Here we take a look at players who had the most yellow cards in Premier League history.
Premier League is known for its physicality. It’s often that foreign players who have experienced the league, talk about how shocked they were when they first came to the Premier League. Shocked by the amount of physicality and aggressiveness that was aloud in the game. So it is of no surprise that there are a lot of cards given, especially yellow cards. We thought it would be interesting to see who received the most yellow cards in Premier League history and who are the other Premier League players with most yellow cards.
As the EPL demands, Mid to lower-half of the table teams have to play a certain way and that involves being really aggressive. It often falls to midfielders to instigate that aggression, which is why so many of Premier League Players with highest number of yellow cards are midfielders. These guys have a reputation of being tough opponents. But let’s see who has the most yellow cards in EPL history:
Although it may seem that EPL players with most yellow cards were all about aggression, it’s so often not the case as there are some world class players among the list, so let’s see who:
It’s not often that you find a player that has captained 3 different teams in the same league but Kevin Nolan is that player. He has captained Bolton, Newcastle United and West Ham United in various stages of his career. it says a lot about his character and his leadership skills that so many clubs and managers have trusted him with that role. And as a midfielder, he earned that role by being one of the toughest guys in Premier League history as his place among EPL players with most yellow cards suggests the same.
Nolan came through Bolton’s youth system and went on to be an integral part of Bolton Wanderers’ greatest era in English top flight under the management of Sam Allardyce. Bolton prospered and finished in the top half of the table for several season, even securing UEFA Cup qualifications for the first time in club’s history.
He then went to Newcastle, in an effort to save the club from relegation but Newcastle ended up being relegated, however Nolan stayed and performed excellently in the Championship and led his team back up to the Premier League and was subsequently made captain. He then would go to West Ham linking up with Sam Allardyce again, where he again helped significantly as the club earned promotion to the EPL. Earning another captaincy and showing why he was the leader everyone trusted.
Nolan was very much a classic English midfielder, a no-nonsense player who put it all out on the pitch and fought for every ball and that meant picking up yellow cards if it meant that his team would not concede. He ended up receiving 86 yellow cards, which means a card every 365 minute making him the 10th player with most Premier League yellow cards, but he will always be remembered for his leadership on the pitch rather than his pure aggression.
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Although Boateng was Dutch, he spent most of his career in the Premier League playing for mid-table teams that have a reputation of playing aggressively in England. The defensive midfielder made a name for himself in Feyenoord and subsequently joined Coventry City. After a successful first full season at Coventry he ended up going to Aston Villa where he once again fell into his role of a hard-tackling defensive midfielder quite easily, once again impressing, and this time it was the big clubs that came after him but his move to Liverpool fell through and he ended up joining Middlesborough in the end.
Everything seemed to click for him in Middlesborough as he became a shield in front of their defense, picking up yellow cards whenever it was required and performed the role of breaking oppositions attack quite easily. He was a key factor in Middlesborough’s relative success in those years as they went on to win the League Cup in 2003-04 and become runner-ups to the UEFA Cup in 2005-06. He would later go on to play for Hull City too on their return to EPL in 2008.
Boateng’s game was all about hard tackles and breaking up the opposition’s game and rhythm of movement. This earned him numerous cards, namely 86 yellow cards in his 384 EPL appearances making him one of the players with most yellow cards in Premier League history.
Lee Cattermole is quite easily the most aggressive player among Premier League players with most yellow cards. He is by far received the most amount of yellow cards in the minutes that he played, with an average of a yellow card every 217 minutes. The next player after him has almost 100 minutes more in his average per card minutes!
Cattermole was a product of Middlesborough academy and he was playing football as recently as last season although he has retired since, at the age of 32. Early on his career he showed great potential, with him winning the Man of the Match award in his first senior appearance in a 2-2 draw against their local rivals Newcastle United, but that potential didn’t exactly pan out as he never excelled beyond the place he started in. After a few seasons with ‘Borough, he went to Wigan and then to Sunderland where most of his career was spent.
Picking up yellow cards was a part of Cattermole’s style of play. He was notoriously aggressive in his tackles, which even earned him several straight red cards. But at Sunderland he became a staple of their tough-as-nails image, as he would seldom let players pass him unharmed. He ended up picking 91 yellow cards in his 271 appearances, having most yellow cards in Premier League history in regards to minutes that he played, which means a card every 217 minutes!
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Despite being one of the players in the famous “Class of 92” youth team of Manchester United, Savage never achieved the footballing heights that his fellow teammates, Like Beckham and Giggs, did. But he did have a fairly successful career in the Premier League, playing for several middle and lower half table teams.
Savage was a midfielder and he played for Leicester, Birmangham, Blackburn and Derby County all in the EPL, although he did experience lower league football at the start and end of his career. Savage thrived on getting on people’s nerves. He loved to tackle, to feint and dive and do everything he could to unsettle the opponents. Many fans from several teams he played against simply hated him, and he would always get booed when he played in those stadiums.
For all his antics on the pitch, Savage would repeatedly receive yellow cards which is why for the longest time he had the highest number of yellow cards in Premier League history, but as we can see he has been overtaken since. He received 89 yellow cards in 346 EPL appearances and he is 7th among the most yellow cards in Premier League history received.
Current Fulham manager, Scott Parker is far from the most aggressive looking player among Premier League players with highest number of yellow cards but the stats tell a different story. Being a product of Charlton Athletic youth system, he went on to play for the first team for years and was one of the best prospects in England for a time, which earned him a move to Chelsea at the age of 24. Things didn’t work out for him at Chelsea and he ended up leaving a year later to Newcastle United.
He jump-started his career in Newcastle and he was even called up to England national team again. He very much continues the trend of tough English midfielders on this list but Parker’s game had a bit more elegance than the rest. Despite being a defensive midfielder he joined the creative play too, from time to time, but as he usually played for small teams in his career it meant that his defensive work took the front seat.
His defensive work contained a lot of knocks and tackles that led to him picking up 92 yellow cards over 368 matches, which means a card every 317 minutes which is surprisingly high for someone of his demeanor but as stats often reveal, the looks are deceiving. Still Parker’s game was so much more than the cards he received. At his best he was a capable defensive midfielder who even won the England Player of the Year award in 2011, and that is what he will mostly be remembered for.
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There is just no need to introduce Manchester United legend, Paul Scholes, as practically every football fan knows of him. His appearance on this list isn’t surprising at all, because of the longevity of his career and the role that he played in Manchester United’s midfield. Although he was never known for being overly aggressive but he didn’t shy away from tackling players if it would’ve benefited his team.
Sir Alex’ teams were known to be a bit vicious at times, which may have stemmed from the fact that they were very competitive and with competitiveness comes a natural aggression and the desire to dominate. Scholes wasn’t an exception to that. In fact, despite being famous for his elegance on the ball, he had the characteristics of an English midfielder by being a hard-working, hard-tackling and at times quite aggressive player.
Nonetheless, Scholes picked up 99 yellow cards in 499 EPL appearances, which means he got a yellow card every 356 minutes or a card every 4 match. These yellow cards would never tarnish Scholes’ career at United but he has certainly some of the highest number of yellow cards in Premier League history.
Considering his position, which was a striker, Davies seems to be entirely on the wrong list. Because instead of being among the top goal scorers, he is among the players with most yellow cards in Premier League history. But that is of no surprise for any early 2000s EPL fan, as most of us remember how every time he played, he managed to pick up yellow cards instead of what was his actual job which was scoring goals.
Davies was somewhat of a nomad as he played for several clubs throughout his career, starting his career in lower leagues with Chesterfield and then moving to several Premier League clubs including Southampton. But it was at Bolton where he found success. He ended up playing for them for 10 years which was most of his professional career.
Despite being a striker, Davies only managed to score more than 10 goals-a-season in EPL, only once. He wasn’t a natural goal scorer and his style of playing didn’t help either as he would often be aggressive to opposition defenders or just be nuisance. He tended to complain a lot to the referee too, which earned him several yellow cards in his career.
The fact that Davies has more yellow cards than the amount of goals he has scored in the Premier League, tells us why he is among Premier League players with most yellow cards but judging from the high amount of playing time he got over the time, it also tells us managers like Sam Allardyce love these kinda tough players who helps their team be hard to beat by constantly breaking oppositions rhythm and annoying and outright hurting them. Kevin Davies ended up receiving 99 yellow cards in his 444 EPL appearances with an average of a card every 346 minutes which puts him high on the list of players with most yellow cards in Premier League history.
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Some people are just volatile individuals, never knowing when to hold back and cool down, and Lee Bowyer was one of those. Although years into his career he learnt to control his aggression and make it a somewhat useful skill, in terrorizing opposition attackers. But more often than not the cards he received was the result of him absolutely going off on other players. At times it almost seemed that football was an excuse for him to let off some anger, but nonetheless he had good qualities as a player as well, which made him an EPL player for a long time.
After impressing in his first full season at Charlton, where he came through the youth system, he got a move to the Premier League. Leeds United was the destination, a club where Bowyer spent most of his career at. Although he was a good player on the pitch, his playing was always overshadowed by his fits of rage and anger on and off the field. Outside the pitch, He was twice involved in incidents that suggested he racially abused or caused bodily harm to people of Asian descent and on both occasions he was fined by the authorities as well as FA and his own club. That tells you all about his character!
On the pitch it was no different as he often expressed his anger on players, sometimes even his own teammates. In a particular accident in his time at Newcastle, he punched his own teammate Kieron Dyer and a brawl ensued which resulted in both players receiving red cards and 3 subsequent bans. Bowyer was further disciplined by his own club and even the police.
If the allegations of his racism were correct then it's a shame someone like him got to play professional sport, let alone be praised for his skills, when clearly he had anger issues that he expressed at the expense of other people's health and safety. All in all, Bowyer received 100 yellow cards in 397 EPL appearances and for several years had most yellow cards in Premier League history until the next two players on this list passed him.
Wayne Rooney was a troubled player when he was younger, at least on the pitch, as he always seemed to be furious at the referee and other players when the decisions didn’t go his way. In fact, he received many of his cards arguing with the referee or outright insulting him. Even though he became much calmer as his career progressed Rooney never lost his edge of playing just a bit dirty to get what he wanted.
It’s ironic that Rooney is 2nd in having the most yellow cards in Premier League history and also 2nd in most goals scored in the Premier League ever, as these are the two things he was always known for. His aggressive style of playing and his incredible ability to score goals. Both of which have helped him immensely in his career and were his trademarks, especially when he was younger.
If it wasn’t for the masterful coaching of Sir Alex Ferguson, Rooney might’ve gone a totally different route, despite being one of the best English talents ever. His misplaced anger and aggression may have put him on the wrong path but fortunately for him and United fans, Sir Alex turned him into a gem by managing his anger. Nonetheless, there is only so much Sir Alex could do, as Rooney picked 102 yellow cards in his 491 EPL appearances, averaging a card every 376 minutes. With that many yellow cards, Rooney is one of only two strikers among EPL players with most yellow cards.
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Gareth Barry is the longest serving Premier League player ever and with the way that football is going, with players having much shorter careers in the top of European football, it's doubtful that anyone would surpass his record. Barry was a solid defensive midfielder who knew Premier League very well, a journeyman if you will, and as a defensive midfielder one may be picking up yellow cards, so if one plays for a really long time like Barry did, you end up picking up a lot of cards.
Gary played 653 matches between 1998 and 2018, although he retired from football only recently, his last two seasons were not in the Premier League but rather in the Championship. He is a product of Aston Villa youth academy and he served faithfully for them for 11 years, making his debut for Villa at age 17 against Sheffield Wednesday in 1998. More than half his Premier League appearances were for Aston Villa, where he became a staple of their midfield by being that solid defensive midfielder that every mid-table team in England has.
Although his move to Liverpool fell through in 2008, he finally got his move to a big club a year later to Manchester City, although City only had aspirations of being a big club by then. Nonetheless he ended up winning the league with them in 2011-12 season. He would join Everton 2 years later and became the captain of the club.
Despite his general nice demeanor, Barry wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty, tackling opponents whenever it was required in the expense of getting a yellow or even a red card. The emphasis was on the 'when required' part though, as Barry has by far more minutes than anyone on this list per yellow card, almost more than 50 minutes. That means that Gareth Barry has picked up 125 Yellow cards in 653 matches, which means a card every 423 minutes. He is the Premier League player with highest number of yellow cards.
Despite his poor disciplinary record, Barry was never an overtly aggressive player and he enjoyed the longest ever career in Premier League which boasts of his qualities as a player. He also managed to have a fairly long career representing his country, England, with more than 50 caps to his name. He will surely be remembered for his longevity in Premier League but he also had the most yellow cards in Premier League history!