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Cottagers' boss expresses fears that players are being put at risk

Fulham manager Mark Hughes is worried that a recent spate of reckless challenges by some players is putting their fellow professionals’ health at risk.

Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien was sent off in Wednesday's game against Hughes' side, for a two-footed challenge on Clint Dempsey, which was just the latest in number of recent incidents that have raised the issue of over-zealous tackles.

On the same night a challenge by Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas caused Wolves’ Stephen Ward to be stretchered off, while on Tuesday Sunderland’s Lee Cattermole was criticised by Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp for a tackle on Luka Modric.

Also, last month, Fulham midfielder Danny Murphy spoke out about the perceived aggressive nature of teams such as Stoke City, Wolves and Blackburn Rovers.

Although Hughes was known for his physical style when he was playing, he believes that professionals in the modern game face a greater chance of injury.

"The game's faster, they're bigger athletes," said Hughes.

"The collisions, if they're mistimed or premeditated, then the consequences of that on an opposing player can be dire and significant.

"Years ago, I think there were a lot more fouls and it was refereed in a different way.

"Certainly in my day, I had the reputation - possibly wrongly, I would suggest probably rightly - that I was a physical player, [who] enjoyed that side of the game.

"But, more often than not, people were fit and well when they came up against me after the game.

"Because it was about being competitive, but you never put your fellow professional at risk.

"Just lately, you sense some of the tackles are a little bit reckless and that can put other professionals at risk."

Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti felt that Essien should not have been shown a red card as he won the ball in the challenge with Dempsey, whilst Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen said that the Ghanaian had shown no intent to hurt the American.

However, Hughes believes that even if the player had won the ball, it was still a reckless challenge.

He added: "You leave the ground with two feet and you jump in like that, you're putting another player at risk.

"Probably, I would suggest, the Match of the Day panel hasn't watched the game in its whole entirety, because they rarely do."

It has previously been suggested that a panel of former players could be used to make judgements on bad tackles using television replays after games, but Hughes doesn’t think that it would be a workable solution to the problem.

"If you're not actually the person that committed the crime, it's very difficult to understand the intent that somebody has when they go into a challenge," he said.

"Sometimes a grimace can mean a lot of things.

"It might be that he's really determined to hurt somebody or it might be that he's struggling physically to keep up with the game, and that's the face he pulls when he's struggling physically.

"It's very difficult to look at these panels and have confidence they will get the decisions right, most of the time.

"I think you've got more of a chance if you have got ex-players, senior players, who've played the game and understand challenges that can put people at risk.

"So that might be an advantage, but we'd have to wait and see whether or not in practice it'd actually work."

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