Vieira handed six-match ban and record fine

Wenger bemoans punishment as FA throws book at Arsenal's French midfielder for Upton Park incidents
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The Independent Football

PATRICK VIEIRA was banned for six matches and fined £45,000 yesterday following the controversial incident at Upton Park earlier this month when he was sent off, accused of spitting on West Ham's Neil Ruddock and then involved in an incident with a police officer in the players' tunnel.

PATRICK VIEIRA was banned for six matches and fined £45,000 yesterday following the controversial incident at Upton Park earlier this month when he was sent off, accused of spitting on West Ham's Neil Ruddock and then involved in an incident with a police officer in the players' tunnel.

The volatile Frenchman was given a four-match ban plus a £30,000 fine for spitting and a two-match ban plus a £15,000 fine for his confrontation with the local constabulary.

The Football Association has broken its own record in coming down hard on the 23-year-old Arsenal player following the events in the game at West Ham on 3 October.

But the Arsenal manager, Arsÿne Wenger, who is convinced that his player was provoked throughout the game and still wants Ruddock to appear before the FA, was furious over the severity of the punishment. It is the biggest financial penalty ever imposed by the FA, and Wenger said: "It is very severe, very hard - especially for what is said to have happened in the tunnel. My inclination is to appeal against that. I don't know if the FA could have been put under pressure to do him by all the media focus on the incident - I hope not. I don't say he's been made a scapegoat but I hope the same sort of spirit will be applied to every player in the League who does something similar.

"Spitting, I am told, is an offence of violent conduct, a mental one not a physical one and you can expect punishment for that. But while I don't say that nothing at all happened in the tunnel I believe two matches suspended and a huge fine for that is very harsh. Patrick just reacted to a policeman touching him on the back just after he had taken a lot of abuse from West Ham fans."

A year ago Vieira escaped punishment after police at Sheffield Wednesday's ground filed a report to the FA about a tunnel incident at the end of the match in which Paolo di Canio, then with the Yorkshire side, pushed over Paul Alcock, the referee, after being sent off. At the final whistle, Vieira walked off the field waving V-signs to Wednesday fans who verbally abused him. He was later fined £20,000 by the FA.

"I don't think this punishment will affect Patrick's football," said Wenger. "He is very down now and his morale was low enough in any case after our Champions' League defeat last night. He has said he is sorry for what he did. He is not a bad boy. He may not always be the master of his reactions and he over-reacts sometimes but he is a genuine type who only thinks about playing football and never tries to do anybody."

Ruddock, who ran 40 yards to confront Vieira when the red card was shown, may still face FA action.

The only consolation for Arsenal was that Vieira's ban does not start for two weeks and he is free to play against Newcastle on Saturday and Tottenham eight days later. That is some relief for Wenger, who confirmed that Emmanuel Petit is certain to miss at least the next two games after suffering a recurrence of the knee injury which kept him out of action for nine week in Wednesday's defeat by Fiorentina.

Vieira's ban is for domestic matches only and means he will miss games against Middlesbrough, Derby and Leicester plus the third round of the FA Cup and the fourth and fifth rounds of the Worthington Cup.

The Leicester defender Matt Elliott was handed a one-match ban after flooring Liverpool's Michael Owen in the game at Filbert Street on 18 September.Uriah Rennie, the referee, took no action against the Scotland international centre-back during the match but the FA charged Elliott after studying video evidence.

Elliott was sent off during Scotland's Euro 2000 qualifier in the Faroe Islands in June and was given a five-match international ban. He is already facing another FA misconduct charge as one of the 25 Leicester players charged over the Worthington Cup tickets probe.

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