City ban for Thatcher after Mendes' tackle

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The Independent Online

Manchester City inflicted the first of potentially several punishments on Ben Thatcher last night when they suspended their own defender for his brutal assault on Portsmouth's Pedro Mendes.

Club directors met the manager, Stuart Pearce, yesterday afternoon to formulate their response to the incident that left the Portuguese midfielder requiring neurological tests at the Manchester Royal Infirmary following Wednesday's goalless draw at Eastlands. Thatcher will now miss this evening's Premiership game with Arsenal as a result of a one-match ban, although it is doubtful whether he was in a suitable state of mind to play anyhow, and faces further disciplinary action pending the results of an internal investigation.

Under existing rules Thatcher would have escaped a ban from the Football Association, having collected a booking from referee Dermot Gallagher for his forearm smash, but the English game's governing body has now charged the 30-year-old with serious foul play. He has until 12 September to respond. Greater Manchester Police have also commenced an investigation and a legal threat could arrive from Mendes too if he decides to pursue a civil action against the City full-back.

It was against this sombre background that a contrite Pearce condemned the Wales international unreservedly yesterday and revealed that City and Thatcher would accept whatever punishment comes their way. The City manager had originally dismissed the controversy on Wednesday night but, with the benefit of the video replay, said he could no longer defend the "indefensible" from a player with previous for mindless acts of thuggery.

Pearce admitted: "When I saw it live I didn't realise the ferocity of it, but the more you see it the worse it gets. It was indefensible. Ben came to see me on Thursday morning and he was ashen-faced. He is distraught and he is disgusted with himself. He knows he hasn't gone a leg to stand on and he is not blasé about what happened. He is prepared for any punishment that comes his way, but he knows this has to be a wake-up call for him.

"Whatever the FA say and do we will adhere to. We are here to help them govern the game and we will back any decision they make. I feel sorry for Dermot. He will be hung out to dry for this, but I had a better view than he did and I didn't see an elbow. If there is any good to come out of it, it is that the player realises it was totally unacceptable. It's not football."

The City manager has telephoned his Portsmouth counterpart, Harry Redknapp, with his apologies while Thatcher is believed to have written to Mendes, who has now been released from hospital, to express his remorse.

Neither manager, however, believes the police should intervene in the matter. "I don't want to see the police getting involved. It is football's problem and the game should deal with it," Redknapp said. "Let's hope that the FA can take the most appropriate action possible." Pearce added: "Do we have police on the sidelines waiting to come on every time they see something they think is an arrestable offence?"

City are still seeking their first win this season and Pearce's troubled week has not been aided by the continued absence of several summer signings.

Dietmar Hamann and former Ajax full-back Hatem Trabelsi are both out of this evening's game, the latter after missing his appointment for a work permit and a scheduled flight from his native Tunisia, while the new £2m goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson could be out for six weeks due to surgery to remove a chipped bone from his foot.

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