City punish disgraced Thatcher with six-week ban

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The Independent Online

Stuart Pearce described the challenge that shamed his club and his player as "indefensible". Last night, at the conclusion of an internal investigation into Ben Thatcher's appalling assault on Pedro Mendes of Portsmouth, Manchester City concurred, a six-match ban and a fine of six weeks' wages revealing the depth of their displeasure with the 30-year-old.

City have taken the lead in disciplining the Wales international defender ever since he elbowed the Portsmouth midfielder into unconsciousness at the City of Manchester Stadium eight days ago, initially suspending him for Saturday's victory over Arsenal and telling the left-back to keep away from that game. Even so, their latest punishment, albeit with the final fortnight of the ban and fine suspended, is an emphatic statement of condemnation.

Having missed City's first victory of the season on Saturday, Thatcher will now also sit out the Premiership visits to Reading and Blackburn Rovers, plus the second-round Carling Cup tie at Chesterfield next month. The final two weeks of his punishment are suspended pending further investigation.

Thatcher's fine is the maximum possible under agreement with the Professional Footballers' Association, whose chief executive Gordon Taylor said: "Two weeks is the norm but it can be up to six weeks under special circumstances. If the offence is serious enough that termination of contract could be considered, a six-week fine is possible."

Although the sight of Thatcher in a sky blue shirt potentially within a month of the Mendes incident may lessen the impact of the punishment, the former Wimbledon and Tottenham player could still face further time out. Though he was booked for the challenge on the night by referee Dermot Gallagher, who was also punished at the weekend by being dropped from his scheduled assignment, the Football Association has circumnavigated its rules and charged the player with serious foul play.

Thatcher has until 12 September to respond, but Pearce, who stated last Friday, "Ben knows he hasn't got a leg to stand on", has admitted that the player and the club will not contest any action the game's governing body wishes to take. He may yet, therefore, receive an additional suspension from the FA.

Neither is City's action designed to diminish the severity of the FA's sentence or dissuade Mendes from pursuing a civil action against Thatcher, although Greater Manchester Police have commenced their own investigation. Mendes confirmed at the weekend that he would leave all disciplinary matters to the football authorities.

In a statement, City's chief executive Alistair Mackintosh said last night: "As custodians of the club, and football in general, the board and the manager felt it was important to act as soon as possible."

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