The importance of keeping the heid
"Me think thou dost protest too much" (to slightly misquote from Hamlet) was my first reaction to Hearts skipper Michael Stewart's response to his two yellow cards and subsequent sending off at Tannadice on Monday night.
The Hearts midfelder's second yellow was for a blatant foul from behind on Scott Robertson, leaving the referee no option but to dismiss him.
The Tynecastle skipper was quoted as saying: "There was no malice and I think there were far worse tackles on the pitch that went unpunished. All I was trying to do was get the team going by putting in a tackle or two. I thought we were a bit flat."
The only thing left flat in the event was the Dundee United midfielder, flat on his backside.
The Hearts man should have been disciplined enough to know his challenge would be judged reckless and would let his side and supporters down by reducing them to ten men.
If the skipper can't show discipline in the heat of battle who can? The role of team captain is more than just symbolic, it requires passion yes, but also restraint, along with a cool head and the ability to rise above the general melee.
It requires in other words special qualities. It's often confused with the need to be a hard man, when in fact being an intelligent man is more important.
Stewart is not only a potentially creative player, but is also an articulate and thoughtful one and he let himself and his side down on Monday.
The ability to lead by example, to cajole, to lift and rally the side; all go into the making of a good captain. Physical toughness and mental toughness in sport are inseparable twins, but for maximum effect they must be allied to clear and rational thinking in the thick of the scrap.
Red cards and reduced numbers are an admission of defeat.
Celtic's captain Gary Caldwell is another who has struggled to maintain the discipline required in white hot situations.
Against Arsenal game his needless foul and subsequent verbal nipping at Cesc Fabregas, who refused to be drawn by the defender's antics, cost his side dearly when the resultant free kick fortuitously deflected into the net.
Caldwell's two bookings and sending off for Scotland in the 4-0 defeat in Norway showed a similar lack of discipline through poor judgement and the game arguably turned on his red card for needless shirt pulling.
Along with all the many qualities to make it as a top flight footballer discipline is perhaps the most difficult to master, yet is utterly essential.
From the discipline required on the pitch, to the disciplines of diet, rest, and general pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, many players have fought and lost the unequal struggle.
As the game progresses, the old ways of the hard man, the sneering, curling bottom lip at decisions which don't meet with a player's approval, must go.
Being hard isn't being tough, being disciplined is being tough.