English football clubs are often criticized for playing dirty” football, being dangerous and not in the spirit of the match.

Controversy was definitely created last weekend when Ashley Cole tackled Javier Hernandez, but what do the numbers suggest on which parties are the worst behaving?

I’ve taken into account a lot of fouls and even the fair play and disciplinary table (figures from the Premier League website) and the general feeling that you get from watching any team play. The Football League website offers statistics for teams formerly active in the Championship.

5. Norwich City

The Norwich Premier League has a bad, but not catastrophic record, after back-to-back promotions.

They were placed on their 495 fouls in the midtable and were placed in the lower half this season with their six yellows and two reds. Norwich regularly depends on force to deal with other sides, a strategy that is likely to lead to low fair-play rankings.

4. Stoke City

Stoke City is commonly regarded as one of the dirtiest sides in the league. They may have finished at the bottom of last season’s fair play table, but they remain among the best behaved sides in the league in terms of fouls, yellows and reds.

Although the occasional really bad challenge (Ryan Shawcross on Ramsey) arises, they often play a strong, difficult, yet decent, extremely successful defensive game.

This does not substitute for the fairly routine crimes they perform, or their poor handling of opposition actors and arbitrators, but it does suggest that they are not as bad as anyone would say.

3. Newcastle United

With an impressive 75, Newcastle secured more yellow cards than any other team last season, but had only two players sent off. The Tyneside club, courtesy of a lack of regard for rivals and referees, wound up at the bottom of the fair play table.

Although weak discipline is not to be commended, in their first season back in the Premiership, a combative style helped Newcastle to achieve a decent 12th place finish.

2. Blackburn Rovers

Blackburn has long been seen as a dirty hand, and that evaluation is balanced by their disciplinary record. In the fair play league they finished 15th, and four reds and 64 yellows meant that in the punitive league they fared no better.

Tough, scrappy play will scare opponents and deliver results, as it did last weekend against Arsenal. If that comes at the expense of the place of a bad fair play league, so be it.

  1. Bolton Wanderers

For several years, Bolton have established the prestige of mentally psychic opponents well before the first ball.

The undisputed King of Fouling is Kevin Davies. He committed 115 offences last season, 40 more than the second worst offender. Davies has committed the most fouls of any player in the league in all but two seasons since 2003-04. He came in second in the other 2 years.

It takes more than one player’s acts, apparently, to make Bolton the dirtiest team in the league. Fortunately, he is ably assisted by his colleagues, who last season allowed the club to commit a total of 513 offences. They have tallied up 68 yellows and five reds to rate high among the league’s worst behaving sides.

They would probably have been one of the less well-behaved sides, even without Davies’ 10 Yellows.