Steve Bruce has urged Hamza Choudhury to change his ways before he seriously injures an opponent and fears the Leicester midfielder is developing a reputation as a dangerous tackler.
Newcastle’s manager accused Choudhury of “going over the top” in a studs-up “horror challenge” on Matt Ritchie during Leicester’s narrow Carabao Cup win at St James’ Park on Wednesday.
To Bruce’s considerable chagrin, the England Under-21 international escaped with a yellow card, while Ritchie faces at least two months out with ankle damage.
“He went over the ball, which makes it so dangerous,” said Bruce, who believes his winger’s split-second decision to start pulling out of the challenge quite possibly saved him from a potentially devastating injury.
“If Matty hadn’t seen it coming and taken his leg away he could have been in serious trouble. He could have been out for eight months, it could have been career ending. If his leg had been planted on the floor, he was in serious trouble. Instead he rode it a little but it was a horror challenge.
“As it is Matty’s in a mess, there’s ankle ligament damage, bone bruising, cuts, three lots of stitches. Let’s hope the young lad Choudhury learns from it because he’s a very good player – but you can get a reputation. He has to be careful.”
Choudhury, who was sent off for a lunging tackle on France’s Jonathan Bamba on England Under-21 duty in June, has sent Ritchie his best wishes but remains unrepentant.
“It was a 50-50,” he said. “He pulled out at the last minute, which made it look a lot worse. I’ve never gone in to hurt someone but unfortunately it has. I hope he gets better soon. I know Steve Bruce was a tough-tackling defender in his day; people are quick to forget how they played football.” Bruce was not impressed. “I never went over the ball,” he said. “Never.”
Bruce believes the “excessive force” used by Choudhury renders the fact the midfielder won the ball irrelevant and admitted he was “raging” at the referee’s failure to spot a “blatant red card”. He had a private chat with the Leicester manager, Brendan Rodgers, who, sensibly, withdrew Choudhury after the incident.
“I think Brendan knew it was a poor, poor challenge,” Bruce said. “I love to see people tackle but it was a bad challenge that hurts people. It could have been much, much worse. I honestly thought it might have been six months out when I saw Matt after the game.”