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Xmas Cards - The Referee type!

By: Richard Lord
Date: 15/12/2003

A turbulent weekend of football saw 25 players sent off in 52 games across five different leagues. You don't need a mathematician to tell you that that roughly equates to a sending off in every other game.

The Premiership had two men sent off (Matt Elliott and Ian Walker, both for Leicester City as they lost 2-0 at home to Birmingham City), which meant former Grimsby keeper Danny Coyne got a rare taste of top flight action.

Division One saw five red cards issued in five different matches, whereas Town's game at Bournemouth contributed to two of the seven red cards in the second division.

Southend saw three of their players sent off at Swansea but amazingly managed to win that game 3-2 in the third division. There were two other red cards to make that five in total for that league.

And finally the Conference saw another six men head for an early bath, totalling 25 red cards in 52 games.

This begs the question: Is the game becoming overly aggressive? Or perhaps the referees are clamping down on 'nasty' tackles in the light of Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard's high profile contributions of late.

I couldn't help but notice that Wayne Rooney should have been the 26th player to be sent off yesterday, but somehow managed to escape with just a yellow card.

And that's without mentioning the deliberate stamp by Danny Mills on Paolo Di Canio in the game between Middlesborough and Charlton.

Earlier in the season, Blackburn's Lucas Neill broke Jamie Carragher's leg, and Steven Gerrard's overly zealous challenge at Newcastle last week could have done the same to Nolberto Solano.

Then there was that challenge on Ben Thatcher by Ashley Cole last week, a challenge that could have so easily finished Thatcher's career - and these are just the high profile matches.

It's possible and very probable that these incidents are being replicated in the lower leagues as well, but are not reflected on TV, and to the wider audience, as it's the Premiership that gets the attention.

Anyway, whatever it's down to, I'm at a loss as to whether it's on the increase, or that referees are now more astute, aware and in control of the situation.

That's not to say that every sending off yesterday was down to a leg-breaking tackle, because most of them were probably two yellow card offences.

However, the challenge on Town's very own Alan Pouton was an example of the two-footed lunge that has, for some reason, crept into the game.

Grant Holt of Sheffield Wednesday was also guilty of lunging in on Barnsley's Craig Ireland but was just yellow carded, his second yellow was for an apparent dive.

In recent times we have seen players sent off for kicking the ball away, time wasting, over-celebrating and diving. Today's climate appears to approximately offer the same punishment for career-threatening lunges.

Maybe yesterday was a one-off, maybe I'm a cynic, but from what has been shown on TV of late, events on the field are becoming more and more aggressive.

Here is a list (in chronological order) of who was red carded yesterday:

McSweeney (Swansea vs SOUTHEND) 20 mins
Stock (BOURNEMOUTH vs Grimsby) 25 mins
Crowe (Bournemouth vs GRIMSBY) 26 mins
Cavanagh (ACCRINGTON STANLEY vs Aldershot) 31 mins
Elliott (LEICESTER vs Birmingham) 38 mins
Redmile (Farnborough vs SCARBOROUGH) 39 mins
Harrison (Chesterfield vs TRANMERE) 41 mins
Holt (Barnsley vs SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY) 43 mins
Santos (Millwall vs IPSWICH) 51 mins
Warner (Hereford vs TAMWORTH) 52 mins
Warhurst (BARNSLEY vs Sheffield Wednesday) 55 mins
Pidgeley (Sheffield United vs WATFORD) 59 mins
Shields (Accrington Stanley vs ALDERSHOT) 59 mins
Walker (LEICESTER vs Birmingham) 61 mins
Gavin (Wigan vs BRADFORD) 69 mins
Edwards (Bristol Rovers vs YEOVIL) 70 mins
Morgan (Crystal Palace vs NOTTS FOREST) 71 mins
Clarke (Macclesfield vs HUDDERSFIELD) 75 mins
Smith (Swansea vs SOUTHEND) 85 mins
Gower (Swansea vs SOUTHEND) 87 mins
Green (HEREFORD vs Tamworth) 89 mins
Gnohere (BURNLEY vs Coventry) 90 mins
Manvella (FARNBOROUGH vs Scarborough) 90 mins
Mills (RUSHDEN vs Bristol City) 90 mins
Robinson (SWINDON vs Plymouth) 90 mins

There are a couple of former Town players in there. Jason Gavin, who spent three months on loan at Blundell Park last season, was sent off for foul and abusive language, although that was a second bookable offence.

And last season's Grimsby Player of the Year award winner, Georges Santos, was also shown a red card for Ipswich following two yellow card incidents in the game at Millwall.

Credit must go to Southend though, who had three men sent off - and their manager - but still managed to grab a third goal with eight men before Swansea pulled one back seconds later in a 3-2 win for the Shrimps.

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