It was, to say the least, the most untimely of acts. Few who witnessed Danny Mills kick Craig Bellamy in full view of the officials at St James' Park back in January, nor probably the player himself, could have foreseen him challenging for a place in Sven Goran Eriksson's squad to face Italy in the friendly on Wednesday week.
Not only did the Leeds full-back receive a three-match ban for that dismissal – one he attributes to "a moment of madness" and his manager David O'Leary described as "stupidity" – but has also had to serve a further three-game suspension. One was a punishment for accumulating two red cards in a season, two were for swearing at the fourth official in an early season fixture at Highbury after he had been ordered off for two bookable offences.
For a footballer harbouring World Cup aspirations, a six-game ban is an dreadfully long time to dwell on your indiscretions. During it Mills most certainly came to the conclusion that it was not the best recommendation of his temperament to put on the CV placed before S G.
Yet, according to received wisdom at Elland Road, where the Italy game will be staged, Danny Mills will not only find himself included in Eriksson's squad, but is considered England's potential first-choice right-back. As one of the game's self-confessed cynics, the firm-tackling defender who possesses strong attacking instincts will wait to hear it from the coach's mouth himself when the names are revealed next Saturday.
However, in the week that Graeme Le Saux's disciplinary record has also been under scrutiny, Mills insists: "My belief is that if you're good enough for England you'll be in the squad. Everybody has the odd indiscretion. We've seen that in previous squads. I don't think there's anybody so bad that it will harm his selection. It didn't affect David Beckham when he got sent off against Argentina. And France don't leave out Patrick Vieira because he's got disciplinary problems. All I can say is that I won't let anyone down.
"It was easy for everyone to jump on my back after the Newcastle game and say 'Oh, he's terribly indisciplined', but if you look at my record. I've only had five sendings-off in my career, and that's only the second straight red. The other was at Norwich several years ago for a professional foul. I've only had seven yellows this season, and, according to statistics, I've made around 40 fouls this season. That's less than two fouls a game. I don't see that as too bad."
That is not to say that Mills, who returns from his Premiership ban today against Blackburn Rovers, did not immediately curse himself for his folly. "The Newcastle incident was awful," he says. "Earlier in the game, he [Bellamy] slapped me in the face, which can clearly be seen. But what I did shouldn't have happened. You do things in the heat of the moment that you instantly regret. What you have to do is learn from those and hopefully some good will come out of it."
Nigel Martyn and Rio Ferdinand will definitely be involved against Italy. So could Alan Smith, Jonathan Woodgate and Mills, who believes that he is attempting to secure one of the three remaining defenders' positions, with Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, Gary Neville and Ashley Cole already assured of a place, fitness permitting. Among the competition, he says, will be Jamie Carragher, Gareth Southgate, Phil Neville and himself.
"There could be a strong Leeds contingent in the squad, which will be good," declares Mills who played much of the second half in the friendly against Sweden at Old Trafford and received excellent reviews. "It's difficult to see anyone new coming in after this squad and it's imperative that you're involved. Hopefully I've done enough in our European games to get back in. I'm confident that if I get the chance I can do a good job."Reuse content