Managers fear another batch of red cards

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The Independent Football

After a week in which the chasm between referees and managers appeared to be reaching Grand Canyon proportions, two of the latter group feeling most hard done by offered opposite reactions yesterday to the latest breakdown in communication and confidence.

After a week in which the chasm between referees and managers appeared to be reaching Grand Canyon proportions, two of the latter group feeling most hard done by offered opposite reactions yesterday to the latest breakdown in communication and confidence.

Arsenal's Arsÿne Wenger, who has bitterly contested Patrick Vieira's two sendings-off and is on a Football Association charge involving alleged threatening behaviour, said he was not interested in sitting down to discuss the problem with the men in black. But across London, the West Ham manager, Harry Redknapp, was inviting officials to train with his club if it would lead to greater understanding on both sides.

Redknapp was reduced to spluttering fury after Wednesday's home defeat by Leicester at the dismissal of his centre-half Igor Stimac for two yellow cards, following dissent and then a body-check. That meant West Ham have now had eight players sent off in their last 34 Premiership games.

"Referees would be welcome here," he said, "they need to have a rapport with the players. They haven't played football at a high level and miss certain things, such as players leaving their foot up, but clamp down on others, such as a player throwing the ball down.

"We have got to try and keep 11 players on the pitch. Of course there are instances where players have got to be sent off, but not for petty things like throwing the ball down in frustration."

Wenger, however, with a charge against Gilles Grimandi added yesterday to Arsenal's list of misdemeanours, will not be inviting any referees round for tea.

"I will never sit down with them, I can tell you," he said. "It's notmy job to explain to them how they are to rule the game. It's important we don't become too close andtoo friendly because the pressureon them would then be even bigger. I think there's a pressure on referees to do things differently when a new season starts. They shouldn't forget that a good referee is one you don't see on the field and I'm not sure they are all conscious of that."

In the circumstances, the football authorities might have preferred this weekend's fixture list to include rather more of the low profile games that do still exist in the Premiership. Instead, there are a number of matches with the potential to make big black headlines, not least those at Upton Park and Highbury.

Few fixtures between West Ham and Manchester United in recent years have been low key and today's is unlikely to be so either. The home team, rather unluckily, are the only Premiership side without a point so far, though they might have taken one in each of their games - against Leicester, which they were dominating until Stimac fell foul of the referee, and at Chelsea.

David Beckham, back close to his childhood roots, and Phil Neville, are assured of a warm reception;T-shirts are on sale outside London grounds this season with a picture of each, and above the legend "Dumb" and "Dumber". There were one or two candidates in West Ham shirts on Wednesday for a place alongside them with the stupidity of their prolonged dissent towards the officials.

Wenger will be aware that when Arsenal last met Charlton in the Premiership, two years ago, Emmanuel Petit was sent off atHighbury and Vieira at The Valley - the latter proving a slow learner, after a Monday night incident identical to the one at Sunderland last Saturday. Charlton can be expected to harry him relentlessly again and the Frenchman will need to count to dix occasionally if he is not to establish an unwanted hat-trick of dismissals.

Chelsea's visit to Aston Villatomorrow is another fixture likely to be high in passion and tempo. Gianluca Vialli has pledged that his team will not allow sand to be kicked in their faces this season, although Bradford's beach bullies seemed to achieve that quite well on Tuesday. So his defenders will not be expected to let David Ginola tiptoe past them to inflict another damaging defeat.

Leeds go into what could bea feisty northern derby at Middlesbrough with the Premiership's only 100 per cent record (played one, won one) though their opponents topped the table, if only on alphabetical order, from Tottenham. Spurs, meanwhile, beaten on Teesside, Tyneside and Wearside last season, return to the North-east to play Newcastle in better heart after the sort of gritty performance at Middlesbrough that George Graham wants to encourage.

Coventry, having cured their travel sickness with a first awaywin for 16 months, at Southampton, should also look less green around the gills against Manchester City at Maine Road. Whatever the scores,the yellow and red card count everywhere will be checked with equalinterest.

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