Harry Redknapp has dismissed suggestions that Gareth Bale is prone to diving, claiming instead that the Tottenham Hotspur winger deserves greater protection from referees.
Bale has been booked twice this season for simulation and was again accused of fooling the match officials when he went down under a challenge from the Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to win a penalty at the Emirates Stadium last Sunday.
The debate around the player's willingness to go to ground distracts from the heavy challenges he is forced to endure, according to Redknapp. The Spurs manager believes that, like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale must learn to live with the attention he receives and points to the Wales international's reaction as evidence of his growing maturity. "I have never spoke to him [about simulation]," Redknapp said. "There isn't any need to. How many times have people been booked for kicking him? That's the stat we should look at. I think you will find there is an awful lot of players who have been booked for chopping him down with cynical challenges this year rather than him going down under no challenge.
"He gets kicked from pillar to post most Saturdays. I don't think he dives. He takes some rough treatment because he runs so quick and he changes direction so quick and he gets chopped down an awful lot. I don't think he dives. He does genuinely get kicked. That is part of what he has to accept. "The great players have that. Messi, Ronaldo, they are going to get that sort of treatment because people have to stop them somehow. That is part of the game. He has to accept that and get on with it"
Bale is battling to overcome a hamstring strain in time to face Manchester United at White Hart Lane tomorrow and Redknapp said: "I think he has grown up and he gets on with it much more than he did. It's a compliment that people have to kick him really because of his pace."
Redknapp conceded that last weekend's 5-2 defeat at the Emirates drew a line under his side's hopes of challenging for the Premier League title. Victory over Sir Alex Ferguson's side, though, would signal an impressive response from his players, 48 hours after Redknapp celebrated his 65th birthday.
Redknapp, who remains the strong favourite to take charge of England, may have passed retirement age but, like Ferguson, he maintains he cannot foresee the day when he will quit.
"Alex is 70 but he doesn't seem 70. I'm 65, I might look it but I certainly don't feel it," said the manager who saw his racehorse, Bygones in Brid, killed in a fall at Taunton on Thursday. "It's not like retiring from a coal face say at 65. You go to all these fantastic places like Old Trafford, football is in you. It is something that you will miss when you don't do it anymore. I don't think about packing up. I don't know what I would do with my time."