Ranking England’s 20 red cards: From Mullery’s boot in the balls to Cherry losing teeth via Beckham, Rooney

Ian Watson
David Beckham and Wayne Rooney are sent off while playing for England.

Being sent off while losing your two front teeth is surely the worst way to go on Three Lions duty. But we’re fully behind the recipient of England’s first-ever red card.

Here, completely subjectively, is how we’ve ranked the 20 red cards England have received, with Luke Shaw the latest to be given his marching orders…


20) Trevor Cherry
June 1977 – Argentina 1-1 Argentina
The former Leeds defender was the first England player to be dismissed in a friendly that was anything but. Cherry had been booked at La Bombonera when he went through Daniel Bertoni from behind. The Argentine sought immediate retribution, punching Cherry and knocking out his two front teeth. Both were dismissed, but even the Argentinian FA pinned the blame on Bertoni, absolving Cherry and banning their defender for four games. Fair do’s. But the loss of his gnashers makes this the most miserable of England dismissals.


19) John Stones
June 2022 – England 0-4 Hungary
Arguably the softest of all England’s red cards, with Stones booked first for an innocuous clash before the second caution for having the temerity to be run into by a Hungary player. England were already 3-0 down at Molineux, going on to lose 4-0 in their worst home defeat since 1928, so Gareth Southgate copped the flak, not Stones.


18) Reece James
October 2020 – England 0-1 Denmark
Sent off on his third cap after the final whistle for arguing with the referee. A brain dead move but Southgate didn’t hold it against the Chelsea defender: “He has had an incredible week. The quality of play down the right, he had a fantastic game. It’s something that shouldn’t have happened, but in the overall week he has had made a positive impression.”


17) Steven Gerrard
September 2012 – England 1-1 Ukraine
Gerrard joined Beckham in being the only England captains to receive their marching orders after two soft bookings, the second coming with moments to go. “I don’t think there was a bad tackle in the game, was there? And I think the referee’s given seven yellow cards,” Gerrard said.


16) Rob Green
October 2009 – Ukraine 1-0 England
Green remains the only England goalkeeper to be sent off after paying for Rio Ferndinand’s mistake. The centre-back let a 13th-minute long ball bounce, allowing Artem Milevskiy to go through on goal. Green came from his line, brought down the forward, conceded a penalty and made his way back to the dressing room. Andriy Shevchenko missed the spot-kick but England still fell to defeat.


15) Kyle Walker
September 2020 – Iceland 0-1 England
Two more needless cautions – the first for a push; the second for a lunging tackle – left Southgate down to 10 for the first time, but Walker offered no excuses: “I have to take the full blame. To make a rash challenge like that is not acceptable. I don’t blame the pressure, I am a seasoned professional and I should know how to manage a game.”


14) David Beckham
October 2005 – England 1-0 Austria
Beckham became the first player to be sent off for England twice with two bookings inside an hour at Old Trafford. Firstly for leading with the left arm as he jumped for a header, before a trip as an Austrian darted towards the box. “The first one was harsh,” said Beckham. “But the second one was even harsher. Everyone who has seen it has said the same. I couldn’t understand it. I don’t think it was a sending off at all.” You wouldn’t, Becks.


13) Paul Ince
September 1998 – Sweden 2-1 England
Ince followed Beckham by becoming the second England player to be dismissed in consecutive fixtures, with the midfielder sent on his way  after collecting cautions in both halves from Pierluigi Collina in Stockholm, the second with a quarter of the game left for a foul on Henrik Larsson.


12) Harry Maguire
October 2020 – England 0-1 Denmark
Maguire was already having a bad time before he saw yellow twice – first for a late tackle, the second for an even later one – to receive his marching orders shortly before Christian Eriksen condemned England to defeat. Southgate hoped that would be rock bottom for Maguire amid a torrid period for the Man Utd captain. Draw your own conclusions.


11) Luke Shaw 
March 2023 – Italy 1-2 England
Two daft yellow cards in 54 seconds, the first especially so when he was punished for time-wasting on a throw-in, shortly after Walker had been booked for the same thing. Then, inside a minute, he chopped down Mateo Retegui from behind with England all over the place as Italy sought a leveller.


10) Alan Smith
October 2002 – England 2-2 Macedonia
Smith was sent off in added time on his first competitive start after collecting a second booking for a tackle when the ball was already out of play at St Mary’s. Had David Seaman’s latest f*** up and England’s all round wretchedness to thank for taking the heat off him.


9) Raheem Sterling
June 2014 – Ecuador 2-2 England
Sterling became the youngest player to be sent off and the only substitute to be dismissed for a daft tackle that so riled the usually unflappable Antonio Valencia that he too was sent off for seeking retribution.


8) Wayne Rooney
October 2011 – Montenegro 2-2 England
Rooney’s second red card for England came as a result of a petulant kick, wrapping Miodrag Dzudovic’s ankles, after a hopeless first touch with 15 minutes still to go in Podgorica.


7) David Batty
September 1999 – Poland 0-0 England
The Leeds midfielder was sent off late on in a goalless stalemate for one of the most David Batty tackles you could wish to see. Lovely.


6) Ray Wilkins
June 1986 – England 0-0 Morocco
Wilkins ‘let his team-mates down,’ according to Martin Tyler, by reacting to a ropey offside decision, throwing the ball away in the direction of the referee. It bounced off the shins of the official, who could hardly wait to send Ray on his way.


5) Wayne Rooney
July 2006 – England 0-0 Portugal (Portugal won on pens)
Cristiano Ronaldo copped more flak than his Man Utd team-mate after Rooney had stud his studs into Ricardo Carvalho’s swingers. Not that Alan Shearer, Ian Wright or Alan Hansen could see it…


4) Paul Scholes
June 1999 – England 0-0 Sweden
Scholes was the first England player to be sent off on home soil when he collected two bookings in a goalless stalemate. His first, inside the opening minute, was probably worth two red cards.

Read more: Throwback: Scholes becomes the first England player sent off at Wembley


3) Alan Ball
June 1973 – Poland 2-0 England
Ball was a World Cup winner in 1966 but, seven years later, England failed to qualify for the 1974 tournament with two games against Poland their downfall. He was dismissed in the first of those with provocation again a partial defence. Ball was sticking up for Martin Peters, who was kicked by Leslaw Cmikiewicz. The Pole felt Ball’s grip around his throat and as he was lifted from the floor, the red card was out.


2) David Beckham
June 1998 – England 2-2 Argentina
England’s first red card in a dozen years prompted the biggest consequences of all 20, with Beckham blamed for the World Cup last-16 defeat and targeted for abuse everywhere he dared to go. Effigies hung of the Manchester United star, all for a pathetic flick of the boot  – you can hardly call it a kick – that was hefty enough for Diego Simeone to milk, but certainly not so as to leave a mark on the Argentina midfielder.


1) Alan Mullery
June 1968 – Yugoslavia 1-0 England
The first England player to be red carded was dismissed for kicking out in European Championship semi-final defeat, though the Three Lions insist they were heavily provoked by the Yugoslav’s sh*thousing. As Mullery later explained: “Every Yugoslav player that day spent the whole game kicking all of us, but this one guy – Dobrivoje Trivić – he was the worst. He was quite exceptional. We were losing 1-0 with about a minute to go and this coward – and that’s what he was, because he wouldn’t confront people, he’d just kick them from behind – had a go at me. He raked his studs, whatever they were made of, down my calf. Blood started pouring out, and I just turned around and kicked him in the how’s your fathers.”