It can’t be denied that football has changed a lot over the past thirty or so years. Obviously the premise is the same- kick the ball and score a goal; however, everything else has shifted seismically. One could say it has undergone some ‘plastic surgery’ from a more rough and ready game, to something altogether more surgically enhanced – including the use of cards.
Some people like the upgrade… some people aren’t so sure. However, here at WSB, we get all the inside knowledge and opinions from someone who really knows the beautiful game – now and then – the hard man of Scottish football himself, Colin Hendry. A Scottish footballing legend, Colin Hendry has teamed up with us to reflect on the game as it is and as it was. We will get to benefit from his insider knowledge with topics relevant to today’s football – as well as helping us out on top tips and who to look out for in the upcoming season.
When is a Yellow Not a Yellow?
The first of what we’ll be looking at is the contentious subject of the ‘yellow card’ – and even the ‘red card’. As a top defender in the Premier League and for the Scottish International team, Hendry knows a thing or two about tackling. So, where has it changed – and why?
Commenting on several top games – both internationally and within the Premier League, Hendry believes that what would have been a perfect tackle in his day, is now often rewarded with the gift of a yellow – or even a red.
“Back when I played, getting a piece of the ball and a piece of the player was a perfect tackle. As a defender I had treatment on my ankle every year to tidy it up. I often had broken bits of bone where a player had caught me – or I had caught a player. It was just a part of the game. Now I watch a game and see yellow cards being given out for a perfect tackle – for example Harry Maguire and Eric Dyer in the match against Spain; Van Dyke in Liverpool v Napoli – and Fabian Delph, who got the ball but was red carded against Leicester.”
So, doesn’t getting the ball matter anymore? What does this mean for football players? Well, it makes defenders nervous to tackle – which could lead to preventable and soft goals.
Unfortunately, when it comes to yellow and red cards, the qualification is quite fuzzy – and this leads to referees having the final say – and a lot of times their decisions are questionable.
Fouls and Misconduct
So – a foul is described as ‘an act committed by players which is deemed by the referee to be unfair’. The act is ‘deemed by the referee to contravene the game’s laws, that interferes with the active play of the game.’ Fouls can be punished by either a free kick or a card. However, because of the phrase ‘deemed by the referee’, what constitutes a free kick in one game could result in a card in another – depending on the ref.
What Are the Guidelines?
Well, there are specific guidelines as to what foul constitutes what punishment; however, with the speed of play, no VAR etc., people generally have differing opinions.
Direct Free Kick Offences
When a player commits any of the following in a way which is deemed by the ref to be careless, reckless or using excessive force.
- Kicking an opponent
- Tripping an opponent
- Jumping at an opponent
- Charging at an opponent
- Striking an opponent
- Pushing an opponent
- Tackling an opponent
- Holding an opponent
- Impeding the progress of an opponent with contact
- Spitting at the opponent
- Handling the ball deliberately
If any of these happen in the box, this results in a penalty kick.
Indirect Free Kick Offences
- A goalie handling the ball for longer than 6 seconds
- The goalie touching the ball with his hands after releasing it, without it touching another player
- Touches the ball with their hands after it has been kicked back to them by a teammate
- When any player plays in a dangerous manner
- If a player impedes the progress of an opponent but the ball in not close to either player
- When a player prevents the goalie from releasing the ball from their hands
However, although these are free kicks, not all times do they result in the use of cards… these are the offences that should be carded:
Yellow Card Offences
- Unsporting behavior (including foul play and simulation)
- Dissent by word or action
- Persistent infringement of the rules of the game.
- Delaying the restart of play
- Not respecting the required distance when play is restarted with a corner, throw in or free kick
- Entering / re-entering the pitch without the ref’s permission
- Deliberately leaving the pitch without the ref’s permission
Most of these are pretty clear, although ‘unsporting behaviour’ very much depends on the referee. Looking at the yellow cards given to Maguire, Dyer and Van Dyke, they can only be put down to ‘unsporting behaviour’ – the opinion of the ref.
Red Card Offences
- Serious foul play
- Violent conduct
- Spitting at an opponent or any other person
- Denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity by handling the ball
- Deliberate fouls that deny a goalscoring opportunity
- Using offensive, insulting or abusive language
- Receiving a second caution in the same match
Serious foul play is a foul committed with excessive force (deliberately attempting to injure his opponent). This could be what Delph was sent off for, as he did slide in with a 2 footed tackle – however he also got the ball. It could be argued that the follow through on the opponent’s leg was an attempt to injure; however, most would see it as a player getting the ball…
The Use of Cards – How It Affects the Play
Obviously, the handing out of soft cards will stop players from attempting any kind of tackle that could be seen as contentious. Two yellow cards is automatically a sendoff – and accruing the yellow cards can lead to players having to miss vital matches. This means that players can be very wary… Van Dyke, for example, is missing the next round of the Champions League as the result of a soft yellow – which could be a huge issue for Liverpool moving forward.
It’s not only cards that are given away freely though – free kicks are given away easily also. It seems at times that all a player has to do is fall over and he is awarded a free kick. Unfortunately, this also has repercussions… players falling over very softly, at any opportunity – some might even say ‘diving’. In the days of Colin Hendry, players were a lot tougher. The sight of Colin Hendry and Terry Butcher with a bloodied bandage still playing is iconic now – but that’s partly because it would never happen now.
It Pays to Fall
British football in the past was always associated with sturdiness and toughness; however, the Latin American influence has now infiltrated the game, and there’s as much play acting now as playing. Just a little knock sees players falling down and rolling around on the floor – for a free kick or penalty… which could change the game entirely. Unfortunately, often players are awarded free kicks for these and it encourages the practice. Players are not rewarded for staying on their feet; they have no incentive to do so, so often they can’t beat them so join them. Unfortunately, this means that the sight of bruised and bloodied players is well-assigned to history.
This also takes away the impact of real fouls and real free kicks. Taking into account Salah’s penalty against Newcastle, many said it was ‘soft’ and accused Salah of diving. However, having analysed it, Hendry stated that the Newcastle defender committed a ‘yellow card foul’ on Salah inside the penalty box – so soft as it may seem, it was, indeed, a penalty.
The South American Affect
The South American players have grown in number in the Premier League and this has clearly had the biggest effect on the game. If you look at big games such as Boca Juniors V River Plate, a popular bet is over / under 8.5 yellow cards. This is incredible comparing it with the Premier League… where there are mainly around 3 cards on average awarded. You also got even money on a red card being awarded… which says it all.
The South American style of playing not only means more diving, but also inflicting yellow card tackles etc. The physical British and Northern Europe hardiness of playing has been drowned out by the Latin style and youngsters look up to players like Neymar… which is an indication of where the game is going.
How Does It Affect the League?
Well, Man City has had some bad times in the last couple of games – not only have they lost 2 games on the bounce – games they should win against Crystal Palace and Leicester –but the red card means that Delph is out for the next game against Southampton. They are now in 3rd place on the table. Southampton can be capable of producing a good result when needed, so although unlikely, a win isn’t completely unthinkable against the reigning champions in the next match. Although Hendry agrees that Man City are likely to win – and are priced as firm favourites at 10/29 at Unibet, you might want to try out your luck with a small stake on the Southampton win at 10/1 at Bet365 – which given Man City’s current form, isn’t bad value.
However, after Southampton, the big game will be against current leaders, Liverpool. Hendry believes that this is the best time for Liverpool to be playing the team, as Liverpool are playing well and will be facing the champions at a low point. They are 6-points clear at the top and a win over Man City could see them right. However, Man City, despite this, are priced as favourites, so you could get a great value bet on a Liverpool win…
Other Upcoming Tips from Hendry:
Everton v Leicester a good game that either could win – go for the draw 5/2 at Will Hill
Arsenal v Fulham – Arsenal win 5/19 at Unibet
Cardiff v Tottenham – Tottenham win 2/5 at Bet365