AN amateur footballer at the centre of a broken leg storm insisted today he is no thug on the pitch.
A tackle by Lee Paul Scroggins in the high-profile FA Vase clash between Whitley Bay and West Auckland on Saturday resulted in former Newcastle United youngster Alex Francis sustaining a compound fracture.
The game was halted for more than half an hour while an ambulance was brought onto the pitch, with Scroggins receiving a red card on the resumption of the game.
Angry non-league football fans have flooded internet forums condemning the player, and calling for him to face a lengthy ban over the challenge.
But Scroggins, from Horsley Hill, South Shields, insists there was no malice in the tackle, and that it was just mistimed.
He said: “I’ve watched the video over and over again. For me, it was a 50-50 tackle.
“It wasn’t two-footed. I’ve gone in and I’ve been slightly late, which I didn’t intend to do. I don’t go out of my way to hurt anyone.
“Alex is a nice kid and a great player, but I didn’t go out to hurt him.
“For people to say I have gone out of my way to hurt him and to put my mark on the game are wrong. People who know me know I wouldn’t do that.
“I would make that tackle 100 times a season and the other player gets up.”
Scroggins, 30, was captain of South Shields before moving to fellow Northern League side Whitley Bay in the summer.
And he says the incident has made him question whether he wants to play again, after admitting to feeling sick as he waited on the pitch while Francis was receiving medical attention.
He said: “It’s all I’ve thought about for two days. I’ve even spoken to my wife about whether it (playing football again) is worth it.
“I wish Alex a speedy recovery. I haven’t spoken to him. I would like to, but I’m going to wait and let things settle.
“He will be angry, and I can totally understand that – my brother broke his leg on the pitch.
“I was praying for the ambulance to come as quickly as possible and give him something to relieve the pain.
“If I hadn’t been sent off, I wouldn’t have continued, I would have asked to be subbed.
“I felt sick inside. The physio told me it was a compound fracture and I felt sick. I can’t turn back the clock, but I wish I could.”
West Auckland won the game 2-1, ending Bay’s three-year reign as holders of the Vase.