David Boyle - No, Never A Red!
Stephane Sessegnon’s red card on Monday night at Villa Park pretty much put a nice, big, fat, juicy cherry on top of a huge crap-cake which had already been excessively iced with an extraordinarily poor team performance. Debate has raged since the incident which brought Paul Lambert and his backroom out from under their dugout like trolls from under the toll bridge as to whether or not the Benin man’s late tackle warranted the straight red card.
I've found myself on both sides of this debate since Monday night but at present, for me it wasn’t a sending off.
There have been numerous occasions this term when a player has "gone over the top" of the ball and received their marching orders but I would argue in Sessegnon’s defence that there was no malicious intent whatsoever other than a mistimed attempt to block Yacouba Sylla’s advance with the ball. This wasn’t a stamp. This wasn’t an ugly lunge. This wasn’t an out of control, both feet off the deck, studs showing kind of reckless challenge that we can all agree warrant a red card.
For me the reaction of the Aston Villa bench, just feet away from the incident and indeed the baying crowd in the stand certainly had an effect on Lee Probert’s decision making process in that raucous few seconds.
Sunderland have, as expected by many, decided to appeal the decision such is the impact that Sessegnon’s absence will have on an already stretched forward line, deeming the additional game suspension should the on field decision be upheld worth the risk given the importance of the next few fixtures.
Di Canio will certainly feel that an appeal stands a good chance of being successful as the FA’s Disciplinary Committee have already overturned a number of suspensions for high challenges this year, including Jordi Gomez who was dismissed at the Stadium of Light back in September.
Then again following some of Sunderland's past appeals that fell on deaf ears it would surprise few if we were laughed out of the room yet again.
However where it would leave Sunderland should should the suspension be upheld is another troublesome debate.
Chris Weatherspoon - He Deserved To Go
I've struggled with this one. And not just because of the now cliched "he's not that type of player" excuse that seems to get trodden out regarding someone or other almost every week in the Premier League.
Rather, I've struggled because, even though I don't actually think Stephane Sessegnon was putting a tackle in on Yacouba Sylla, I still think his action merited a red card...just.
That may sound ridiculous, so let me explain.
When the ball first span free, Sessegnon believed he was going to be first to it. He picks up loose balls like that each and every game, stretching out a leg and flicking it forward, ready to spring an attack. The problem, in this instance, was that Sylla beat him for pace. Sessegnon, already in the action of trying to trap the ball, couldn't pull out, and came thundering down on his opponent's foot.
I have no doubt the Villa bench played a part in the referee's decision, but that still doesn't mean it was entirely wrong. Put simply, Sessegnon was foolish not to be aware how close Sylla was to the ball, and doubly foolish to challenge for the ball in the same manner as he would normally look to embrace it when no other player is near. The margin for error was too fine, and his miscalculation turned into an ugly challenge.
Given that the game was gone, it was exceptionally daft of Sunderland's star player. That is not in itself a reason to send someone off, but it may have played a part in Lee Probert's decision - the referee could easily have mistaken poor play for malice.
I'm not a strong advocate of the view that it was a red card offence, but I do err towards it. Players today know that any sort of incident whereby they stamp down on another player's foot may merit dismissal and, ultimately, Sessegnon's misjudgement gave the referee a decision to make that could easily have been avoided.