Red Cards are always a great source of debate and emotion. In approaching 55 years of watching Sunderland I have found myself apoplectic either at the referee or my own player, or whooping like a banshee as an opposition player troops off hopefully to our advantage.
For those that were not aware, cards both red and yellow were the brainchild of Ken Aston, who was chief FIFA referee in the 1966 World Cup. The story goes that Alf Ramsey was blissfully unaware that Jack Charlton had been booked against Argentina in the infamous 1- 0 win at Wembley and only found out in the papers the next day. Yellow and Red cards were introduced in the 1970 World Cup tournament and then introduced into the English league in 1976, with Dave Wagstaff of Blackburn Rovers being the first player to be red carded in October of that year.
Cards were halted in 80/81 as they were adjudged to be inciting violence at games, but were re-instated in 87/88 season, with Sunderland’s own Mick Harford being the first player to be red carded 4 minutes in to the opening day of the season.
Here are a few of my standout red cards.
Burnley 1 Sunderland 2 - September 1978
I was in the away crowd of over 4000 at Turf Moor when before half time we had Mickey Henderson then Joe Bolton sent off for very similar sliding tackles on a treacherous surface. We could hardly have argued with the decisions. It was 0-0 at half time, allegedly Jimmy Adamson was furious and let his players know in a 30 second rant before slamming the dressing room door on them.
You would have anticipated a rear-guard action in the 2nd half, but that did not happen. We took the game to Burnley and two Gary Rowell goals including a penalty won us the game. Despite a frantic finish after Burnley scored, we hung on to the ecstasy of the travelling support. What a result.
A special mention for Joe Bolton’s 3 red cards for Sunderland, all of which I saw live. He was a thunderous tackler who gave no mercy and sought none. He was also a bit of an express train, not the quickest off the mark, but once he got going he took some stopping. I have a hazy memory of him absolutely blootering John Chiedozie of Orient in 74/75 at Roker. Chiedozie was a ball playing winger with a turn of speed and was looking likely that day up until his “collision” with the mighty Joe. Bolton did not hang around for the obligatory card waving and just walked off. If my memory is correct, Bolton scored one of his 11 goals for Sunderland in that game which despite the sending off we won 3-0.
Bolton was also sent off at Ayrsome park in February 1981. It was a typically tough derby with two well matched teams. In the 89th minute of the second half the “worky ticket” that was Terry Cochrane who had been making his mouth go most of the game, left a bit on Joe in a tackle (well that’s how I saw it).
The ref took a dim view of the head butt Joe dished out in response and with Cochrane rolling all over Ayrsome Joe was red carded. It was a canny walk to the stand and Bolton certainly gave as good as he got from the Boro fans as he made his way off. Boro scored from the resulting free kick and the game finished 1 - nil. Joe’s faux pais with the Boro fans was not held against him, as he was transferred to Boro at the end of that season and they very much took to him. But the result that day was a sore one.
Newcastle 3 Sunderland 1 - Jan 1st 1985
Scroll forward a few years to Sid James Park on a cold, hung over New Year’s day. My last trip to the home of our arch rivals had seen a Gary Rowell hat trick and a masterful performance from Kevin Arnott as we cruised to a 4-1 victory. The day had started with high hopes, a few beers and a small victory in some scrapping on the way up to the ground as we made our way in from the North.
We were also engaged by the National Front recruiters, who at one time were a constant presence at Sid James, they were given short shrift but pointed us out in retaliation to a battalion of mulleted yobs in black and white, and it all kicked off again. Never mind - we got into the ground, just as the game got under way.
The racist abuse being levelled at Howard Gayle and Gary Bennett that day from the Newcastle fans was some of the worst I had ever heard. The monkey chants insults and laughter rang around the ground. To add injury to insult, both Gayle and Bennett were sent off and we finished the game with nine men, beaten by a Beardsley hat trick which included a penalty from Gayle’s red card.
I do feel the referee caved that day. The same Newcastle player (Wes Saunders) was involved in both sending offs. In my view he should not have been on the pitch for the second red card. I have read a couple of pieces from Saunders about this game and disappointingly he makes no reference to the racist abuse, though appears quite proud of his role in the red cards.
This game and its red cards left a bad taste in my mouth for a long while, not just because it was against our nearest and dearest, but the overt racist behaviour witnessed. It drew for me our own fans behaviour into question also. I will say that not all Newcastle fans were happy with the racism displayed and I believe this game was the trigger for the formation of “Geordies are Black & White”, which did some good work in the early days of responding to racism at Football.
Sunderland 1 Spurs 4 - Jan 29th 1995
Ten years later, I was one of 21,000 hardy souls as Spurs with Sheringham and Klinsmann came to Roker in the FA Cup. I did not like Klinsmann, he was a very good player and goal scorer, but his diving sparked an epidemic in the game that has never quite been sorted. Jimmy Greaves once remarked he was watching Klinsman on TV, accidentally bumped the set & Klinsman fell over! A quick tangent, I was heavily involved in coaching kids at this point and caused consternation amongst parents and players alike by banning the Klinsmann dive, such was my distaste for this part of his game.
We actually performed quite well in the first half and might have taken the lead despite our five man defence. 0-0 at half time and beginning to think an upset could be on the cards. There was a card but not one I was looking for.
Early into the second half Gary Bennett pulled off as stunning a save as you are likely to see, as a shot from Popescu beat Chamberlain. I really felt for Bennett as he trudged off, his save was inspired, and he had been the pick of our team up to that point. Spurs went on and scored 4 goals, with 2 from the diving Klinsmann (including the penalty from the Bennett red card). There was some late pressure from us and the Lads were applauded off at the end for their effort. Bennett’s save won him Man of the Match amongst the Roker faithful despite his red card, and I believe Gary Bennett himself still rates this save when asked for his stand out memories in football.
Sunderland 3 Newcastle 0 - Oct 25th 2015
This had been a tough game and I had thought us lucky to be level coming toward the end of the first half. Steven Fletcher chased an innocuous looking ball into the Newcastle box.
He seemed to be heading nowhere when Coloccini the Newcastle skipper made shoulder contact. The ref not only gave a penalty but waved his red card.
From where I was sitting it looked a harsh decision. Despite my fair mindedness, my fanaticism took over in that moment and I joined in with 42,000 red and whites as we waved their skipper off and held our breath for the penalty. We won our sixth derby in a row that day in a game that for me definitely turned on the red card.
Sunderland 3 Chelsea 2 - April 7th 2016
What a game this was, as an Allardyce inspired Sunderland came from behind to beat Chelsea. Goals from Khazri, Borini and Defoe lit up the SOL and gave a rampant Roker crowd plenty to cheer - and cheer they did.
The cherry on the cake was to come in time added on. John Terry is a player I have never liked. I guess we all have them and cannot always explain rationally why we dislike certain players. Honestly, if he was kicking around in my garden I would shut the curtains!
In the 95th minute Terry was quite rightly sent off for a stud’s up challenge on Khazri. I am sure he realised as he trooped off that his premiership career was over. His red card would see him banned for the remainder of the season, and he was retiring. Perhaps unkindly and certainly basking in the euphoria of an excellent victory I cheered every step Terry took and waved him goodbye as I knew that was it for him!
I am sure I have missed out some red card crackers. Kaboul and Cattermole have not even had a mention. Honeyman at Wycombe, Wes Brown being red carded at Stoke instead of O’Shea or Bennett and Speedie could have all been included?
What are your standout red cards?