The Red Mist

Last updated : 16 January 2005 By Keith Allman
Dejan looking mean
Bizarrely for a team that contains the likes of Andy Griffin, Amdy Faye and (for now) Nigel Quashie, it's strange that we should be doing so well in the Fair Play League. It's a sign of our professionalism and restraint that we hadn't had a red card in almost a year; 363 days, to be precise, since Dejan Stefanovic got sent for an early bath after deciding to body-check the referee at Bolton. At the same venue this season, our new-found coolness under pressure was perfectly illustrated by Arjan De Zeeuw, refusing to react after a disgusting incident with Diouf.

But red cards are like buses; you wait ages for one to come along, and then you get two at once. Having now seen both the incidents again, I still have some slight nit-picking to do. LuaLua deserved to get sent off, but I still believe Todd was lucky not to follow him - television replays really didn't tell the whole story - whilst Faye can count himself slightly unlucky in the second incident, as he did genuinely seem to be going to get the ball. His first tackle seemed high, and so I guess you can't argue with that one - clumsy, more than anything, and in a game with a card-happy referee you've really got to be more careful than that.

Shares initials with Jesus
But what a surprising change it is that now we're in the situation of being one of the best behaved teams in the division. Cast your mind back to 2001/02, when we were a mid-table Division One outfit. Such was our behaviour that season that the FA fined us for our antics, as well as seperately investigating two matches - one away at Bradford where we lost 3-1, had Crowe and Tiler sent off (the latter for a headbutt) and seven booked - the last time we finished a match with nine men, if you were wondering. Then less than a month later, we suffered a 4-3 defeat to Sheffield United where we had eight players booked, not to mention Derry giving away a penalty in the last minute to gift the Blades the win, and then taking out his anger on the goalscorer by going in at knee-height and, er, getting sent off. No surprise we finished bottom of the aforementioned Fair Play League.

But it's no new thing to us as a club, of course. Who can forget the match away at Sunderland in 1993, where all we needed to do was not lose? A 4-1 defeat with two dismissed and having conceded two penalties against a team in deep relegation trouble was surely the natural outcome, as a sign of our fine ability to shoot ourselves in the foot whenever possible. And what about the truly bizarre "Battle of Bramall Lane" in the late 80s, where we finished the match with eight men and even had the decency to score their goal for them? We really have come quite some way since then, at least.

Still, you can't beat a good footballer's ruck. Whether it's Lee Bradbury stamping on someone's head, Andy Cole and Neil Clement slapping each other with their handbags, or Dion Dublin headbutting Robbie Savage, there's nothing quite as hilarious as two overpaid egos colliding.

Having said that, it's far funnier when someone else does it, rather than us.