Adlene Guedioura: I don't deserve reputation with refs – I'm not Joey Barton!
SPEND any time in the company of Adlene Guedioura and it is hard to believe the softly spoken, perpetually smiling Algerian can claim to have the worst disciplinary record in the Championship.
On paper, the statistics tell you that the Nottingham Forest midfielder has collected five yellow cards and two red cards already this season.
In person, the former Wolves player comes across as the kind of character who would stop to help old ladies cross roads.
But then, nor is it exactly in character for the club as a whole to possess a disciplinary record that, in comparison, only Watford, in the Championship, possess worse.
Forest are not a dirty side. They could hardly be described as physically intimidating, with a team that, quite often, must be one of the shortest in the league.
But still, along with Guedioura's two suspensions, following his red cards at Palace and at home to Cardiff, Dexter Blackstock also sat out three matches for a questionable red card against Derby and Greg Halford and Simon Cox were both banned for a single game after picking up five yellow cards.
There is perhaps little surprise then that, within the Forest camp, there remains a slight sense of injustice.
Blackstock's dismissal, for an elbow that could hardly be described as intentional – earned him a three-match ban, which was a punishment far in excess of any crime.
While Guedioura's second sending off, against Cardiff, was also incredibly harsh, given that his first yellow card had been shown when he had been booked for simulation, after clearly being fouled.
As it was his second dismissal of the campaign, it also earned him three matches on the sidelines.
On Saturday, Forest benefited from some generous refereeing for perhaps the first time this season, as Anthony Taylor awarded a questionable penalty that helped them secure a point at Leicester.
Guedioura admits the influence of officials is becoming a growing issue for the Reds, who do a little research before every game on who the man in the middle will be.
"We do look at who is going to be refereeing the games, because you need to be prepared," he said. "It is important.
"It is just part of the preparation. It is not the only thing we look at, because our main focus is on how we are going to play and how we are going to score and win the game.
"But you do look at the referee, at who it is and how he might referee the game, because it can be an influence.
"Yellow and red cards are a fact of football. Sometimes the decision from the referee can be exaggerated.
"We just have to play our football, because we are not a dirty side. We have perhaps been a little unlucky. It is hard to say where all our cards have come from.
"But the referees have punished us harshly sometimes. As a player, you would prefer it if a referee talked to you, if he said 'you cannot do that' and gave you a warning, rather than just getting the cards out.
"The first red card I deserved, but the second one I did not. But that is football. You just have to try to improve; to correct what you have done wrong in the past."
Guedioura fears he is gaining an unwelcome reputation with officials, because of his record so far this season. But he says he will not change his hard-working attitude to the game.
"Sometimes you can try to do too much, as demonstrated by the red cards perhaps. But I am not going to change the way I play. I have to learn from this, but I have to keep my intensity as well," he said.
"I have to adapt, perhaps, but not change too much. It is bad to have a reputation with the referees, because I do not deserve it . . . I am not Joey Barton!"
For Guedioura, the suspensions were particularly frustrating, as he felt he was just regaining match fitness, after joining pre-season late because of Algeria commitments.
But, while he admits he may have had a slow start, he believes both he and Forest can come strong as the season develops.
"I was a little bit slow to get my full fitness. Now I am OK, I am feeling better all the time. I feel 100 per cent and I hope I will get better with my performances," he said.
"And, as a team, we are playing well and improving all the time. I am not panicking about the situation, because it is too early.
"We have a long way to go this season, there is a lot of football to be played. We will only get better."
And, by the end of the campaign, hopefully it will be the quality of football and not of the refereeing that has decided the outcome of what Forest hope will be a promotion push.