English football has cultivated a reputation around the world as one of the most combative leagues in which to play football. However, there were some who always took combative to a level too far.
The record for the most red cards in Premier League history is held jointly by Everton’s Duncan Ferguson, Richard Dunne of Manchester City and Patrick Viera of Arsenal, all of whom were sent off no fewer than 8 times over the course of their playing careers.
However, when we take a look at English football as a whole, there are some footballing hard men who surpass even those totals.
Here are five players who became all too used to the proverbial early bath.
5- Dennis Wise – 11 Red Cards
Wise was a big part of the Wimbledon side which became a huge part of the tapestry of English football in the 80s and 90s.
Their finest hour of course was beating Liverpool in the 1988 FA Cup final but their methods of achieving success were very divisive – to say aggression was part of the mantra is perhaps an understatement.
Wise was a fiery character throughout his career, all the way to the very end when he was sent off as player-manager for Millwall in 2003, in his first match in the role.
4 – Mark Dennis – 12 Red Cards
Dennis was a talented footballer and that was recognised early as he was capped three times for the England under-21s.
However, his career was marred by disciplinary issues as he was sent off no fewer than 12 times in spells at Birmingham, Southampton, QPR, and Crystal Palace.
His reputation for being a notorious hard man swelled so much that he earned the nickname “Psycho”, before Stuart Pearce took on the moniker for himself.
3 – Vinnie Jones – 12 Red Cards
Probably the craziest of the “Crazy Gang” squad was Vinnie Jones, who became a household name specifically because of his ultra-aggressive demeanour on the field.
Like Wise, Jones was integral to the success of the Wimbledon side which stunned Liverpool but a large part of that success was owed to their ability to ruffle feathers.
In his Chelsea days, he picked up a yellow card three seconds into a match after flying into Sheffield United’s Dane Whitehouse – a neat summation of his career and playing style.
2 – Steve Walsh – 13 Red Cards
Walsh was a defender who spent the bulk of his playing career at Leicester City, amassing nearly 400 appearances between 1986 and 2000.
He collected 13 red cards during an eventful career, with Walsh joint top of the standings.
In 1986, he was banned for 11 matches after smashing the jaw of Shrewsbury striker Dave Geddis and he was also sent off on separate occasions for incidents with Wolves forward Steve Bull – the two becoming big rivals.
However, Leicester fans adored him, nicknaming him “Captain Fantastic”, as he hlepd them win two League Cups in four years.
1 – Roy McDonough – 13 red cards
Given how few red cards were dished out in the 70s and 80s, it is almost impressive how McDonough managed to draw the ire of referees so often.
He was a fierce centre-forward who adored the physical side of the game from a young age – at 16, he was suspended for six months after assaulting a referee in a Schools Cup match.
His autobiography did at least display some self-awareness, as it was titled “Red Card Roy”.
Most Red Cards in a Season – Dennis Wise (4)
Dennis Wise holds the record for the most red cards earned in a season, when he was given his marching orders four times over the course of the 1998-99 season.
He was sent off in a pre-season match with Atletico Madrid, before competitive reds followed against Everton, Aston Villa, and Oxford.
If that wasn’t enough, Wise was accused of biting Mallorca’s Marcelino in a Cup Winners’ Cup match, though he was later cleared of any wrongdoing by UEFA.
Fans responded in acerbic fashion by unveiling a banner saying “Dennis Wise: Cannibal”.