Martin Dowey’s weekly column: Cards becoming too familiar in football

Manchester United's Jonny Evans (right) is sent off after fouling Manchester City's Mario Balotelli during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 23, 2011. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.
Manchester United's Jonny Evans (right) is sent off after fouling Manchester City's Mario Balotelli during the Barclays Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday October 23, 2011. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorised audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.

A RED cards is something that every footballer dreads.

Not only is it the fact that you have to leave the action early and retreat to the changing rooms, but also that you have to explain the hefty fine when you get back home.

Nowadays it seems that it is all too easy to earn one, as new laws come into place every season to steer the game away from the contact sport that we all love.

Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli almost demonstrated this on Sunday during the 6-1 drubbing of neighbours Manchester United.

After scoring the Italian lifted up his shirt to reveal the line: “Why always me?”

This referred to his recent off-the-field issues, including a firework setting his bathroom on fire.

This was all in jest, but referee Mark Clattenburg marched swiftly over and gave him a yellow card.

In a similar incident on Saturday after Scarborough Athletic’s game against Parkgate, Scott Phillips took his shirt off and the man in black brandished a yellow for that.

That does seem a little harsh and it is a good job Mr Hunt didn’t follow the Boro lads into the changing room because, from recollection, you do tend to change your clothes after a match.

I did manage to take in all of Sunday’s football, despite having the family around for dinner, due mainly to the gift of Sky+.

I don’t think that Sir Alex Ferguson or Andre Villas-Boas can complain about the red cards dished out in their respective games.

Jonny Evans (pictured right) clearly held back Balotelli, Jose Bosingwa had a grip on Shaun Wright-Phillips’ shirt when clean through and Didier Drogba should be given a hefty suspension and a fine for another of his ridiculous challenges.

These sending offs were all down to the letter of the law.

You can’t pull somebody down when you are the last man and you can’t leave the ground in a horrible two-footed tackle

Looking at today’s game though, it does seem the role of the hard-man is something that is being washed away.

Boro’s Gary Hepples found that on Saturday - his two crunching tackles earned him two yellows.

When I was growing up there were plenty of these tough-tackling players, the ones that will have caused the odd sicknote to go in before a game.

In the 1970s and early 1980s there were the likes of Jimmy Case and Graeme Souness.

Then after that Neil Ruddock, Julian Dicks, Paul Ince, and Roy Keane stepped into the role.

Every club had one back then, but now I can only think of Lee Cattermole and Nigel de Jong in the Premier League.

In some people’s eyes that may be a good thing, but I always thought that the hammering challenges and the occasional nose-to-nose incidents made great viewing.

Obviously challenges like Drogba’s on Sunday aren’t great to see because tackles like that can lead to broken legs.

These real hard-men won the ball and took everything else, getting the crowd and the interest going at the same time.

Just imagine now though, a player like Norman Hunter, Dave MacKay or even Duncan Ferguson (pictured below) playing in today’s top flight.

They would only play three matches a season and their fines would swiftly bankrupt their club.

Often on a Saturday afternoon at Queensgate or any ground across Britain, a crunching tackle is something that gets a similar-sized applause to a great save or even a goal.

These challenges may soon be things of the past, so make the most of them while they are still here .

I was also hit by the news that Sid Bowes had passed away.

During my youth Sid was a massive help to Hunmanby Hornets’ tours of Germany, giving a number of free hours to the club, which were obviously greatly appreciated.

I’d like to pass on regards from my family to Sid’s family.