Hughes believes 'diving' culture is more widespread

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The Independent Online

The Blackburn Rovers manager, Mark Hughes, has made it clear that he thinks the "diving" culture is far more prevalent now than it was in his playing days. Hughes is no stranger to the controversy over Cristiano Ronaldo's antics at Middlesbrough on Saturday, having angered Montpellier during a European Cup-Winners' Cup tie in 1991 when he fell to the floor from an apparent head-butt by Pascal Ballis when, in fact, there had been no contact.

However, incidents such as those were rare during Hughes' illustrious career. And, while the combative former Manchester United forward accepts diving was part of the game, he feels the tactic is now used far more often because of the attitude to it across Europe.

"In some countries, gaining free-kicks is viewed as intelligent football," he said.

"Obviously, if players come to this country who have been taught to play that way, that is what they will continue to do."

Hughes feels the whole culture of the game has changed in relation to diving, not just in terms of the players who do it, but also the ensuing crowd reaction.

However, he does have some sympathy for the players, given the ferocious pace of the modern game.

"If someone tripped you up in my day, most people would jump up and confront the guy who had done it," he observed. "If you stayed down, the crowd would be shouting you were soft,or words to that effect.

"Nowadays, the fans are screaming for the referee to send the guy off."

Hughes will hope Blackburn avoid a similar storm when they head to Charlton tonight, having finally ended their six-game streak without a win by beating Fulham 2-0 on Saturday. The result was especially notable given it was the first time that the strike pair of Benni McCarthy and Shabani Nonda had scored in the same game.

While McCarthy has enjoyed a spectacular start to his Rovers career, finding the net eight times so far, Nonda has found it much harder to adapt to the English game. Currently on a season-long loan from Roma, Hughes has the option of signing the 29-year-old Democratic Republic of Congo international on a permanent deal and he has been impressed by what he has seen so far.

"It is hard for strikers to adapt to the Premiership," he said. "I have known many players come from other countries who have found it very difficult in the opening weeks of their career over here.

"Although Shabani has not scored the same number of goals as Benni, I have been impressed with how well both of them have done so soon. We do have the option of making the loan deal permanent if it suits both parties.

Rovers could be without veteran defender Stéphane Henchoz for their trip to The Valley after he picked up a thigh injury against Fulham, although Tugay is available after completing a one-match ban.

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