Keep The Discipline

Alan Pardew thinks that the game has gone "a bit soft" - but concedes that on-field discipline must improve.

As he prepares his team to play Walsall without Matthew Etherington, suspended for a red card at Norwich received when the referee was not happy with his placing of the ball at a corner, it is a timely point.

"I certainly think that the game is a bit soft at the minute," he says.

"Of course you want to outlaw the tackle from behind and take players out of dangerous situations.

"But, certainly, power and strength is part and parcel of football and at the moment you are not really getting a true reflection of that, the way games are being reffed.

"I think fans like to see it; it is good to watch to see a powerful player overcome a weaker player - that is part of the game.

"Tomas is a powerful player and unfortunately he gets caught up in things that I would be classed as normal run-of-the-mill stuff.

"As far as I am concerned, though, I haven't got a problem with Tomas; he has got a lot of bookings - but he hasn't been sent off - and he is going to get that in playing games."

He does concede, however, that his players have to be even more disciplined on the field as the final run-in approaches.

"Our discipline has been poor and you have to say that," he admits.

"Jermain got sent off three times, which is a major part of it.

"Our reaction to referees is something I am trying to improve and I am trying to give them the respect they deserve - and when we manage ourselves properly we have done that.

"It is unfortunate that we have had those sendings off which has given it an unsavoury look, but we are not a dirty team - far from it."

Facing Walsall at the weekend reminds Alan of a painful period in his career; the Saddlers beat Reading in the second division play-off final three years ago and he recalls:

"I've got some history with Walsall from that game; it was the luckiest win of all time and the equalising goal came off the back of my winger's head - it's not that I'm bitter and twisted but it still hurts.

"That is gone, though; this is an absolutely enormous game for us because we are trying to win the league."