Dave Whelan, the Wigan Athletic chairman, has declared that the club's forward Callum McManaman must not face a retrospective three-game ban for his horrendous challenge on Newcastle's Massadio Haïdara, as evidence emerged of another dreadful tackle involving the player.
Wigan last night declined to disclose whether they or 21-year-old McManaman had been in contact with Newcastle or Haïdara, as manager Roberto Martinez promised on Sunday. But Whelan defended the player, much to the indignation of Newcastle supporters, among whom reports of another wild challenge by McManaman – on Israeli midfielder Gai Assulin while playing in a reserve-team game against Manchester City in March 2011 – were circulating yesterday.
Assulin was carried off on a stretcher with his right leg in a brace, after the tackle which – as on Sunday – caused friction between the two benches. A report of the 2011 match on City's website states that "Assulin picked the ball up just inside Wigan's half and Callum McManaman ran from City's half and dived in very late and caught Gai on his right leg with the studs showing".
Whelan, whose own playing career was cut short by a broken leg sustained playing for Blackburn in the 1960 FA Cup final, insisted McManaman had not gone over the ball and had won it "clean as a whistle". He said: "That's an accident. There is not one ounce of malice in [him]. He is an enthusiastic young boy. He has got great prospects. He was very upset by it all."
There is a feeling McManaman's fate may rest on whether linesman Matthew Wilkes saw the incident and that referee Mark Halsey did not. Though the Football Association is aware of the acute horror with which McManaman's tackle has been received nationally, Uefa takes a firm line on governing bodies "re-refereeing" games by imposing decisions on incidents that officials have seen. If Wilkes, who was close to the incident, did see it, the FA will be unable to issue a retrospective red card. If he did not, Halsey will have been emailed video footage to assess whether the player would have been dismissed.
Newcastle were not revealing Haïdara's condition ahead of the anticipated FA verdict today, though the French defender is understood to have suffered significant damage to his knee – but no broken bones.