For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
Newcastle angry at Whelan's defence of McManaman horror tackle
WIGAN chairman Dave Whelan has infuriated Newcastle United officials by claiming that Callum McManaman's horror tackle on Massadio Haidara was "clean as a whistle".
And in a move that would cause further controversy, the Football Association could confirm later today that McManaman will not receive any retrospective punishment for the studs-up challenge that has left Haidara nursing significant damage to his knee.
Haidara underwent a series of scans yesterday, but the extent of the swelling around the full-back's knee meant the results were inconclusive and further tests are planned for later in the week. The Newcastle hierarchy are refusing to rule out the possibility of legal action if Haidara is sidelined for a significant spell.
Newcastle's fury at Sunday's incident was enhanced by referee Mark Halsey's decision not to even blow for a foul, and FA officials spent yesterday perusing the official's report.
Halsey failed to acknowledge the seriousness of McManaman's lunge into Haidara's leg at the time, but the governing body are extremely reluctant to reassess an incident that has already been witnessed by at least one of the officials.
When Mario Balotelli escaped punishment for a similarly reckless challenge on Arsenal's Alex Song last April, the FA noted: "Where at least one of the officials has seen the coming together of players retrospective action is not taken, regardless of whether they have seen the full extent of the challenge."
That would seem to imply that McManaman could escape censure for Sunday's challenge as Halsey was able to see the tackle, even though his decision not to dismiss the Wigan attacker was baffling.
A number of former referees have voiced their amazement at Halsey's failure to show a straight red card, but Wigan's publicity-loving chairman, Whelan, dominated the television and radio airwaves yesterday to insist McManaman had done nothing wrong.
"The ball was there and McManaman got the ball as clean as a whistle, then followed through and they collided," said Whelan. "The referee was 15 yards from the tackle. I don't think his view was blocked. He had a clear view. I had a clear view in the stands.
Wigan Chief Dave Whelan
"He hasn't gone over the ball. 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."
Back in March 2011, McManaman was involved in a challenge in a reserve game with Manchester City that left Gai Assulin with his right leg in a brace and resulted in a heated altercation between the two benches.
Newcastle officials were understandably unimpressed with Whelan's comments, and Alan Pardew was also digesting the latest gloomy injury news regarding Mathieu Debuchy.
Debuchy strained his hamstring in the early stages of Sunday's defeat and has been forced to withdraw from the France squad for this week's World Cup qualifiers with Georgia and Spain.
The full-back is unlikely to recover in time for Newcastle's next league game with Manchester City, but Yohan Cabaye could be involved at the City of Manchester Stadium after he was retained in the France squad despite being unavailable at the weekend.
Sunday's 2-1 defeat means Newcastle have still just recorded one Premier League away win all season, but stand-in skipper Jonas Gutierrez claims it was difficult to remain focused once the extent of Haidara's injury became clear.
"It was difficult for us to play on," said Gutierrez. "It was hard for us to see him get stretchered off with an injury that looked very bad.
"I think the team then tried to do the best they could and work hard for all the players that were left on the pitch. Then there was a goal in the last minute which was another handball.
"I'm sorry about the result and the team are very upset because we did enough to get something from it."
The reverse leaves the Magpies just six points clear of the relegation zone, and while there is understandable excitement ahead of next month's Europa League quarter-final with Benfica, Gutierrez accepts that Premier League survival cannot be regarded as a certainty.
"We cannot say that we've done our job and we are safe yet," he said. "We have to win a few more games to say, 'Finally we have done the job'.
"Our confidence is still the same and we still believe we can do it, but we lost a game in the last minute and that hurts. We have to accept it though, make the most of the two weeks break and get on with it."