Red cards, the ultimate punishment for an illegal act during the game of football are a relatively rare occurrence. In the Premier League for example, only 8% of matches produce a red card – that’s a division which includes Stoke City and whoever is on the receiving end of the referee’s bias towards ManU!
All the top European leagues are around the 8% mark, which means your average side should be involved in around four matches per season which feature a red card. Each team should expect to see no more than 2 or 3 given to their own players.
But there are naughtier teams (and perhaps, naughtier divisions), of course, and The Whites definitely fit into that category.
Leeds United saw five red cards last season, a record matched by Wolves and Nottingham Forest and topped only by Watford’s six. Conversely, Hull
City Tigers and Bristol City didn’t see red all season, while Peterborough United and Blackburn Rovers only received one red card each.
The season previous, Dirty Leeds’ discipline was even worse. Nine red cards in total, matched only by Leicester City – who we beat on yellow cards if you’re looking for a league Leeds United topped recently.
It does level out a little though. 2010/11 – a year in which Sheffield United saw an astonishing 12 red cards – Leeds United only received 4, while the year previous we only saw 2.
In 184 league games, Leeds United have seen red 20 times. That means a Leeds United player has been sent off in roughly 11% of games over the last four seasons.
In reality, the figure is slightly slower (10%~) as some matches saw multiple red cards. Nevertheless, the chances of Leeds United receiving a red card during the same fixture on four consecutive occasions are astronomical – around 1 in 15,000. That’s roughly the same chance Middlesbrough have of signing Ross McCormack!
Dirty Leeds or dodgy Ipswich Town?
So what on earth is going on at Portman Road? The last four times we’ve made the 400 mile round-trip to Ipswich, Leeds United have seen a player sent off and lost the game.
The anomaly started in 2006 when Kevin Nicholls saw red and Ipswich went on to win the game 1-0.
Our next visit to Portman Road came in 2010 when Leeds and Ipswich were level at 1-1, only for Alex Bruce to get his marching orders and Tommy Smith to score an Ipswich winner four minutes later.
In 2011, The Whites were leading at half-time courtesy of a Ross McCormack goal, but within four minutes of the restart, Aidy White was sent off and Leeds had to play almost a full half with 10 ten. Jason Scotland equalised in the 77th minute, but Leeds looked to have registered a rare point at Portman Road, only for Keith Andrews to go and spoil our day with an injury time winner.
That brings us to last season and Tom Lees’ first half dismissal, a red card for which Neil Warnock called the young defender “stupid” leading to a backlash against our former manager from the Leeds United faithful. 0-0 at the time of Lees’ red card, Ipswich went on to win the game 3-0.
There’s a couple of notable trends to this sequence of red cards. Firstly, they’ve been getting earlier each time (’84, ’79, ’49 and ’32) and, more annoyingly, Leeds United were in a points scoring position before the dismissal on our last three visits.
What is it with Portman Road? Do we need to get Don Revie’s gypsy friend in to lift some sort of curse? Are Ipswich Town bribing the referees? Does their team (or fans) have a knack for getting under our skin? Or is it simply bad luck and coincidence?
Pre-match with my rational head firmly engaged, I’d suggest it’s the latter. But if we see another red card and lose tomorrow, I’ll be demanding an FA enquiry!