I always liked Darel Russell, as much for his combative style as his football skills and his off-field demeanour. A decent bloke, he was – although I’d steer away from him on the football pitch.

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Rusty has seen red on 11 occasions by my reckoning, and at 31 years of age and with two or three more years of football in him, he is already beginning to trouble the record book compilers.

Another two and he’s up there with Roy Keane, Steve Walsh and Roy McDonough. That handy little triumvirate hold the record for the most red cards in football.

Rusty’s latest offences have been with Charlton where he is on loan from Preston and where he has already collected two sendings off in 2012.

While Rusty is close to the record, he is as far away as you can possibly be from the Premier League record – Duncan Ferguson, Patrick Vieira and Richard Dunne hold that with eight apiece–- because whenever a team he was playing for got within a sniff of the top flight he was off. He still hasn’t played a Premier League match in his career, which is a shame.

Darel Russell is out of the old school. He doesn’t pull any punches, sometimes literally. Where many others get the handbags out, Russell will roll up his sleeves. It’s not sneaky, pathetic, snide cheating actions. It’s the real McCoy with Russell.

He was always brutally honest with the media, not a man given to spouting cliches, not a man who toed the line. For a long time he declined to speak to the media. He was polite in his refusal and rather than being narked at something trivial that someone had written which he took offence to (during his time at Carrow Road there were a few, bless their cotton socks, who thought they deserved 10 out of 10 for their performances every week), I got the impression that it was because, had he been confronted with a particular question, he would have had to answer it honestly. And in his case, at that period in his career, it might not have gone down too well with his manager of the day. Best stay silent.

I was reminded of Rusty this week not just by his latest red card, but by the extraordinary scenes at the match between Bradford and Crawley in midweek. Soon after the final whistle there was one of the biggest punch-ups I have seen on a football pitch in my life.

I know we live in a world where we have to be very, very aware of what we say and do and that any suggestion we might be condoning violence is frowned upon. I am not condoning violence – but that was a real man’s fight, no pussy footing around, none of the aforementioned handbags. It was as far from the pathetic scenes that blight our game as you can imagine.

Yes, it blighted football. There is no place for such violence and they deserve the book that will be thrown at them. But watching it happen triggered memories of the days when footballers really were men. Francis Lee and Norman Hunter slugging it out, the fearsome Jack Charlton chasing Denis Law, Dave Mackay picking Billy Bremner up by his throat. All pretty unsavoury. But they were real men. They didn’t fall over just because they’d been caught by a gust of south-westerly. They didn’t hold their head when a ball had been kicked at their legs. They didn’t trip themselves up and make it look like an opponent was to blame. They dished it out and they took it back. Live by the sword, die by the sword and all that.

I remember many years ago Peterborough United signed Ray Hankin, who had come through the Burnley youth system and moved to Leeds. A lot was expected, but he was a disciplinary nightmare. He was brilliant for Posh, but seemed to spend as much time suspended as available. Shame, he was a good player and the fans loved him.

One of his dismissals came in a game in September 1983 against Mansfield after an almighty tussle with George Foster. Both men were eventually sent off at the same time. They were bewildered and chatted as they made their way to the tunnel, shaking hands and acknowledging the applause of the crowd, who had seen a brilliant, physical battle between two real men.

Hankin played 33 league and League Cup games for the Posh. He scored nine goals – but was sent off five times and finally sacked because of it.

Men like Hankin and Duncan Ferguson are drifting out of the game because they simply wouldn’t last. One tough challenge and a canny opponent would have them red-carded without a second thought. There isn’t a place for them in modern day football. Maybe that’s a good thing. But I miss them.

• NEW FA ROLE MUST BE FILLED BY AN ENGLISHMAN

Interesting to hear Sir Geoff Hurst this week talking about the FA’s decision to resurrect the role of technical director, 10 years after it was last occupied.

It would appear the FA want an experienced manager to take on the role, which entails heading up operations at St George’s Park near Burton-upon-Trent and making it a centre of excellence for coaches, and raise standards at grassroots as well as elite level.

No complaints there – we could do with it.

But Sir Geoff will upset a few Norwich and Swansea fans with his suggestion that the likes of Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers, whose teams have lit up the Premier League this season, would be perfect candidates to work within the new set-up. The theory was that they are both excellent young coaches. Can’t argue with that.

But Lambert is Scottish and Rodgers is Northern Irish.

Perhaps Sir Geoff overlooked this – as well as the fact that Messrs Lambert and Rodgers have been subject to quite enough speculation about their futures to last us all a lifetime.

There is no place for a non-English manager running our national team and there is no place for a non-Englishman in a job which is designed to improve the England national team.

If players have to be representative of the national team, then the manager does – and so should the person charged with supplying those players.

• CITY GET SHIRTY OVER A SCOOP

Manchester City decided this week to ban the BBC reporter Dan Roan after taking an intense dislike to an interview he conducted with their football development executive, Patrick Vieira.

It took place at the annual SoccerEx exhibition, when Vieira was representing Football Against Hunger, a campaign to tackle starvation in Africa. Vieira said he felt Manchester United received favourable treatment from referees. I saw the interview, and that’s what he said.

But City complained about the “very leading line of questions” and that “Patrick feels that his views have been deliberately taken out of context”. It was worth another listen because, believe you me, it’s an easy road to go down – a manager says something, but write it in a certain way and it means something completely different. Another look and listen would answer City’s claims, surely? Nope.

Still don’t get it. City don’t deny Vieira made the comments. They just didn’t like the way it was reported. I’ve listened again. I don’t get it. Vieira didn’t look flustered, he didn’t look uncomfortable and he didn’t object to the questions or say “I’d rather not comment”. It was what they call a scoop.

• WIDE OF THE MARK

Here’s a little gem that I’d forgotten, but which my spy, confidante and general good man about the place Adam Aiken pointed out. It’s from the coverage of City’s 1-1 FA Cup draw at Charlton in January, 2009: “Simon knows he hasn’t, long term, got a future at the club – he knows and he accepts that.” So said Glenn Roeder, manager at the time, of Simon Lappin, unwanted at the time. Ten days later, City lost the replay and Roeder was sacked the following day. Simon Lappin, meanwhile, started last week’s game for Norwich City against Wolves in the Premier League at Carrow Road. He remains one of the most popular players in the squad.

• TONGUE TWISTER

Norwich City head to Fulham today and I don’t envy the reporters who have to type the name of one of their players, Pavel Pogrebnyak – or Chris Goreham, who has to get his tongue around it. Reminds me of the story of the Scottish commentator David Francey, who was going through the teams before a match between Scotland and an east European country. His co-commentator pointed out a particularly difficult name, to which he responded: “He won’t be seeing a lot of the ball tonight.”

1 comment

  • Ray Hankin dedication page; comments appreciated: http:rayhankin.weebly.competerborough-united.html

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    gemsdiamond

    Sunday, April 8, 2012

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