Harry Arter cocks his head to one side and asks for the question to be repeated.
“Are you a dirty player?” It’s a query borne not so much of the appalling, one-off tackle on Stoke City’s Joe Allen last month, for which he apologised, so much as a disciplinary record that lists a total of 12 yellow cards and one red beside his name in this past season alone.
That’s roughly a card every three games played and a ratio perfectly in step with a career which has seen him disciplined 81 times across 251 games with Charlton Athletic, Woking, Carlisle United, Bournemouth and Ireland.
“I just feel the way I play is quite high energy,” he explained before Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against Austria this Sunday. “Sometimes I mistime tackles but it is not through being dirty, just through a willingness to try and win the ball back.
“Against Uruguay (last Sunday), I was trying my hardest to win it back and pressing quite hard. I have only been sent off once last year and, in my career, I have only ever been sent off twice. So I don’t think I should be labelled dirty.”
He has, in fact, been dismissed three times but the kernel of his defence is hardly diluted for that and he adds that he didn’t miss a single game through suspension in 2016/17 even though Watford’s Jose Holebas was the only man carded more times in the top tier.
That suggests a player of intelligence, one with enough awareness as to when to push the envelope physically and when to ease off, and he tilts the debate again by claiming that no player won the ball back high up the pitch more in the last Premier League season.
“The manager at Bournemouth won’t want to take that out of the game because something like that, winning the ball high up the pitch, is something I wouldn’t be able to do as much. Of course there is a balance. I never try to get booked.”
His Irish career was just two minutes old when he clattered into Holland’s Kevin Strootman in May of 2016. The first caution arrived 38 minutes later for a wild lunge on Memphis Depay but he hasn’t added another in his three appearances since.
Arter impressed against Austria and again against the Uruguayans last weekend and, though he is a live contender for a start in four days’ time, Martin O’Neill is clear in stating that the 27-year has a fine line to walk.
“He went and closed players down and he led by example against Uruguay,” said the Irish boss. “That, I love. It’s really good but sometimes he has to be careful. If you have gone to ground you make sure you get that ball, particularly in the penalty area.
“I don’t want people giving away daft free-kicks and Harry, at club level, he has to admit that he has given away a couple of daft free-kicks at times. But to curb that enthusiasm and part of his game, I think that’s a fine balancing act
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