It’s often said that the best referees are the ones that go unnoticed throughout a Premier League game, but no one told this lot who have regularly dished out more cards than Clinton’s in the festive season.
This season’s action has seen Mike Dean once again make headlines for his willingness to delve into his pocket, sending off West Bromwich Albion full-back Kieran Gibbs before controversially showing the red card to manager Slaven Bilic for his complaints.
Following Dean’s latest dismissals we’ve decided to look back at the division’s all-time numbers, here are the five referees to show the most red cards in Premier League history:
Graham Poll – 63 red cards
Sitting fifth in the list of the Premier League’s most card-happy referees is Graham Poll, a man no stranger to controversies throughout his officiating career at the very highest level.
Poll dished out 63 sending offs during his career in English football’s top tier, including for Mikael Silvestre in a Premier League classic between Arsenal and Manchester United at Highbury, the referee forced to intervene between feuding captains Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane as tensions boiled over in the tunnel pre-match.
Remember Graham Poll? The man who thought Liverpool and Chelsea fans were roaring him onto the field rather than their own teams…pic.twitter.com/OlvIsG9gx3
— HLTCO (@HLTCO) November 6, 2019
Perhaps the most notable red of Poll’s career came during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, however, when during a fiery winner-takes-all encounter between Australia and Croatia, Poll proceeded to book defender Josip Simunic three times before finally showing the red, leaving the Englishman a little red-faced to say the least.
Martin Atkinson – 64 red cards
Amongst two current Premier League referees to feature on this list, Martin Atkinson was another at the centre of controversy recently after awarding Crystal Palace a dubious penalty at Manchester United on the opening day.
Atkinson opted to keep his red card in his pocket on this occasion, but ranks high amongst the referees to show the least mercy since becoming a top flight official 15 years ago.
Since then he’s taken charge of both major domestic cup finals and the 2015 Europa League final between Dnipro and Sevilla, though managed to keep his reds away on each occasion.
Mike Riley – 65 red cards
Mike Riley took charge of some of the Premier League’s defining fixtures and none more so than another huge clash between Manchester United and Arsenal, the former ending the Gunners’ record-breaking 49-game unbeaten run at Old Trafford with more than a little help from some lenient refereeing.
Riley somehow managed to deliver 65 red cards throughout his Premier League career despite seemingly allowing prison-style rules between the two title rivals, Jose Antonio Reyes on the receiving end of some brutal treatment from the Neville brothers as they became Bury’s on-field equivalent of the Kray twins.
Riley – for some unbeknown reason – decided to become the chief of the elite refereeing body, PGMOL, upon hanging up the whistle, where has since continued to receive criticism over the usage of VAR.
It seems one career of terrace and player abuse was not quite enough.
Phil Dowd – 66 red cards
Phil Dowd looks like a man more at home in a local Wetherspoons than a Premier League pitch, but there he was for more than a decade trotting around amongst English football’s biggest and brightest stars.
Stoke-on-Trent’s favourite son (Sorry, Robbie Williams) was certainly not afraid to mix it with the league’s leading names either and took no grief, dishing out 66 red cards to those who threatened the morality of the Beautiful Game.
Dowd’s most prolific campaign came during the 2001/02 season in which he dished out a remarkable 13 red cards in just 29 fixtures, averaging a staggering 0.45 dismissals per game.
Mike Dean – 104 red cards
Is there really any surprise that Mike Dean tops this list?
This is a man who has forged a reputation as part referee/part entertainer, often turning top flight fixtures into his own Premier League pantomimes with his theatrics as an official.
Exaggerated gestures, no-look bookings and even seemingly joining in with celebrations, Dean rightly or wrongly is unmistakeable when officiating in the Premier League.
Dean’s entertaining style comes with a certain amount of perceived arrogance, however, and his aforementioned sending off of West Brom manager Slaven Bilic demonstrated him at arguably his very worst.
Bilic’s complaints were far from aggressive or out of line, but Dean – as he has on so many occasions – opted for signature showbiz over sporting sense.