Sent Off For England

The England team have an excellent disciplinary record. Only ten players have seen red since 1966 – eleven red cards altogether, as David Beckham now has two in his trophy cabinet to put alongside his 107 caps.

It’s a tiny sample, so these are only “fun” stats.

  1. Of eleven red cards, seven have gone to men who have played for Manchester United: Beckham (2), Rooney, Scholes, Ince, Alan Smith and Ray Wilkins.
  2. Managers Alf Ramsey, Glenn Hoddle and Kevin Keegan each led England to two red cards apiece.
  3. Sven Goran Ericksson is the red card champ, with three.
  4. Only Trevor Cherry managed to get sent off during a friendly..

What was the most significant sending-off in English international history? Of course, David Beckham’s first red against the Argentines in 1998 springs to mind. England were more than matching their opponents at that stage, and had improved with every game. Hoddle had prepared them superbly, and it was all going so well, until…

Then there’s Rooney’s against Portugal. England’s successive defeats against Portugal were unfortunate to say the least. Ericksson’s England were the better side each time. Portugal were limited and hesitant, and should have been put away long before Rooney absented the scene (injured in 2004, harshly dismissed in 2006).

Scolari rode his luck to the point of exhaustion, and at Chelsea his limits are showing. Where are the bold substitutions, where his smart handling of “primadonnas” now? Hindsight is being kind to Ericksson, and at Manchester City too.

England should have won Euro 2004. But Rooney’s 2006 dismissal surely didn’t lose England the World Cup. That went with his injury earlier in the year, and Owen’s, and Beckham’s, and Nevilles: the Ericksson pre-tournament ill luck. England had played as well as anyone in patches, but overall had the dreadful stretched look of exhausted men.

So the most significant England sending off is the first one. Because the competition is so different now, it’s forgotten that England, as World Champions, made it to the semi-final of the 1968 European Championship. There they faced Yugoslavia. It was a tight and brutal game, goalless: with ten minutes to go, both that match and the other semi-final were still tied.

Then Alan Mullery retaliated after yet another bad Yugoslav tackle. Seven minutes to play. A high cross: Moore misses the header. Five minutes to play. Then, England beginning to flag, disaster. Yugoslav captain Dzajic snatched the winner.

Russia and Italy had to be separated by the toss of a coin. Italy went through, relieved not to be meeting England, their bogey team, in a Final they would be playing in Rome. England would beat Russia handily in the third place match.

Under Capello, England have suffered only five yellow cards, to five different players, in ten games. Three of those cardwinners played in the 5-1 Munich victory over Germany seven years previously, and two of them scored. Make of that what you will.


6 Replies to “Sent Off For England”

  1. Hard to argue with 68. That was a team with pedigree.

    And of course Beckham really seemed to change the direction of a team that was coming together.

    But in my lifetime, it was the Scholes red card that seemed most significant. A lot of sites now seem to just say “sent off for a second bookable offence.”

    But this description from the BBC says a little more:

    “But it was his reckless lunge on Hakan Mild in the first minute which left the Swedish midfielder nursing a bullet-hole type wound in his thigh – pouring blood and needing stitches – which angered the Swedes. “

    He wasn’t even booked for that challenge – and as an England fan I wasn’t complaining per se… but I was still flabbergasted that it wasn’t a straight red.

    Anyway… that was the day I realised that the “Golden Generation” might not all transition well to the international scene.

    I’ve never forgotten that red mist day and so when most people lament the misusing of Scholes by various England managers, I cannot disagree, but I do suspect that there was more to the problem. There was something that playing for England did to Scholes, I don’t know what, but so many of his future performances were a follow on from the Sweden game, instead of the hat-trick game against Poland…

  2. @Dearieme: he chucked the ball at the referee.

    @Metatone: I actually want to go on about Mullery: he strikes me as an unusually intelligent and talented man, undeserving of the title of first player sent off for England. He lived down the road from me latterly. As for the Golden Generation not translating into international success, yes with caveats: they WERE very unfortunate (Ramsey’s ’66 men were anything but unlucky, as I’ll come to in the next week or so) but there’s Capello’s observation about playing with fear (and, consequently, with anger). I think it’s the entire British football culture that has the fear – not just the players. But people talk about Scholes’s lack of interest in publicity as an entirely positive thing: I wonder. (I wonder – without doubting that he’s a good man, mind you. I was a violent player.)

  3. Of course you are right about luck. Have you followed the progress of Gladwell’s “Outliers” through the blogosphere? The parade of posts claiming “oh, such a straw man, no-one believes that talent and hard work are the only things any more” from people whose economic theories discount any notion that being (or being born) in the right place at the right time winds me up no end…

    I’d love to hear more about Mullery. There’s whole speculations you can make about retaliation and personality. It’s a conceit, but I like to think that all the really intelligent people have a certain sense of personal dignity. And in the end, there is a line and when it’s crossed they see a need to fight back at that personal level. Yes, you can take things for the team, but somewhere, at some level if you don’t make a stand for dignity, then you wouldn’t be yourself.

    I don’t mean to cast aspersions on Scholes… I am another “Clive Woodward”: a footballer sent to rugby schools. Only I wasn’t a silky back like Clive, but a front row forward… so dark arts are something I can’t be precious about.

    I’m fascinated though on lots of levels. There’s the quietness and the fear and anger of England that you mention. Scholes is a player with an incredible sense of timing, he can run onto a pass, know where the ball will be… shouldn’t that be the foundation of a Baresi like sense of interception? Instead, not only for England, but even for Man Utd, Scholes quite regularly pulled out this mistimed tackle, that scythes into the opponent, far before or after the ball.

  4. England were more than matching their opponents at that stage, and had improved with every game. Hoddle had prepared them superbly, and it was all going so well, until…

    I’m not so sure about that. England played well against Argentina for sure, but everyone seems to forget that they lost to a better – yes, a better – Romanian team. Romania got knocked out by Croatia, who finished 3rd. I remember watching the Romania-England game and thinking England were woeful, and I don’t recall their performance being particularly great against Columbia afterwards.

  5. Not poor Graeme Le Saux’s finest hour, perhaps! But I can still remember Michael Owen’s goal. I didn’t have a tv in 1998, so was doing some ironing by the window when, outside, the entire town starting shouting, then cheering, in that rusty-bedspring mockney manner they adopt in those parts. I turned the radio on to find Alan Green telling Hoddle off for calling Owen “not a natural goalscorer.” Correctly as usual, Alan.

    I watched the Argentina game in the pub, except for the penalties. I hid under a table for those.

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