What we need to realise is that there are different reasons for diving in the modern game. Let me explain.
One is to preserve the health of an individual, often evading a serious lunge or moment of recklessness from an opponent.
As a footballer, you can feel this moment coming. You see the look on the face of your opponent, they are not slowing down, you know that you will reach the ball first and as a result he will be late.
“The skill is being kicked out of the game from Sunday league football to the Premier League.”
Two options will go through your mind. The first being to jump to avoid potential contact/injury and the second to stay on your feet to make sure you win the free-kick without being accused of simulation – but you risk injury from the oncoming tackle.
As a professional, I will choose option one without hesitation.
This ‘dive’ – or evasive action, as I prefer to call it – is necessary because players don’t always get the protection they need.
A lot of these tackles come down to a lack of respect for fellow pros or a lack of timing in some cases. The speed at which the tackles are flying in nowadays shows no regard for the players on the end of the challenge.
People have argued that tackling is an art, a skill or a technique. But the lunges I see from week to week are borderline assault.
One problem we have in England is that we have allowed a war-like mentality to seep into our game.
In some ways it’s a great characteristic. Many other nations don’t have it. British players have so much heart and desire and never know when they are beaten.
There is a knock-on effect though. Some managers – and many fans – I have come across have let the 50/50 tackle and the aggression become overly significant in today’s game.
In contrast to many other footballing nations, players here are encouraged with words like: ‘Smash ‘im!’, ‘Go through ‘im!’, ‘Clean ‘im out!’ or ‘He’s a bottler – kick ‘im once and he won’t fancy it!’
Now, these opinions of the majority have resulted in the lenience shown when applying the laws of the game. Perhaps referees feel the pressure and as a result do not apply these laws all of the time.
Some tackles I see in England would not be tolerated in continental Europe. But in the UK, anything less than ‘getting stuck in’ will be deemed inadequate by the manager, coaches and fans.
I believe too much emphasis has been placed on this part of the game over the years and we have developed an almost xenophobic attitude in football.
The foreign footballing technicians who come to ply their trade in the UK are often greeted with the taste of an English-type challenge that is unacceptable where they have come from.
They are jeered for not showing the same commitment to the cause when it comes to laying your body on the line or putting your head in where it hurts, often jumping out of tackles that they are unaccustomed to.
We have lost track of what is really important and what really makes a good football team.
Year after year, evidence is produced before and during major tournaments which shows that the technical and tactical parts of football are more important than anything else.
Nevertheless, we seem to take great pleasure in ‘kicking out’ the skill of the foreign players.
And we prevent our own talent from reaching the heights that would be more realistic and achievable in a country where technique is valued over brawn.
Players here will be dropped for pulling out of leg-breaking challenges. Fans will boo if a 50/50 has resulted in their player trying to cutely win the ball back rather than launch himself in an attempt to injure the opponent.
The lower down the leagues you go, the more prevalent these sort of challenges are.
The skill is being kicked out of the game from Sunday league football to the Premier League.
Players are not always picked on their technical ability but on how well they can tackle, or if they can put their foot in. The only ask is that they can put the ball in the channel, or hook the ball aimlessly over their head for 90 minutes.
This is English football from the bottom to the top with a few exceptions in between. If these thuggish tackles are eliminated from the game, or met with consistently harsh punishments, the talent will be allowed to blossom.
I have witnessed games where the referee has failed to clamp down on these types of tackles. Players with the no-nonsense ‘have it’ mentality are getting away with murder, and if the victim jumps out of the way in an attempt to preserve the use of his legs he is greeted with cries of ‘I never touched him ref’ or ‘He dived, book him!’
The point I’m getting at is that if he didn’t dive he may well be on a stretcher and being carted off in an ambulance.
So for me this evasive action needs to be recognised as an acceptable part of the game. The old-school mentality needs to change.
Diving has generally been attributed to the influx of foreigners. So it is strange to see that the latest player being highlighted for his diving ability is an Englishman.
Ashley Young seems to have perfected it. He has got into a habit of buying free-kicks. Sometimes it is understandable as he is trying to avoid the ferocious challenges coming his way.
But what we saw when he faced QPR last week and again against Villa was uncalled for.
The extravagance of the dive was impressive; head back, arms up and a huge tumble to finish. It shouldn’t be tolerated on the football pitch.
Even with the reaction from the media, fellow footballers and fans, I doubt it will encourage him and other players to play within the laws of the game and stay on their feet when possible.
This type of diving is cheating and should be punished retrospectively if it is missed by the referee. The FA needs to take a stance on it quickly.