McManaman tackle revives bad memories for Spooner
LAST weekend’s rash challenge by Wigan forward Callum McManaman on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara horrified football fans and pundits alike and for one former Wanderer, it brought back some painful memories.
Nicky Spooner was on the receiving end of a similar horror tackle back playing for the Whites in 1994 in a game against Burnley – a challenge that left him with a double broken leg.
His rehabilitation lasted in excess of two years and by his own admission, he was never the same player again.
The early medical assessment’s suggest Haidara may have escaped such a severe injury, despite McManaman’s right boot hitting him on the knee.
And Spooner, who now works at Wanderers’ Eddie Davies Academy, hopes that is the case and the young Frenchman does not have to go through what he did and see a potentially long career slip from his grasp.
In only his second match back after an 11-month lay-off with a niggling ankle problem, which eventually required an operation, Spooner felt the force of a John Gayle challenge in the 2-2 draw at Turf Moor.
It saw him miss the rest of the season and a chance of two Wembley appearances in the League Cup final and the play-off showdown against Reading.
In nine years at Wanderers, he ended up with just 29 appearances to his name.
Spooner told The Bolton News: “Seeing that tackle at Wigan brought flashbacks from that challenge on me all those years ago.
“I just hope the Newcastle lad is okay and doesn’t have the problems I had.
“That was a real blow for me in 1994 because it was only my second game back after 11 months out with an ankle injury.
“I had a niggle and it was decided a break would help but in the end it needed an operation.
“I came back and raring to go and then that happened and I broke my tibia and fibula.
“I was in rehab for 27 months; it was a killer for. The annoying part for me was being out for so long again; it was so frustrating to miss four years of football.
“When I think back, I feel cheated out of a good career with Wanderers.”
It is easy to see why Spooner laments that period out of the side.
A talented full-back, he had starred alongside Alan Stubbs in the youth ranks and was looking to be a part of Bruce Rioch’s plans until the double injury blow.
It meant he was forced to sit on the sidelines during what proved to be a successful campaign.
He added: “The team was doing so well and I was just breaking in.
“It does make you reminisce on what might have been, particularly when mates like Stubbsy go on and play for so long, but that’s football.
“It was lonely on my own in the gym just working and working to get fit again and it did get me down.
“But Bruce was fantastic and when the big games came around, to stop me being even more miserable, he used to send me away abroad on a break.
“It was the hardest season but the other lads and older professionals were so supportive.”
Naturally, when a tackle such as McManaman’s creates so much furore as it has across football this week – particularly without punishment from the officials or, retrospectively, from the FA – the memories flood back for Spooner. But he still has sympathy for the referees.
Spooner said: “Bad challenges are not a new thing; mis-timed tackles have happend for years.
“The difference now is every game is televised in some way and there are cameras everwhere. You get the likes of Sky pouring over it from 10 angles and analysing it for days.
“I feel for the referees because they are human and cannot see everything. I wouldn’t like to do their job with all the cameras covering every decision.
“As for the punishments, well I always think it is strange that a bad tackle gets a yellow card and so does kicking the ball away or taking your shirt off when you score.
“They are not the same level of infringement yet you get a yellow for each. Maybe that is what needs looking into.”