English soccer’s longest bans: Suarez, Cantona beat Mitrovic
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English soccer’s longest bans: Suarez, Cantona beat Mitrovic

Aleksandar Mitrovic faced the consequences of his baffling actions this week after the Fulham striker was handed a hefty eight-game ban for pushing the referee during his side's recent FA Cup defeat against Manchester United.

The Serbia international was sent off for aggressively shoving Chris Kavanagh, who had just shown a red card to Willian, amid a mass meltdown in which head coach Marco Silva was also ejected from the dugout. The Cottagers had been 1-0 up at Old Trafford and were just 15 minutes from reaching the semifinals before their dramatic capitulation.

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It began with Kavanagh incorrectly signalling for a corner after Willian had used an arm to deflect Jadon Sancho's goal-bound shot on the line and thus deny United an equaliser. Following a VAR review, a penalty was awarded to United, sparking outrage among the visitors. Willian and an irate Silva were given their marching orders before Mitrovic was then shown an entirely needless third red card for storming over and physically manhandling Kavanagh.

With their opponents suddenly two Players and a manager light, Bruno Fernandes converted from the penalty spot before a resurgent United scored another two goals in the latter stages to seal a bizarre 3-1 comeback victory.

Mitrovic initially received a standard three-match ban for his red, but that has since been extended by three further games for violent conduct towards a match official, plus another two games for using foul and abusive language while doing so.

The 28-year-old forward has already served the first match of his suspension after sitting out of Saturday's 2-1 defeat against Bournemouth and will now not be eligible for selection again until the home game against Leicester City on May 8.

Eight games is certainly among the longest bans ever handed out by the English football Association, but how does Mitrovic's enforced lay-off compare to the longest suspension ever handed down in the history of English football? (Spoiler: it's not even close, not by a long way.)

Liverpool striker Suarez was given a 10-match ban for the unusual crime of biting Chelsea right-back Branislav Ivanovic during a Premier League tie in April 2013. The decision saw the infamously peckish Uruguay international ruled out of the Reds' final four games of the 2012-13 season as well as the first six of the next campaign.

It was not the first time that Suarez had been banned for biting an opponent, nor would it be the last; he was banned by FIFA from all footballing activities for four months after sinking his teeth into Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during a match at the 2014 World Cup, and received a nine-match ban from international football to boot.

9. Paolo Di Canio (11 games)

The combustible Di Canio was sent off while playing for Sheffield Wednesday for pushing referee Paul Alcock during a game against Arsenal in September 1998. Reacting to a red card being flashed in his face, the Italian shoved Alcock and sent the official tumbling to the floor.

8. Calvin Andrew (12 games)

Rochdale striker Calvin Andrew was given a 12-game ban for violently elbowing Oldham Athletic's Peter Clarke during a League One derby game in October 2016. The incident actually went unpunished during the match but a retrospective FA video review eventually led to the forward being hit with a heavy punishment.

7. Vinnie Jones (6 months)

For all the bone-crunching tackles and off-the-ball incidents Jones found himself a part of during his roughneck career, the Wimbledon enforcer's longest-ever ban came in 1992 as a result of his enthusiastic narration of a VHS tape (ask your parents, kids) -- imaginatively titled "Soccer's Hard Men" -- that the FA deemed to glorify football violence and foul play.

6. Adrian Mutu (7 months)

Struggling for form at Chelsea having only been at the club for a year, Mutu's plight deepened in November 2004 when the Romania international striker received a seven-month suspension after testing positive for cocaine. After having his contract terminated by Chelsea, Mutu did eventually return to football and even signed for Juventus before his ban had elapsed. However, he never rediscovered his best form as a once-promising career quickly dwindled. The 44-year-old now manages Rapid Bucaresti.

5. Rio Ferdinand (8 months)

Shortly after signing for Manchester United and becoming the most world's expensive defender in the process, Ferdinand received a massive eight-month ban from the FA in December 2003 after missing a drugs test the previous September. The suspension came into effect in January 2004, meaning the centre-back missed the entire second half of United's season as well as England's involvement at the European Championship that summer.

3=. Eric Cantona (9 months)

One of the most notorious bans of the Premier League era came Cantona's way in 1995 after the Manchester United forward was sent off during a game against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park for lashing out at defender Richard Shaw. As the sullen Frenchman made his way up the touchline he was goaded from the stands and duly leapt over the advertising boards to meet one particular fan studs first. The "kung fu kick" has since gone down in infamy, as did the enigmatically abrupt news conference that followed in which he said to the assembled media: "When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."

3=. Mark Bosnich (9 months)

The second Chelsea player on the list to find themselves handed a significant ban after testing positive for cocaine, Bosnich failed a drug test in September 2002 and was suspended from all footballing activities worldwide for nine months in April 2003 at the age of 31 -- effectively ending his Premier League career.

2. Joey Barton (18 months)

Barton has a catalogue of misdemeanours to choose from -- including a 12-game ban for violent conduct he received in 2012 after his red card for QPR at Manchester City on the day Sergio Aguero's late goal dramatically sealed the Premier League title. But Barton's heaviest career sanction actually came in April 2017 when he was banned by the FA for 18 months for illegally placing over 1,200 bets on football matches over a 10-year period, including some he had played in. Aged 34 at the time, the suspension effectively forced the then-Burnley midfielder into early retirement; he was released by the club before his ban was reduced to five months on appeal, and never played professionally again.

1. Enoch West (30 years)

Not a name you will be instantly familiar with, but West does hold the dubious distinction of being the recipient of English football's longest-ever ban, and by quite some distance.

West was a forward at Manchester United in 1915 when he was banned from football for three decades, therefore effectively approximating a lifetime ban, along with three of his United teammates and four Liverpool Players for their respective parts in a match-fixing scandal.

Despite protesting his innocence, a reprieve was only offered to West in that the lifetime ban be lifted should he agree to enlist in the British army for World War 1. The centre-forward refused and his suspension ran the full term, finally elapsing in 1945.

Given that he aged 59 by that point. it's perhaps unsurprising that West didn't return to top-level football thereafter.

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