Dom Sending Off

When Liam Cooper was sent off at Man City last Saturday he became the first Leeds player to be red carded in a Premier League game since May 2004 – and it took me back to the saddest ever day of my career.

That fateful afternoon 17 years ago when we last had a man sent off in the Premier League was the day we got relegated Bolton and big Mark Viduka was our man who saw red.

It was a game we had to win to have any chance of staying up and Vidukes had put us 1-0 up with a penalty. We’d not started badly in the game, and I remember Mark getting a yellow card for kicking out off the ball. He argued it wasn’t a yellow, and that frustration was still simmering when he got himself a second yellow a few minutes later for elbowing Bruno N’Gotty.

It was a moment that killed us, but Vidukes copped a lot of unfair stick for it as well in the aftermath. In a game we had to win, it didn’t help having our best striker sent off, and it does affect you as a team hugely. But…Vidukes’ goals had kept us in the Premier League 12 months earlier and without him we’d have been relegated long before that horror show at Bolton.

Whether it was a deliberate elbow or not I don’t know. I know he was frustrated and when he was frustrated he was prone to reacting, but I’m not sure there was any real intent in him when he went for the header with N’Gotty.

We saw the game out until half-time and Eddie Gray told us to dig in and keep doing what we were doing. We knew Bolton would come at us, we knew we would be under pressure, and we would have to take our chance on the break. But we were leading 1-0 and it was shit or bust time so we one way or another we had to hang on.

Sadly, less than 10 minutes later we were relegated. Bolton scored three times at the start of the second half and we were done for. The rest of the game was something of a blur, until the moment I welled up and started to cry. I always remember the fourth official holding up the board to say there was one minute to be added on and as one the Leeds fans responded by chanting “Down in a minute, we’re going down in a minute.” That was the moment I was choked. It was the saddest day of my career.

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