Gaetano Berardi has apologised for his third red card of the season and admitted he cannot curb “the fire inside me” after his campaign was ended by a five-match ban.
The Leeds United full-back is suspended for the rest of the Championship term following the two-footed foul on Callum McManaman which led to his dismissal in a 1-1 draw with Sunderland earlier this month.
Berardi’s 90th-minute sending-off followed on from prior red card in games against Cardiff City and Bristol City, leaving the total number of games missed by him through suspensions this season at 10.
His transgressions have epitomised Leeds’ poor disciplinary record which shows eight red cards across their first-team squad, the highest tally amongst clubs in the Championship.
Berardi, who is nearing the end of his fourth season at Elland Road, has been sent off six times since signing for Leeds from Sampdoria in 2014, the cost of an aggressive streak which earned him popularity amongst the club’s support.
The 29-year-old Swiss said his combative nature was an inherent part of his game, insisting he would “go home and find a job” if he eradicated it.
But Berardi held his hands up to a “big mistake” against Sunderland, a match in which head coach Paul Heckingbottom had named him as captain.
“I reflected a lot after the game,” Berardi told LUTV. “I recognised that I did a big mistake, again. It’s not good enough for a senior professional player.
“If I’m here now it’s because I want to say something. I want to say that I’m sorry about it and apologise for my mistake. If I’m here it’s because I respect my teammates, I respect the staff, the club and the fans. I have to come here and say something.”
Asked if he had let the club down, Berardi said: “Yes, of course. Every time. I’ve had a few red cards so every time I recognise it. I don’t like it, it’s not good, but when I’m on the pitch I don’t think about it. I just think about the game.
“I want to win the ball, I want to win the games, I want to give everything and give my best. If I want to give 100 per cent then this can happen.
“It’s not an excuse but it’s part of the game. It’s a big mistake. I will stop making mistakes when I die I think. There’s a big fire in me and without it I can’t play football. If I remove this fire I just go home and find a job. That’s all I can say.
“When I had red cards a few season ago I paid the fines, I paid everything. I spoke with all the managers every time. ‘You can’t do this, you can’t make this mistake’. But when I go on the pitch I just think about the ball and winning the games. It’s my fire, my way to play football. I know that maybe it’s not good but what can I say?”
Berardi’s current ban ends after the last game of the season, at home to Queens Park Rangers on May 6, and it is not yet clear if his disciplinary issues will count against him when Leeds begin tearing up an underperforming squad this summer. United handed Berardi a new three-year deal last August