telling a player to go down easily and never seen it practised on the training ground.
That suggestion is rather ridiculous. I have seen many players get hurt in training during tackles, so theatrically going to ground to simulate a tackle scenario is just asking for trouble.