Jack Colback has denied Newcastle United are a ‘dirty team’ despite picking up their second red card in just four Premier League games.
Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 16th minute red in the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal was the club’s 15th in the top flight since 2013-14 –the highest in the league.
But apart from the sending off, I didn’t see too many malicious tackles.
But Colback insists Steve McClaren’s side are physical – not dirty – and he believes Mitrovic has quickly become a marked man among referees.
The Serbian striker was given his marching orders for a foul on Francis Coquelin during a fiery first half at St James’s Park, with referee Andre Marriner at the centre of the controversy.
Colback didn’t think the challenge was worthy of a straight red, with the forward now set to miss three games after the two-week international break.
“It looked a harsh one in real time,” said Colback.
“I’m sure if you slow it down, it’s going to look bad, they always do.
“But in real time, I think it’s one of them where he’s gone for the ball and maybe his reputation has come first and he’s sent him off.”
Pressed on whether he considered Mitrovic a “marked man,” Colback added: “Yeah, certain players get that reputation and sometimes that comes before the decision.
“It would have been interesting to see if it had been one of their players if the same would have come.
“That’s football, he’s got a tough job the referee, and we’ve just got to try and focus on the next game after the international break,” added Colback, who had his work cut out in central midfield alongside Vurnon Anita.
As well as the red, Newcastle also picked up six yellow cards, which means a fine from the FA will follow.
Colback though insists McClaren’s side is not a dirty one.
He added: “Physical?
“I’d say yes, you’ve got to be physical in this league.
“If you don’t get among teams like Arsenal in this league, they will pass it round one and make it a difficult afternoon.
“You’ve got to get amongst them.
“But apart from the sending off, I didn’t see too many malicious tackles.
“They did the same and you’ve got to disrupt teams like that.”
Going down to 10 men so early in the game meant McClaren’s game plan was quickly out the window, with Florian Thauvin on his full league debut pushed up front.
Newcastle - winless in four league matches - suffered a similar fate against Swansea City when Daryl Janmaat was sent off in the first half at the Liberty Stadium.
And Colback said the Magpies couldn’t have chosen two worse teams to go a man down against, with both playing a high-intense possession game.
“(The sending off) killed the game really,” added Colback.
“It was similar to when we played Swansea.
“Probably the two worst teams you could go down to 10 men against.
“It killed it as a spectacle. We couldn’t really get near them.
“Our attacks were limited and it was pretty much attack v defence in their favour.
“You have to react to it as best you can as a team and we tried to do that.
“With the 10 men, they have most of the ball in our half and as soon as we won it back, they were on top of you.
“That made it incredibly difficult.
“It’s hard enough against them with 11 men and the sending off made it even harder.
“We tried to defend and it was working up until they got the goal.
“Then it made it very tough to get back into the game.
“It’s just one of those things.
“We’ve got to dust ourselves down now, get the break out of the way and then try and get our first win.”