Town are not bad boys

FAR from being the bad boys their recent record might suggest, Ipswich are actually good guys in the great scheme of things.Portman Road officials have been left as red-faced as the card shown to defender Fabian Wilnis for two bookable offences in the midweek draw at Plymouth.

By Mel Henderson

FAR from being the bad boys their recent record might suggest, Ipswich are actually good guys in the great scheme of things.

Portman Road officials have been left as red-faced as the card shown to defender Fabian Wilnis for two bookable offences in the midweek draw at Plymouth.

Chairman David Sheepshanks and manager Jim Magilton have both protested that Town do not deserve to be labelled the Championship's worst offenders with more cautions, 46, to their name than any of their rivals.

They are anxious that the club's previous disciplinary record, surely one of the best in the history of football, is not forgotten.

Ipswich have had to fork out £15,000 in fines - the £5,000 they were fined for collecting six yellow cards at Southend was doubled when the same thing happened at Plymouth - and the cash penalty will continue to increase unless they improve.

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Wilnis has created a new record as the first Town player to be sent off three times, but that statistic pales into insignificance when compared to those of the game's most notorious hard men.

And when you consider that Ipswich have had only 53 players sent off since the club turned professional in 1936, it is no surprise that they would rather attribute their current crime count to over-fussy refereeing than a new, more aggressive approach by their players.

To put Town's all-time record into perspective, if you add the personal stats of just five of the game's worst individual offenders the total is higher than the Blues' 53 over more than 70 years.

Roy McDonough, Vinnie Jones, Dennis Wise, Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane amassed a staggering 68 red cards between them.

Only French midfielder Vieira is still playing, for Inter Milan, so he could yet add to the 12 he has collected so far.

He was sent off nine times while playing for Arsenal, including in successive games, once with Juventus, once for his country and once for his current club.

But there is surely no way he will overhaul ex-Colchester player and manager McDonough, who was first into the team bath on an amazing 21 occasions.

McDonough, an uncompromising striker who also played for Exeter and Cambridge, had two spells with Southend and it was in his second that he fell foul of officialdom on a regular basis.

Keane was dismissed on 11 occasions, all of them after transferring from Nottingham Forest to become one of the most influential captains in Manchester United's glittering history.

There were no further blemishes on his record when he finished his playing days with a short spell at boyhood favourites Celtic and now that he has turned to management with Sunderland, today's visitors to Norwich, he has managed to steer clear of controversy.

Another comparative newcomer to management, Dennis Wise, collected 12 red cards in a career that took him from Wimbledon to Chelsea and then on to Leicester, Millwall, where he was player-boss, Southampton and Coventry.

Footballer-turned-Holywood-star Vinnie Jones was another member of the self-styled Crazy Gang who piloted the Dons into the big-time and to FA Cup glory in 1988.

Jones was sent off a dozen times and also earned himself a place in the history books when he was booked within three seconds of the kick-off when playing for Chelsea against previous club Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge in 1992.

While Fabian Wilnis has been unfortunate enough to rewrite the Ipswich stats, his is hardly a record to warrant a place anywhere near those of the afore-mentioned bad boys.

And when it comes to red cards per club, Ipswich's 53 since 1936 looks almost saintly next to that of Arsenal's during ten years of Arsene Wenger's management.

Their 'sinners', of whom Vieira has been by far the most prominent, have exceeded that figure and in February last year their list of shame amounted to 58 dismissals.

But even the Gunners are nowhere near as bad as some people would have you believe, since they were also crowned Fair Play champions in both the 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 seasons, and only missed out on a hat-trick of successive honours when they finished second to Charlton last term.

Talking of Fair Play titles, we should not forget that Ipswich's prominent finish in 2002 reaped its reward in the shape of a 'back door' route into the UEFA Cup.

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