Outside the Box: Early doors but it looks like a clampdown is on the cards
Sunday 21 August 2011
It is hardly unknown for a new season to begin with zealous match officials engaged on some "clampdown" or other, after which managers protest furiously about the need to show some common sense and everything returns to normal.
So it will be interesting to see if there is any continuation of last weekend's trend which saw the number of yellow cards shown in the Premier League increase by more than a third on last season's average. The total during 2010-11 was 1,385, or just over three and a half per game; last weekend's total was 44 in nine games, or almost five each match.
Even the tolerance of last season's most generous ref, Mark Halsey (1.9 cards per game), was tested by Stoke's meeting with Chelsea, where he noted four names; the strict disciplinarian Lee Mason (average 4.6) excelled himself at Craven Cottage, booking six Fulham and Aston Villa players.
Get away to a quick start
The other notable statistical quirk of the season so far is the extraordinary number of away wins. Going into this weekend's programme, there were 51 in all divisions, as opposed to only 35 home wins (and 28 draws). That compares to last season's overall total of 28 per cent away wins and 44 per cent homes.
Last Saturday and Sunday there was not a single home win in the Premier League, which normally has the highest percentage; a sequence that ended only when Swansea's defence finally cracked at Manchester City.
Bates still smarting over Eric
Never one to resist a dig, especially at anyone who has cost him money, the Leeds United chairman Ken Bates was in typically caustic form in last Tuesday's match programme for the home game against Hull City.
In welcoming back the former striker Andy Keogh on loan from Wolves, he noted: "Kevin Blackwell said he could not play and sold him to Scunthorpe for £50,000. Wolves paid a seven-figure sum for him."
In (fractionally) more generous mood, he went on: "Mind you, making any judgement on players is an occupational hazard for managers. While at Chelsea, I was offered a player for the then big sum of £1m. I immediately rang the manager, Ian Porterfield, to advise him. His immediate response without hesitation was 'he can't play'. That is why Eric Cantona finished up at Old Trafford instead of Stamford Bridge."
Ilkeston have no defence
Following last week's story about Mansfield Town walking off the pitch after having three players hospitalised during a pre-season friendly (sic) against Ilkeston, the latter have suspended the most guilty party, player-coach Gary Ricketts, for two weeks and fined him a fortnight's wages. He has also been given a final written warning.
The Football Association launched an inquiry and Mansfield are threatening legal action for loss of earnings suffered by Ricketts' most serious victim, John Thompson. The former Nottingham Forest and Notts County defender needed more than 40 stitches to his face.
Kedwell that ends well
The much travelled Robbie Keane is renowned for saying his latest club is one he has always wanted to play for. So it was no surprise to hear that after joining his ninth team, LA Galaxy, last week, he had "always wanted to play in the MLS" (Major League Soccer).
There can, however, be no doubting the genuine gratitude of striker Danny Kedwell, certainly one of the few players ever to claim of a transfer to Gillingham: "It's what I wanted since I was a kid. My dreams have come true."
Last season he was captain of AFC Wimbledon, scoring the winning penalty in the play-off final against Luton that earned them a place in the Football League. After playing for nine non-League clubs, he might have been expected to stay and enjoy the Dons' great adventure but having run with and sung with Gillingham's Rainham End as a youngster, then been released at Priestfield in his teens, the 27-year-old could not resist a return to his home-town club.
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