‘Intent‘ rule is new challenge - Burnley FC defender Michael Duff

MICHAEL Duff hopes to profit from Clarke Carlisle’s misfortune at Sheffield United tomorrow.

But with the big debate in football at present focussing on tackles in the game, Duff is aware of falling into the same trap as his colleague.

Carlisle was sent off in Burnley’s last outing at Millwall for a challenge on Theo Robinson where he slipped, the ball went through his legs, and the striker hurdled him.

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But he was dismissed for intent, and will sit out a three-match ban after an unsuccessful appeal.

Duff feels Carlisle was incredibly hard done to, but, should he get the nod from Brian Laws tomorrow, is eager to take his chance.

And he spoke of how the game has changed for a defender: “I think the law that’s the hard one to get your head around is ‘with intent’.

“Clarke’s unlucky. He’s got this tackle that he does very well where he takes the lot and it’s a good tackle.

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“Against Millwall he was unlucky because he’s actually slipped and the ball’s gone through his legs. He hasn’t gone over the top, he hasn’t hit the man, but crowd’s reactions and players’ reactions when you’re away from home, sometimes those things go against you.

“I think that’s what happened with Clarkey because I don’t think it was a malicious tackle, but the referee at the time thought it was the intent.

“He never touched the lad, but he thought it was the intent.

“Unless you know the player personally how do you know what he’s intending to do? And I think that’s where Clarke was very unlucky.”

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Defenders are having to stay on their feet more and mor, although Duff smiles: “Speak to any coach and they always say stay on your feet as long as you can and don’t go to ground unless it’s a last ditch. I suppose subconsciously you do have to think about those things, but it’s a game of instincts and if you think you can win the ball, you’re not deliberately going to foul the man or be late for a tackle - if you’re sliding in you think you’re going to win the ball.

“If he’s half a second - not even that - quicker than you and you catch him in the current environment, sometimes it’s made out to be a lot worse than what it actually is.

“It’s just a mis-timed tackle.

“But the game is completely different to when I started.

“When I first broke into the first team (at Cheltenham) when I was 18 a two-footed tackle, if you took the ball, was a great tackle.

“But now if it’s one-footed and you’re showing studs, it doesn’t matter if you win the ball now it’s this intent rule again.

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“It’s completely changed. It’s definitely got quicker, I think pitches help that, I think balls help that and players are getting bigger and fitter and stronger all the time.”

But Duff feels there will always be a certain interpretation of the rules that differs between referees and players: “You can probably go back 30 years and they’d be saying the referees were too harsh, and you just look at some of the tackles back then.

“It’s just part of the game, players are always going to disagree with referees, it’s part of our job to shout at them!”

Carlisle’s bad luck only emphasised the strength in depth at the club, however, as Duff, and then Leon Cort - coming on for the inured Andre Bikey - came on to good effect at The Den, and Duff said: “I was bitterly disappointed to get injured in the first game of the season, but I’ve got no complaints about not playing since because Clarkey’s come in and he’s been probably one of our better players since he’s got in the team.

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“It’s just a case of doing exactly the same, waiting for your opportunity and the gaffer’s proved if you come in and do well, like Clarke has, he’ll keep you in the team.

“Obviously it’s unfortunate that Clarke’s got suspended because I didn’t think it was a red card and it’s been upheld. But his misfortune is someone else’s gain and hopefully it will be me and hopefully I’ll stay in and do well.”

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s game will evoke memories of the last meeting between Burnley and the Blades - the Championship Play-off Final at Wembley, where the Clarets reached the promised land.

Burnley earned a third win over United that season on the day, but times have changed, as Duff said: “The three games that we played against them the season before last we won all three, but obviously the one at Wembley is going to stick in everyone’s mind.

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“I think it’s a long time ago now, especially in football. It’s 18 months and there have been a lot of changes for both teams I’m sure.

“We’ve luckily been able to keep the majority of our squad.

“We can look back at that game with fondness but as regards to looking towards tomorrow as any sort of motivation I don’t think it really comes, into the equation.

“Eighteen months is a long, long time in football because the turnover’s so quick now.

“There aren’t many teams who stay together for more than a couple of years. Their team’s broken up quite a lot. Our team’s not massively different but there will still be four or five changes.”