Chopper Harris mourns death of once-respected art of tackling

Even England's 1966 World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore, who turned tackling into an art form, would fall foul of modern referees, former Chelsea defender Ron Harris said yesterday.

"Bobby was the greatest tackler there was but if he had been playing today he would have been getting cards all over the place, week in week out," said Harris, whose uncompromising approach in the 1970s earned him the nickname "Chopper".

Responding to Fulham midfielder Danny Murphy's comments last week that players from certain clubs were making "ridiculous" tackles after being "pumped up" by their managers, Harris said the problem had been exaggerated.

"Years ago people could slide in from the side and Bobby Moore was a past master at that, he was fantastic at it, but now I see players penalised for that kind of tackle," Harris said.

Harris reached two FA Cup finals in his 19 years at Chelsea. The second, against Leeds United in 1970, was remembered as much for its fouls as Chelsea's 2-1 replay victory.

The 65-year-old believes modern players are like "trained racehorses" and quicker and faster than they were during his heyday. But he said the game today is not as physical despite several high-profile injuries this season.

Tackling hit the media spotlight last week after Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong was dropped by the Dutch national team for a tackle that broke Newcastle United's Hatem Ben Arfa's leg.

"Just look at that 1970 Cup replay and see how physical it was then compared to today, there is no comparison," he said. "They are trying to make football a non-contact sport.

"Nobody likes to see injuries but no player goes out to break another player's leg.

"Too much is being said because of a couple of injuries. It would be interesting to see how many other tackles there were like De Jong's that day and did anybody pick up on them?

"Tackles can look horrendous when replayed over and over on TV from different angles but they are part and parcel of football and players will come into contact. You could break your leg tripping over the curb."

Harris, who won the Cup Winners' Cup with Chelsea in 1971, questioned Murphy's criticism of certain managers, particularly as he plays under Mark Hughes at Fulham.

"I've got no axe to grind with Danny Murphy but his manager is Mark Hughes who was a fully committed player and I'm sure he would like a De Jong in his team at Fulham," Harris said.

"I can't see a player lasting five minutes at Fulham under Mark Hughes if he jumped out of tackles."

The comments from Harris come after the League Managers Association (LMA) jumped to the defence of its members on Monday after Murphy appeared to accuse Blackburn's Sam Allardyce, Wolves boss Mick McCarthy and Stoke's Tony Pulis of encouraging aggressive play.

"Professional football managers certainly do not incite their players to go out and cause injury to fellow professionals," the LMA said in a statement.

"Two of the three clubs mentioned have yet to receive a red card in the Barclays Premier League this season."