These are the facts. During a World Cup qualifying match between Wales and Ireland, a Welsh player named Neil Taylor left his feet on a tackle and lunged with his leg straightened, his studs showing, into the shin of an Irish player, Seamus Coleman. The contact resulted in the double compound fracture of Coleman’s leg – his tibia and fibula to be precise.
These facts are beyond dispute – the gory result of Taylor’s tackle is on the internet for anyone with an iron stomach to google should they so desire. I will not post the pictures here.
Now for my disclaimer. I have been a Seamus Coleman fan for as long as I have been an Everton fan, which is well over a decade now. I had never heard of Neil Taylor before the incident. Does this fact color my disgust? Possibly. Does this fact change the dismal outcome for Coleman? Not in the slightest.
Now for my admission. I was livid. Fueled by that anger, I am among the so-called “trolls” that took to social media to castigate Taylor for his recklessness.
Now for my perspective. I have played football/soccer as an amateur since I was a small child – suffice it say for over three and half decades now. I know the game. I know how to tackle the football. I know how to hurt an opponent. I know all of those things as an amateur. Neil Taylor is a professional. He most certainly knows how to tackle the ball and how to hurt his opponent.
So is it right for fans (or trolls as the pro-Welsh media seem to prefer) to use social media to vent our anger? I have no doubt Neil Taylor “feels bad” for his tackle on Coleman. You’d have to be a psychopath to not feel bad about breaking someone’s leg. But guess what? Coleman is out of football for at least a year and maybe for his career, while Taylor, feeling bad and all, will get his four or five match ban and be back out on the pitch playing the game we all love. Is that justice? No.
We now live in a world that connects fans with athletes via social media, and with that connection, comes a bit of extra accountability. Should athletes only expect to open their social media accounts to find praise and adulation? Or should they also expect to find criticism of their play where criticism is due?
I am hopeful that the surge of fan disgust at the type of reckless, callous play that resulted in Neil Taylor’s breaking of Seamus Coleman’s leg, will plant a seed in the backs of the minds of everyone taking the field. “What kind of player do I want to be?” For me, Neil Taylor will forever be known as the hack that broke Coleman’s leg. That will be his legacy. That will last much longer than his four or five match ban.