UNLIKE Danny Wilson, I’ve never seen a player booked for blowing his nose. And, in all honesty, it’s probably never going to happen. Unless, of course, they do it on a match official’s shirt.
But, having heard the Sheffield United manager use this implausible example to illustrate how easy it is to collect cards these days, I take his point. In fact, football’s entire disciplinary system can sometimes be as ridiculous as the behaviour of those it purports to govern.
Perhaps the only positive aspect of last weekend’s debacle at Stevenage was that Kevin McDonald and Tony McMahon did not receive the cautions which would not only have ruled them out of tomorrow’s encounter with Brentford but also the visit to Tranmere Rovers as well.
I’m all for serial offenders being punished. McMahon has already served a suspension under the totting-up procedure having been booked five times before December 31. No problems there.
But the regulations which stipulate that McDonald, who has not, must also sit-out two games if he receives his 10th yellow card before the second weekend in April seem absurd. Especially when you consider Wigan Athletic’s Callum McManaman escaped censure for his grotesque challenge on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara.
One hundred and eighty minutes of football which, with only eight contests of the campaign remaining, seems an overly draconian sanction for both the midfielder and his club. Especially when it fails to take into account the volume of fixtures those in the bottom two divisions undertake compared to their top-flight counterparts.
United, for example, have so far taken part in 44. Fulham, mid-table in the Premier League and with a much bigger roster, 33.
McMahon averaged a booking every 4.6 appearances during the first half of the campaign compared to 3.25 since. With the pressure mounting on those teams vying for promotion, it is no surprise to see McDonald’s figures (5.2 and 3.25) come tumbling down as well.
United made 30 competitive outings before January 1st’s fixture at Doncaster Rovers and 14 this year. The spread of bookings throughout the squad is predictable with defenders responsible for 39.6 per cent of United’s cautions this term, midfielders 34.9 and forwards 23.8.
Having already fallen foul of the rule-book, McMahon can have no complaints if he is banned again. Likewise Harry Maguire who enters the meeting with Uwe Rosler’s side on seven bookings.
But McDonald? Why should he miss two matches? Surely one game should suffice for those who have previously conducted themselves in an acceptable fashion?
Unlike the national teams of Chile and Italy whose antics during the ‘Battle of Santiago,’ combined with the dismissal of Argentina’s Antonio Rattín four years later during the 1966 World Cup, helped persuade Ken Ashton to propose the idea of red and yellow cards.
“I wasn’t reffing a football match,” Ashton once reflected on events inside the Estadio Nacional. “I was acting as umpire in military manoeuvres.”