There has been a lot said and written about the way Wolves have been playing during the last couple of games. It has even got to the point where the Premier League have felt it necessary to get involved and have fined the Midlands side for continuously over-stepping the mark on their yellow card count.
However, do they really deserve the treatment they are getting? Yes, it is fair that Wolves have been putting in some “tough” performances and battling with other teams. Joey Barton certainly felt the full force of the new tough-tackling Wolves side when Newcastle visited Molineux a few weeks ago. Wolves captain Karl Henry made it his mission to ensure Barton was kept as quiet as possible in the game.
From a Wolves point of view, it worked. Henry was constantly following the midfielder around the pitch and didn’t allow him a second to think. For a player like Barton to have such treatment takes a lot of nerve from Henry! Barton didn’t like it and was soon upset by Henry’s antics. Yes, some of the challenges may have been over the top and a bit too strong, but you have to credit the nerve of Henry for trying.
Then we come to the media, who found it oh so easy to jump to the defence of Barton. Let’s just remember what type of player Barton is, he enjoys a challenge and gets stuck in a lot – a proper central midfielder. I’m sure if Barton had put in the same challenges on Henry, then the media would jump to the defence of Henry. It was a good battle of midfielders that has been blown out of proportion.
This leads us to last weekend when Fulham beat Wolves 2-1 at Craven Cottage, a good match that was overshadowed by a horrific injury to Bobby Zamora. Zamora was dribbling and Henry came in with a challenge which saw Zamora suffer a broken leg. The challenge was a fair one, which saw Henry slide in perfectly and take the ball away from Zamora. Unfortunately, Zamora got his leg trapped between Henry’s and fell in such an awkward way that the striker came away with a nasty injury.
Of course, the Fulham fans were furious and were slating Henry for his ‘antics’. Even Clint Dempsey came out and said that Henry intentionally broke Zamora’s leg. Now that is something that is disgusting, how can a player accuse a fellow-player of wanting to hurt someone? I have met Karl Henry on several occasions and can vouch that he is a really nice bloke, never someone who could be capable of doing such a deed. Yes, he likes a challenge and will put his neck on the line for his side, but never someone who would want to hurt someone.
Henry himself came back from a life-threatening injury a few years ago. He went in for challenge during a game with Luton and ruptured his spleen. Doctors said that the injury could have easily killed him, but he has trained hard and got back to being a quality player – the type that many would want in their side.
So, let’s lay off Henry if we can. There have been plenty of players like Henry in the past who have been worshipped. Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira, Stuart Pearce, Claude Makelele, Julian Dicks; all great players who were admired for their tough-tackling personality. Just because the modern game doesn’t see as much tackling, it doesn’t give us an excuse to have a go at players who do enjoy the challenge!