As anyone who's ever been on the wrong side of a cynical Sunday league or Five-a-Side tackle can tell you: football is a contact sport. The midfield battle often requires a good deal of physicality to ensure that authority is stamped on the game and crucial 50/50s get turned to your team's advantage. Without a bit of bite and aggression, it can be easy to get rolled over by a more assertive and determined side.
Many are those players, however, find themselves going beyond what's required in the name of tenacity and end up taking an early bath. Granted, no one wants to see their side go a man down and be at a disadvantage, but there are those that feel the more physical element of the game is being stifled by overly cautious refereeing. So, in the name of good historical objectivity, we've put together a list of those players with the worst disciplinary record in the Premier League era - as a casual reminder that not every act of aggression is for the greater good when it comes to playing football.
Lee Cattermole fouls Andre Ayew during the Premier League match versus West Ham.
With seven red cards to his name, Lee Cattermole currently sits at number five in the list of Premier League players with the worst disciplinary record. But, remarkably, his minutes-to-booking ratio (including red and yellows) is actually the highest of any player in the league's history. Former Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill praised him for having a "heart like a lion", but the man they sometimes call 'Clattermole' might spend a bit more time on the pitch if he learnt to occasionally play with the gentleness of a lamb.
4. Roy Keane
Referee M. Riley steps in to stop a tussel between Roy Keane and Roberto Di Matteo
Roy Keane's reputation as one of the game's fiercest competitors and nastiest midfield enforcers was very much confirmed at the time of the now infamous incident between himself and Alf Inge Haaland. With four straight reds, and three double-yellows to his name, Keane only makes it to number four on our list of most sent-off players - although he might well top the list of the most intimidating talkers in Premier League history. Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, himself no slouch when it came to taking players to task, claimed: “the hardest part of Roy’s body is his tongue,’’.
3. Richard Dunne
Richard Dunne enjoyed a long career in the Premier League, only spending two seasons outside of the top flight with Queen's Park Rangers and Manchester City during his near-twenty-years as a professional. Pace and precision, however, were not necessarily two of his greatest gifts, and the eight red cards he picked up in that time (along with a record ten own goals) is testament to a player whose attributes were more physical than technical.
2. Duncan Ferguson
Referee Robbie Hart show a red card to Duncan Ferguson.
The only forward to make it into this list, it's safe to say that Duncan Ferguson was not afraid to take on defenders in the most literal sense. Having amassed eight red cards during his time with Everton and Newcastle United in the Premier League, he was certainly no wallflower: six of his sending-offs were straight reds, the highest of any player in this list, and the final red of his career - against Wigan - was a particular low-point of his career. (Coming as it did, after punching a fellow player).
1. Patrick Vieira
Patrick Vieira of Arsenal trying to confront West Ham's Neil Ruddock following his red card.
Although technically joint first with both Dunne and Ferguson - all three with eight red cards apiece - Patrik Vieira deserves his spot at the top of this list for demonstrating something important about the manner in which a player can be sent off. Only two of Vieira's red cards were straight reds, the other six were the result of picking up two yellow cards, and the majority of the time (7 out of 8) his dismissals came in the second half. Undoubtedly, Vieira was capable of overstepping the line in terms of his behaviour on the pitch, but the fearsomeness he showed tended to be deployed on behalf of his team even when it worked against them.