Burnley fans will not have been exactly cock-a-hoop after they were held to a goalless draw against bottom-of-the-table, the previously porous and pointless Norwich City. But there was a small milestone for them to celebrate at Turf Moor. Burnley completed their 100th consecutive Premier League match without a red card. For a team with a reputation for being tough, Burnley have a remarkable disciplinary record. Their game against Norwich was their 273rd in the Premier League. In that time they have received only seven red cards, at a rate of one per season.
Significantly, all seven of those dismissals have come in away matches so they have now amassed 137 Premier League matches at Turf Moor without having to run the early bath in the home dressing room. This beats the previous record of 131 games, which Liverpool set at Anfield between 1992 and 1999 before Dominic Matteo was sent off in a 3-1 win over Middlesbrough in February 1999.
Burnley’s last red card was Robbie Brady’s against Huddersfield in the 90th minute on 2 January 2019. Inevitably the Irish international was sent off by Mike Dean, who has sent off more players than any other Premier League referee. Since Brady was sent off in January 2019 there have been 117 red cards issued in the Premier League. Arsenal have received thirteen of them. As Arsenal’s image, especially under Arsène Wenger, has been one of a side that likes to play with a certain style eschewing the uglier side of the game the irony that they should have received so many reds compared to Burnley, will not have escaped Sean Dyche. In their Premier League meeting at The Emirates in January 2017 not only did Granit Xhaka get sent off but Wenger was sent to the stands for disputing a late penalty.
The Burnley manager is no shrinking violet (or maybe that should be claret) and he regularly defends his team against accusations of what others see as their rudimentary tactics. The widely-held view is that his Burnley side is very much a reflection of his slightly grizzled attitude to The Beautiful Game but he bristles with indignation when challenged about their image as a dirty team. Earlier this season Jürgen Klopp riled Dyche after burnley’s trip to Anfield earlier this season when he suggested that fans should “watch wrestling” if they value aggressive challenges over protecting players.“That’s up to him,” replied Dyche. “His comments are what they are. That’s not up to me. [People can] use whatever words they wish to describe whatever they wish, and see fit to do so.”
Klopp is not a lone voice in expressing his concern at Burnley’s toughness and in an interview with local paper the Burnley Express towards the end of last season Dyche railed against their image.”They are allowed to compete, and that is a sign of that,” Dyche said “We’re this ‘rough’ side with no sendings off in 90 games…How can you be rough if you have no sendings off in 90 games? I don’t know where the reputation comes from, because the manager has got a skinhead probably, and the players try hard! I’m bereft of reasons, I just marvel at the madness, just call it how you want, no problem…”
Looking at the other six reds they have received there was a pattern that resembles the oft-used phrase regarding London buses – see chart below – in that they came in pairs in quick succession. Before Brady was sent off in 2019, their previous red was almost two years beforehand when Ashley Barnes was shown red against Hull in February 2017, just three weeks after Jeff Hendrick had been given his marching orders at Watford. In the 2014-15 season Burnley’s two reds came within fourteen days of each other, another Ashley Barnes’ dismissal against Everton in mid April, preceding Michael Duff’s red against West Ham in early May. Going back to their first Premier League season, in 2009-10 Steven Caldwell was the first Burnley player to be sent off in late November, swiftly followed by Stephen Jordan in December.
Burnley’s seven red cards in Premier League have all come away from home.
28 November 2009 Steven Caldwell vs West Ham
28 December 2009 Stephen Jordan vs Everton
18 April 2015 Ashley Barnes vs Everton
2 May 2015 Michael Duff vs West Ham
4 February 2017 Jeff Hendrick vs Watford
25 February 2017 Ashley Barnes vs Hull City
2 January 2019 Robbie Brady vs Huddersfield Town
In the first game of this season Burnley matched Ipswich Town’s long-standing record of 94 Premier League matches without a red card, which was set between September 1992 and December 1994. They will look to extend beyond the 100 they have now achieved and give Dyche further reason to cock a snook at his critics.