Stoke boss Tony Pulis today accused Danny Murphy of picking on “easy targets” and suggested the Fulham captain may have deliberately shied away from criticising bigger clubs when speaking about dangerous tackling last week.
Murphy claimed players are being injured because certain managers are sending their teams out too fired up, with the Potters one of three clubs – along with Blackburn and Wolves – that he named specifically.
His comments have created a storm and after Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce yesterday challenged Murphy to publicly apologise for the remarks, Pulis has now had his say on the matter.
Reading a statement aloud at today’s press conference, Pulis said: “Two challenges this season have been committed by top players who represented their countries at this summer’s World Cup.
“One challenge on Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa by Nigel de Jong of Manchester City recently led to a broken bone.
“Another by Joe Cole, one of our most technically gifted players, resulted in a sending off for one of our most celebrated clubs in the country, Liverpool, who are currently managed by Roy Hodgson, someone I have great respect for.
“Even the technically best players are prone to making mistimed challenges. But have they really been sent out to hurt a fellow professional? I don’t think so.
“How ironic it is that Danny Murphy chose not to discuss either challenge or manager in respect of those tackles. How selective can someone be?
“Maybe Murphy’s pursuit of a new career in the media does not allow him to criticise, or fall out with the Premier League big boys.
“Instead, in my opinion, he has selected easy targets that are based on his own perception and not facts.”
As Allardyce had done a day earlier, Pulis referred to his club's recent disciplinary record and rejected any notion that tackling is worse now than it has been before.
“I’m very, very disappointed to have to sit here today and defend accusations against a club that I am very, very proud to manage,” Pulis said.
“We currently lie seventh in the league and if you add last season’s disciplinary league to this season’s, we are currently joint 10th, alongside Arsenal, which is quite a feat considering we spend a great deal more time without the ball than they do! This is not fabricated – this is fact.
“I firmly believe the game is cleaner today in terms of bad tackles than it has ever been, but I wish I could say the same in terms of other ills – such as simulation.”
He added: “We must absolutely guard against rash tackles, whether committed by a most gifted player or just a mere mortal.
“However, we must also be realistic in that we will never completely eradicate injuries in a contact sport.”
Speaking at the Leaders in Football conference in London last week about what he described as “ridiculous” and “brainless” tackles, Murphy said: “Your manager dictates what your players do and how you behave.
“You get managers who are sending their teams out to stop other teams playing, which is happening more and more – the Stokes, Blackburns, Wolves.
“They can say it’s effective and they have got to win games but the fact is the managers are sending out their players so pumped up there is inevitably going to be problems.”
Bolton boss Owen Coyle, whose side host Stoke tomorrow, has criticised Murphy for singling out individuals and feels the former Liverpool player may well change his mind on the issue if he decides to go into management himself.
“We send our players out to work hard and play well,” Coyle said.
“Danny Murphy is a terrifically talented player and in time, if Danny decides to dip his toe in the water in terms of coaching and management, then I think if you speak to him, he might have a different perspective or angle on it.”