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Virgo column: Sanogo must get the elbow for cheap shot

by Adam Virgo

KARL Robinson is right. Yaya Sanogo’s horrible elbow on Antony Kay was much worse than a simple case of violent conduct.

It was cowardly. It was calculated. And it was 100 per cent intended to do damage. The FA needs to come down hard on the Charlton striker – and I mean more than a three-game ban.

As a centre-half, you’re taught to stand your ground. If a striker gets too tight, give them a little push in the back. That’s all Kay did.

Sanogo’s response was to draw his elbow back and throw it into Kay’s face. Being an ex-player, the moment I saw it, my blood boiled. The ball is nowhere near him. The defender’s eyes are elsewhere. It’s a cheap shot.

It really annoys me that he tried to get away with it. Who does he think he is, elbowing someone straight in the face and then pleading innocence? He’s lucky that another MK Dons player didn’t stick one on him. He deserved it.

When you go up for a header and lead with your elbow, that’s very different. Your eye is on the ball and there’s no intention to cause damage.

Someone might get caught on the nose but it’s nothing sinister. You use your arms for leverage and, 99 times out of 100, any collision is entirely accidental. Players know that.

Very seldom in my career did I see a player try to hurt someone. It’s very, very rare. Yes, you make strong tackles. If I see a ball down the line and it’s a 50-50 challenge, in the back of my mind I’m thinking, ‘Right, I’m going to take the ball, put the man in the air and give the crowd something to cheer about’.

But at no point in my career did I ever think, ‘I’m going to hurt him, I’m going to break his leg,’ or anything like that.

Managers often cry about two-footed challenges, calling them leg-breakers and that sort of thing. I’m not saying they aren’t red cards but, more often than not, they’re just mistimed.

People who’ve played the game know when there’s malicious intent. Think about Ben Thatcher’s elbow on Pedro Mendes or Roy Keane’s infamous lunge that ended the career of Alfe Inge Haaland. Everyone knew what had gone on.

Sanogo – who is on loan from Arsenal – falls into that category and it’s the kind of behaviour that every pro wants to see stamped out.

When Luis Suarez bit Branislav Ivanovic, we wondered if it was a cultural thing – something that was more acceptable in South America. He still got a ten-game ban. Sanogo doesn’t even have that excuse.

What’s more, the potential consequences were much worse than any bite. He could have broken Kay’s eye socket. Fractured his skull. Just because he didn’t doesn’t make it OK.

You inflict that kind of damage in the street, you get banged up. It’s no different to punching someone in the face. And if you can’t get away it in society, why should you get away with it in football?

A three-game ban is not enough. You can’t equate a shove or a slap in the face to someone who is deliberately trying to hurt an opponent. What example would that send out to the rest of the league? What message does it send out to young players?

The FA needs to make a stand because there is no place in the game for people who try to hurt a fellow pro.

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