Whilst watching Per Mertesacker being dismissed against Chelsea recently, I realised that a red card is hardly a surprise occurrence in a match during the modern era. But rewind back to the 1980s and it was a different experience.
A red card - or a finger pointing the way to the dressing room - was often a genuine wow moment, partly due to the relative rarity of the event. This week I am looking back on ten dismissals during the 1980s, involving confusion, accusations, frustration, agony, and refereeing incompetence. Perhaps things don't change after all.
1980: Brian Kidd - EVERTON v West Ham
The 1980 FA Cup semi-final was going swimmingly for both Everton and Brian Kidd. Leading Second Division West Ham 1-0 after he had scored from the spot - file under "if it was given against my team I'd be furious" - Kidd's 17th goal of the season allowed Evertonians to dream of a first FA Cup final since 1968. But soon the dream would turn to a nightmare, as Kidd's day went from good to worse.
In truth it would be referee Colin Seel that would hog most of the headlines, his display creating a lot of column inches. "At the centre of the piece, like a stray voice from a Greek chorus, wandered Mr Seel, who made several significant, if not appropriate, speeches," wrote The Times' Stuart Jones, with the Daily Express' David Miller describing Seel's afternoon as "the most inconsistent I have witnessed in a semi-final in 20 years."
Certainly there were some debatable decisions; Everton's penalty, and not sending off Everton's Trevor Ross after the midfielder, already booked, took out Trevor Brooking. But on 63 minutes came a moment that undoubtedly shaped the course of the match. When Kidd tussled with Ray Stewart on the touchline, there didn't seem to be anything unusual or dramatic about the confrontation, very much handbags in the afternoon sun. Yet to the general amazement of all, Kidd was given his marching orders, Stewart stayed on (he had been booked earlier for protesting over Everton's penalty), and Everton were now very much on the back foot.
In fairness to Seel he had not seen the incident - he was attending to Ross who had been felled by a Stewart shot - and the referee openly admitted this. "I sent Kidd off because I was told by my linesman that he had clearly struck an opponent," but most agreed that Kidd had harshly been sent off. "It was mystifying that Kidd should be dismissed and that Stewart suffered no penalty," Jones wrote, with Kidd adamant that he had not thrown a punch in the row. He managed to drag himself from the pitch eventually, yet his body language indicated a confused and distraught figure.
West Ham had enjoyed a much better half, and with the man advantage inevitably equalised on 70 minutes through Stuart Pearson. And there was still time for the officials to get involved again, when Paul Allen's late goal was ruled out for an offside against Trevor Brooking, in the days before interfering with play never really came into it. West Ham would win the replay - Frank Lampard Snr famously dancing around the corner flag at Elland Road - but before then the controversy surrounding Seel raged on.
"I'm shattered and hurt by the criticism after the most important match in my life," Seel revealed afterwards. "This was my Everest. After climbing as far as the semi-final over 20 years of refereeing, I hope the FA won't feel I'm not up to the mark now." He did get to officiate during the less contentious replay, but for many, including Kidd, he had blotted his copybook already.
1981: Joe Jordan - Wales v SCOTLAND
Hefty number nines were a common commodity of most British football teams before the sport apparently began in 1992, and Joe Jordan was just one example of a man willing to put himself about come rain or shine. But during a Home International at the Vetch Field, Swansea, Jordan took his aggressive style just that little bit too far. Just ask Terry Boyle.
Angry at receiving a booking for what he perceived as a fair charge on Wales' keeper Dai Davies, the red mist was beginning to descend around Jordan, until with 15 minutes to go he finally erupted. Contesting a ball with his back to Wales substitute Boyle, Jordan swung his right arm towards the face of his opponent, leaving Northern Irish referee Oliver Donnelly with little option but to dismiss the Scottish centre forward. The Sunday Express' Michael Boon described it as "an act of ugly aggression", and it hard to find anyone willing to defend Jordan.
"I saw it coming. If I had had a suitable substitute, I would have brought him off," Scottish manager Jock Stein stated, he and Jordan later having a conversation about the expected conduct of one of his players. Jordan did try and stick up for himself, quoting the fact that this was the first dismissal of his career, but not quite going the whole hog and saying that he wasn't that type of player.
Just in case people were undecided, Boyle's second and last match for his country saw him play the last 15 minutes with a broken nose and chipped tooth, such was the severity of Jordan's blow. "I have no idea what happened during the incident," Boyle later revealed. "Nor have I a clue about what followed for the rest of the match. I just felt the blow and then my legs gave way."
1982: Diego Maradona - ARGENTINA v Brazil
"The World Cup ended in ignominy - and almost anonymity, for the player we had suggested was heir to Pele." David Miller's words written about Barcelona-bound Diego Maradona stressed just how disappointing a tournament the Argentinian had experienced during Spain 1982. Arriving as defending champions, a lot of eyes were on Argentina and their new star, but an opening match defeat against Belgium indicated that all was not well, and despite two goals against Hungary, Maradona's World Cup was about to turn ugly.
First up in the second round group stage for Maradona was an intimate date with Italy's man-marking rash Claudio Gentile. Kicked from pillar to post, Maradona bounced and writhed around the Estadi de Sarrià, as Italy won 2-1, leaving Argentina with a must-win match against South American rivals Brazil. Maradona could only watch on as his side were outclassed by that thrilling Brazilian team, and with just five minutes to go, it all became a bit too much for the little genius.
Letting his frustration get the better of him, Maradona stamped on Brazil's substitute Batista, and would march disconsolately from the pitch after being rightly sent off. Looking back it is quite a sad sight, yet the sympathy is a little limited after the Hand of God related moment that would follow in 1986. In 1982, Miller wrote that Maradona had failed to live up to his billing, "leaving almost no mark but the imprint of his studs on Brazilian substitute Batista's groin." We would have to wait until 1986 before the king could be truly crowned.
1983: Remi Moses - Arsenal v MANCHESTER UNITED
On to a moment that cost Remi Moses a place in the 1983 FA Cup final. With the clock ticking down at Highbury, Moses became involved in an altercation with Arsenal midfielder Peter Nicholas, one that he would come to regret. Nicholas ended up on the floor, the apparent victim of a headbutt, with Moses sent from the pitch by Eric Read, and United manager Ron Atkinson also given his marching orders for abuse aimed at the referee.
United cried foul. According to Atkinson, an Arsenal player - reported to be Brian Talbot - had spoken to him at the recent England-Hungary match and warned him that Arsenal's players were "out to get Moses". There was certainly ill-feeling towards the United midfielder. His bad tackle on David O'Leary in the first leg of the 1983 League Cup semi-final had seen the Irish defender leave the pitch and miss six matches, but whether there was a vendetta against Moses we may never know.
Naturally Arsenal were appalled at the allegations, with Don Howe, Talbot, O'Leary and Nicholas all insistent that no crime had been committed. Howe defended himself regarding claims by Atkinson that the Arsenal bench had been trying to get United players sent off all afternoon, and countered this by stating that the hot-headed Moses had simply lost the plot. "United's experienced Gordon McQueen had sensed danger earlier," Howe said. "Before the incident he ran over to the bench and warned that Moses was in danger of getting himself sent off."
"After the game Nicholas had an ice pack applied to the wound, which was between his eyes at the top of his nose," Howe added, although not all were convinced of Nicholas' innocence in proceedings. Certainly Jon Spurling, writing in All Guns Blazing, felt that Nicholas had made a bid for "cult-hero status", adding "With Remi Moses about five yards away from him, Nicholas hurled himself to the ground clutching his face, as a posse of Arsenal players pointed accusingly at Moses."
Either way, Moses would miss out on his big day out at Wembley, and with Brighton's Steve Foster also suspended, there were talks between Gordon Taylor (the secretary of the Players' Union) and the FA about possibly changing the system in the future. But come a year later, everyone was talking about the topic once more.
1984: Wilf Rostron - Luton v WATFORD
Another FA Cup final, another suspension. For more on Wilf Rostron and his heartbreak, read here:
1985: Kevin Moran - MANCHESTER UNITED v Everton
At least Kevin Moran managed to play at Wembley, but his experience would make history and ended in drama. For more on Moran's FA Cup final dismissal, read here:
1986: Ray Wilkins - ENGLAND v Morocco
It is hard to imagine a worse start to England's 1986 World Cup finals tournament. After losing 1-0 to Portugal in their opener, England were expected to easily brush aside Morocco, fans and press both naively believing that the Africans would be the group whipping boy. Yet after 42 minutes of the match that I had the misfortune of watching on that miserable Friday night, it was becoming apparent that we all had to lower our expectations.
England managed to cram in quite a lot of anguish during those 42 minutes. Bryan Robson had just dislocated his shoulder for a third time in three months, and manager Bobby Robson was probably still trying to absorb this body blow when another punch came his way. Ray Wilkins, stand-in captain in Robson's absence, was already in the referee's notebook, when a moment of madness cost him and England dear.
"I thought we'd been given a free kick for a foul," Wilkins explained afterwards. "When I saw that it was offside I threw the ball at the referee. I feel a fool." Maybe he was feeling as frustrated as the rest of us, but throwing your toys out the pram, or in Wilkins' case a ball at Paraguayan referee Gabriel Gonzalez, was not a good idea. Gonzalez could not get his red card out quick enough; England were now down to ten men and on the ropes.
Things can only get better? Well, eventually the worm would turn, but only after having to endure 45 minutes of boredom against Morocco, on "a night of disaster and disgrace for England," as Harry Harris described it in the Mirror. "Rarely in the chequered history of English international football has a nation been so badly let down by its sporting ambassadors abroad," wrote Steve Curry of the Express. The knives were being sharpened, but luckily Lineker and Poland spared Robson.
"For Wilkins there can only be remorse, regret and recrimination for an act of petulance that stupid," Curry stated, and the midfielder would pay a big price for his misdemeanour. Only the third England player to be sent off, Wilkins represented his country on just two more occasions. Quite amusing though that even in his moment of petulance, Wilkins threw the ball back across the pitch rather than forwards.
1987: David Rocastle - Manchester United v ARSENAL
Arsenal's youngsters arrived at Old Trafford on the back of a 22 matches unbeaten, but in front of a 51,367 crowd lost their heads during 90 minutes that was "ill-tempered, petulant and a brutal shambles," in the words of Curry. Just as in 2004, Arsenal felt a weak referee contributed greatly to a defeat that saw their run come to an end, George Tyson playing the Mike Riley role back in 1987, with a lot of anger also directed to Norman Whiteside.
"It all started with a tackle on me in the first few minutes," stated a furious David O'Leary. "Whiteside was running around like a lunatic." George Graham concurred, and also questioned Tyson's performance. "There was one player who ruled the game in the first 20 minutes and that's when the ref should have stamped his authority," Graham complained.
Ferguson hinted at sour grapes on Arsenal's behalf, but many in the press had some sympathy with the losers. Aggrieved at a lack of injustice, and intensely absorbed in the manic atmosphere inside Old Trafford, David Rocastle retaliated after another tackle from Whiteside, and after a lot of argy-bargy, Tyson sent off the young Arsenal midfielder. United won the match 2-0, yet on an afternoon where seven men were booked and one sent off, a lot of attention centred on the antics of the players and referee in what the Daily Mirror labelled the Battle of Old Trafford.
"One thing we don't wish our members to be involved in is personal vendettas," said PFA Secretary Gordon Taylor after the dust had settled, but due to the events on the pitch and reportedly in the tunnel afterwards, many see this match as the first seed planted in the Manchester United-Arsenal rivalry that was evident during Ferguson's era at Old Trafford. There probably wasn't much pizza involved in 1987 though.
1988: Colin Gibson - Liverpool v MANCHESTER UNITED
Liverpool were well and truly super glued to their perch when Alex Ferguson took his Manchester United team to Anfield for a memorable Easter Monday clash in 1988. Yet even during Liverpool's decade of dominance, their league record against United was relatively poor; just two league wins during this period. There were ten draws too, including this encounter in 1988, although the pulsating 3-3 draw probably felt like a victory for United.
Trailing 3-1, United were reduced to ten men on the hour mark, Colin Gibson dismissed for a foul on Steve Nicol after an earlier booking for kicking the ball away. Surely now the game was up. However, United seemed to gain strength from their adversity, pulling a goal back via a deflected Bryan Robson strike, and levelling through Gordon Strachan, the Scot happily puffing on an imaginary cigar in celebration. Alex Ferguson was delighted at the spirit shown by his team, but was less than satisfied with the Anfield experience.
"I can now understand why teams come away from here choking on their own vomit and biting their tongues knowing they have been done by the referee," Ferguson said post-match, not sitting on the fence regarding his view on the matter. "I'm not getting at this referee. The whole intimidating atmosphere and the monopoly Liverpool have enjoyed for years gets to them eventually." At the time many of us agreed with these sentiments, although given the subsequent intimidation employed and dubious decisions enjoyed by Ferguson and United through the years, these comments now seem a little hollow.
Certainly Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish disagreed with the moaning emanating from United's manager. On hearing Ferguson's remarks during a radio interview, Dalglish, carrying his six-week old daughter Lauren, decided to add more fuel to the fire. "You might as well talk to my daughter," Dalglish said. "You will get more sense out of her." Naturally this was not well received by Ferguson, who promptly told his compatriot to go away, or words to that effect. The battle lines between the pair had been well and truly drawn.
1989: Ian Banks - Bournemouth v BARNSLEY
And finally, on to a man sent off before even entering the field of play. Whilst warming up to come on as a substitute for Barnsley at Bournemouth, Ian Banks decided to give a linesman a piece of his mind. Unhappy at the linesman's decision to allow a Bournemouth goal, Banks protested a little too vehemently. The referee, acting on the input of his fellow official, dismissed Banks, instantly adding his name to the Football League history books.
Undoubtedly the type of sending off that Chris Kamara would have missed had he been covering the match on Gillette Soccer Saturday, which is my ham-fisted way of mentioning Kamara's dismissal during the first day of the 1990s. Strictly off limits for me, I know, but his tackle on Mark Brennan whilst playing for Stoke against Middlesbrough merits a viewing.