Sunderland’s Jeff Whitley today said that he and his team-mates were shocked that Coventry’s Youssef Safri wasn’t given a red card for the tackle that saw Colin Healy taken to hospital with a broken leg.
The extent of Healy’s injury was so shocking that Sky Sports decided not to show post-match replays and has caused intense debate about whether or not the player intended any malice or it was simply a mistimed tackle – but Safri was not even shown a yellow card by referee Mr Jones.
Whitley told the Sunderland Echo today, “We thought it was a blatant red card. I’m sure he didn’t mean to cause that sort of damage – no-one would – but he’s gone over the ball and didn’t get a touch on the ball.
“Colin was still waiting for the ambulance when we went in at the end of the game and we all felt for him.
“It’s a sickener for him and we just all hope he makes a quick recovery.”
Manager Mick McCarthy was explicit in his choice of words in a post match interview with Sky Sports. When asked if he thought Safri’s tackle was ‘reckless’, he visibly bristled and hit back saying, “You’ve said ‘reckless’ – not me. Don’t anybody quote me as saying it was a reckless tackle because I didn’t.
“Do not try and come in here and make a headline out of me – if you think you can dress that up and make it any different or make out it’s any worse than it is – I’m not doing it. I’m being honest here.”
“It was a poor tackle in my mind. I won’t dress it up as anything else. He completely missed the ball and poor old Colin is lying in a hospital bed.”
Meanwhile Coventry player-manager Gary McAllister – who scored the equaliser for the home team from a penalty – has defended Safri, saying he doesn’t believe the tackle was malicious. Speaking to BBC News earlier today he described Safri as “distraught” over the injury to Healy and pointed out that the two players were formerly team-mates at Coventry.
And speaking to Coventry FC’s official website today, he continued “He’s not a malicious player – he went for the ball and the referee’s two or three yards away from the incident and he didn’t see anything. With the speed and pace of the game nowadays things happen very quickly.
“He’s feeling for Colin, it goes without saying, but he saw the ball and he tried to win it.
“It was not so much what I saw but what I heard – I was praying it was the crack of shinpads rather than the crack of bone. It was pretty disturbing seeing a footballer on oxygen.
“Healy’s a very young guy who’s worked very hard to get into the position he’s in, going out on loan, coming from a famous club like Celtic after not being able to get into the team there. He’s worked very hard to earn a contract at Sunderland but he’s young enough and he’ll be fine.”