Player Discipline is under the spotlight in Now and Then

The stakes seem higher than ever in this season's Premier League - so is pressure to blame for the alarming spate of players' bad behaviour, or have they always been subject to the red mist?

Rebecca Coles takes a look at now and then…

The weekend simply would not be complete without a debate over a player getting himself in hot water for failing to maintain discipline on the pitch.

It’s not just the managers making their feelings known to the referees this season – the multi-millionaires with the multi-coloured boots are also biting back.

However, as you would expect, not even Premier League stars can escape the consequences of losing their cool.

Jonathan Walters will miss key games against West Ham, Aston Villa and Hull City after his red card appeal was overturned

Jonathan Walters will miss key games against West Ham, Aston Villa and Hull City after his red card appeal was overturned

Of course, sometimes the refs fail to get it right, but Stoke recently came unstuck when their appeal over a red card shown to Jonathan Walters at Norwich was rejected.

All in all, the talking points ensured it was another interesting weekend of football, yet the combative attitude in the Premier League has seen a rise in the number of discipline problems blighting the game.

Black Cats

Sunderland currently hold the record this season for the worst disciplinary record in the Premier League with six red cards. Andrea Dossena, John O’Shea, Lee Cattermole and Wes Brown, who has managed three reds, have all been sent for early baths so far.

Despite a tough start to the season and being deprived of ketchup and mayonnaise by madcap ex-boss Paolo Di Canio, it really is no excuse.

Michael Turner, now at Norwich, was sent off twice for Sunderland during the 2009-10 season

Michael Turner, now at Norwich, was sent off twice for Sunderland during the 2009-10 season

But, Sunderland are no strangers to holding this title. Finishing 13th in the table in 2009/10 season, the Black Cats managed a record of nine red cards.

Queens Park Rangers

It may have been their first season in the Premier League for 15 years following their promotion from the championship, but QPR were the last club to have nine players sent off in 2011/12. Not only did they go through a managerial change from Neil Warnock to Mark Hughes, but also became involved in a relegation battle – just like Sunderland this season.

QPR eventually finished 17th, avoiding relegation by one point on the final day of the season. Talk about the great escape!

The 2005/06 season, which saw Chelsea retain their title, also delivered the most red cards in Premier League history, at a staggering total of 75. If we search even further back to the first Prem seasons, 1992/93 saw just 35 red cards and 1993/94 produced 33.

Eric Cantona was sent off on more than one occasion in the 1993/94 season

Eric Cantona was sent off on more than one occasion in the 1993/94 season

Since then, figures have doubled – and so has the Premier League wage bill. Players can now easily afford to pay off their bad behaviour and be back on the pitch within weeks.

Disregarding Cardiff, who despite having Vincent Tan as their owner and losing Malky Mackay earlier this season, have not received a red card yet, the Premier League clubs battling relegation are the ones with most disciplinary problems this term.

Players are now under so much pressure they are taking it out on the opposition or the referee, resulting in a red card more often than not.

So how can the Premier League improve behaviour? Perhaps clubs have to start acting more as employers, with both managers and referees being asked to set the standards for higher professional behaviour. Alan Pardew, take note.

What’s the reason for more red cards being given out nowadays than yesteryear? Have referees become stricter? Or have players lost the ability to keep their head on the pitch?

Follow @Rebecca_L_Coles 

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