FA hits Bowyer with six-match ban

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The Independent Football

Lee Bowyer's World Cup ambitions were looking bleak yesterday after the Leeds United midfielder was banned for six matches following a Football Association disciplinary hearing in Sheffield.

With Danny Mills also suspended for two matches, the verdicts by a three-man panel have thrown Leeds' troubled season into further chaos. Bowyer pleaded guilty to a charge of violent conduct after elbowing Gary McAllister during Leeds' 2-0 FA Cup fourth-round defeat to Liverpool at Elland Road 12 months ago, and to using foul and abusive language against referee Jeff Winter after his dismissal for two bookable offences against Arsenal in August.

With the suspension taking immediate effect the 24-year-old, who was also fined £10,000 for the latter incident, will not return until the game against Manchester United on 30 March.

Mills was fined £7,500 as he also pleaded guilty to using foul and abusive language against the fourth official Andy D'Urso in the tunnel at Arsenal after being dismissed for two yellow-card offences in the same volatile game as Bowyer.

Mills, who has served two games of a four-match ban after kicking Craig Bellamy in a 3-1 defeat at St James' Park last month, will now not be back until the visit of Blackburn on 17 March. It is understood the difference in the severity of the punishments for Mills and Bowyer in relation to their misconduct charges is due to the latter being caught on camera.

Bowyer's World Cup prospects are in danger as he will have little opportunity to prove his worth to the England coach. With Bowyer still eligible for Uefa Cup duty, Sven Goran Eriksson will have a maximum of four matches as the basis on which to select him for England's friendly with Italy at Elland Road on 27 March.

England have one further friendly in mid-April – against Paraguay – prior to an initial 30-man squad being named for the World Cup at the end of that month before it is trimmed to a final 23 by May 21.

Leeds will now have three players suspended for the trip to Middlesbrough on Saturday, as Alan Smith is in the middle of a five-game ban, but the striker faces a further disciplinary hearing early next month after being charged with misconduct following a bodycheck on Graeme Le Saux during a Worthington Cup defeat against Chelsea in November, and a further three-match ban looms.

Mark Viduka is due to appear before the same panel after being charged last week with misconduct for allegedly elbowing Martin Keown in the draw with Arsenal at Elland Road on 20 January.