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Top 10 Most Red Cards: Premier League

Thomas Swan has been an avid fan of the English Premier League and international football for more than 30 years.

Referees brandish about 50 red cards every Premier League season.

Referees brandish about 50 red cards every Premier League season.

Who Gets the Most Red Cards in the Premier League?

The combative attitude of football players in the English Premier League has cultivated their reputation for physicality and roughness, one that both fascinates and repulses the watching public. This article will name and shame the players who have received the most red cards in Premier League history.

Referees brandish an average of 50 red cards in 380 matches every Premier League season (see table below). That comes out to about one red card every eight games. With 22 players on the pitch, football players might expect to be sent off every 167 appearances (1/167). Unfortunately, some overshoot this number, amassing red cards, affecting results, causing injury, destroying the sporting spirit, and tarnishing the image of the beautiful game.

Videos and statistics will be provided for each player in the top 10 (where available). Unlike other lists, the number of appearances made by the players is taken into consideration. The important measure in this list is red cards per game or red card rate. Only players with at least 6 red cards in the Premier League are included.

Total Red Cards: Premier League

Red card statistics for the 10 most recent Premier League seasons.

SeasonRed Cards

2012-2013

52

2013-2014

53

2014-2015

71

2015-2016

59

2016-2017

41

2017-2018

39

2018-2019

47

2019-2020

48

2020-2021

50

2021-2022

46

10. Alan Smith

  • Red Cards: 6
  • Appearances: 285
  • Red Card Rate: 1/48 (1 red card every 48 appearances)

If Alan Smith still played in the Premier League, he'd be sent off in every game. Smith consistently threw himself into reckless challenges with little regard for the damage he caused. He was a fairly gifted forward who played for Leeds, Manchester United, and Newcastle in his career, although Alex Ferguson deployed him as a midfield destroyer during his time in Manchester.

9. Joey Barton

  • Red Cards: 6
  • Appearances: 269
  • Red Card Rate: 1/45

Joey Barton is possibly the most hated football player of all time. His red cards rarely come from genuine attempts to get the ball or even reckless attempts to knock someone off the ball. Rather, Barton lashes out at other players when he thinks the officials aren't looking. He is a thug and a coward who should never be allowed on a football pitch.

8. Lee Cattermole

  • Red Cards: 7
  • Appearances: 271
  • Red Card Rate: 1/39

Lee Cattermole was the master of dirty challenges. With 7 red cards by the age of 27, he was ready to become the most red-carded player in history (the shared record is 8) until his beloved Sunderland got relegated. He recently retired in 2020 without adding to his tally. Remarkably, 6 of Cattermole's red cards came in the space of 99 appearances for Sunderland. He even received a red card after the final whistle of a match in 2012 for confronting a referee.

7. Patrick Vieira

  • Red Cards: 8
  • Appearances: 307
  • Red Card Rate: 1/38

Patrick Vieira was a midfield enforcer for Arsenal between 1996 and 2005. After five years in Italy, he returned to end his career with Manchester City in the 2010-11 season. Vieira's size and willingness to get stuck into the tackle resulted in him being sent off 8 times. He also had numerous spats with Roy Keane (see video).

6. Nemanja Vidic

  • Red Cards: 6
  • Appearances: 211
  • Red Card Rate: 1/35

Nemanja Vidic was one of the best defenders in the world during his time at Manchester United. But, as he drew closer to retirement, he found the pace of the game a little too much to bear. His attempts to win the ball back from quicker players increasingly resulted in desperate lunges and rash challenges (see video). Two of his six red cards came in the 2013-14 Premier League season, Vidic's last as a Manchester United player.

5. Duncan Ferguson

  • Red Cards: 8
  • Appearances: 269
  • Red Card Rate: 1/34

Much like Joey Barton, Duncan Ferguson was a true thug. He terrorized defenders between 1994 and 2006. Many of his fouls came from dangerous tackles or off-the-ball incidents. In the video, he can be seen headbutting another player.

4. Franck Queudrue

  • Red Cards: 6
  • Appearances: 201
  • Red Card Rate: 1/34

Franck Queudrue's Premier League career lasted from 2001 to 2010, playing for Middlesborough, Fulham, and Birmingham. During the 2002-2003 season, he received 3 red cards for reckless challenges. On a lighter note, he scored one of the best own goals ever during his time in the French League (see video).

3. Younes Kaboul

  • Red Cards: 6
  • Appearances: 197
  • Red Card Rate: 1/33

Younès Kaboul is a recently-retired French central defender who last played for Watford. He previously played for Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur, and Sunderland. One of Kaboul's red cards came from a headbutt in 2010. Another came from getting a second yellow card after removing his shirt during a goal celebration. After moving to Sunderland, he received his first red card for the Black Cats after only 5 games.

Younes Kaboul playing for Tottenham Hotspur.

Younes Kaboul playing for Tottenham Hotspur.

2. Vinnie Jones

  • Red Cards: 6
  • Appearances: 184
  • Red Card Rate: 1/31

Vinnie Jones's Premier League career lasted from 1992-1998. Before the Premier League emerged, he had already been sent off 6 times, bringing his career total to 12. He holds the record for the quickest ever yellow card, at 3 seconds. After retiring from football, Vinnie brought his hard-man persona to the silver screen.

1. John Hartson

  • Red Cards: 6
  • Appearances: 155
  • Red Card Rate: 1/26

Between 1995 and 2001, John Hartson left a trail of destruction in the Premier League. After being sent off in 1997, Hartson accused the referee of being "a homer" and "an absolute joke". In 1998, he was red-carded for striking another player and was sent off again 7 matches later. In 1999, he was red carded for elbowing another player, and in 1999 and 2000, Hartson was sent off twice for using foul and abusive language towards referees.

Off the field, he was given a conditional discharge for breaking a basket outside of a pub. Most shocking of all, he kicked a teammate in the face during a training session, which is among the worst teammate fights (video below). For this incident, he was fined 20 thousand pounds and banned for 3 matches. He has also had bust-ups with managers Bruce Rioch and Bobby Gould. Despite all this, his reputation appears to be largely undamaged, and he regularly appears as a TV pundit.

The Most Red Cards Overall

If you want to know who got the most red cards overall, then we have to consider the unfortunate Richard Dunne (who retired in 2015), whose haul of 8 red cards — a record shared with Vieira and Ferguson — was received in 397 appearances (1/50), which was a sufficiently large number to not appear in the above list. We also bring in the familiar name of Roy Keane, whose 7 red cards were received in 366 appearances (1/52).

Note that 13 players have received 6 red cards (too many to list here).

PlayerRed CardsRed Card Rate

Duncan Ferguson

8

1/34

Patrick Vieira

8

1/38

Richard Dunne

8

1/50

Vinnie Jones

7

1/31

Lee Cattermole

7

1/39

Alan Smith

7

1/48

Roy Keane

7

1/52

Other Notable Red Card Recipients

You may be surprised that some Premier League "hard men" from our collective memories did not make it into this list. Some of these notable absentees are:

These players either did not amass 6 red cards or their red card rates were not high enough for this list.

PlayerRed CardsRed Card Rate

Frank Leboeuf

5

1/29

Nikolaos Dabizas

5

1/30

Luis Boa Morte

6

1/49

David Batty

5

1/53

Martin Keown

6

1/54

Dennis Wise

5

1/56

Paul Konchesky

6

1/58

Ryan Shawcross

5

1/63

Lee Bowyer

4

1/79

John Terry

6

1/82

Steven Gerrard

6

1/85

Gareth Barry

6

1/109

Potential Additions to the List in the Future

Cristiano Ronaldo's return to the Premier League could see him enter this list soon. Ronaldo has 4 red cards in 226 appearances (1/57). Granit Xhaka (1/47), Christian Benteke (1/70), Lewis Dunk (1/43), and Fernandindo (1/66) have also been sent off four times in the Premier League. Jonjo Shelvey (1/53) has 5 red cards and could enter this list with one more.