Sunday, 26 October 2008

Fuck me, another essay-length rant

Respect – noun; a feeling of admiration for someone because of their qualities or achievements.

I was tempted to write a piece about referees after the Sheffield derby, but I decided against it. Referees have a difficult job to do, they already get plenty of criticism and let’s face it, there are plenty of them that would just love the attention. I have however reversed my decision, unlike Mike Dean, after witnessing three of the most atrocious refereeing displays in my eighteen years of watching football.

The FA must be praised for their “Respect The Ref” initiative. I don’t have a lot of time for the FA, but they have the right idea with this one. It is however incredibly difficult to show respect to those who haven’t necessarily earned it, through their “qualities or achievements” (Oxford English Dictionary) which is a fairly gaping hole in the entire campaign. Imagine if you went in to work one day and dropped a series of clangers which not only messed up the office for the day, but the aftermath of which set the office back significantly for the next couple of weeks; would you then have the nerve to demand the respect of your colleagues? I think it’s fair to assume that you wouldn’t and you’d have to be quite arrogant to assume that they would continue to view you in the same light as before the incidents and that there would be no punishment forthcoming. So why is it the case then, that referees are allowed to demand such respect, despite horrible inconsistencies, week in, week out and are seemingly allowed to continue to underperform with no recognisable consequences?

Early in today’s match at Bramall Lane, one of the Preston players went into a challenge with high feet. I’m not actually sure who the offending player was, but it’s not relevant. The Kop were ironically chanting “off, off, off”, presumably in reference to the Matthew Kilgallon red card last Sunday. Noone seriously expected the player to walk, but it wasn’t unreasonable to expect a card to be produced for a reckless, high challenge. So why then did the offence go unpunished, save for a free kick? Matthew Kilgallon went in with eyes on the ball last week and though reckless, was never intent on causing injury, yet Dean instantly flashed the red card, without even considering the opinions of his assistants. Today, a similar, arguably worse offence takes place and the player isn’t even booked. I could tolerate the odd poor, game changing decision if the rules were applied consistently, but they just aren’t and that makes it very difficult to find respect for the referees and their employers.

The appeal against Kilgallon’s red card failed. What exactly does a club from outside of the Premier League need to do to win an appeal? Even the opposition manager, the boss of United’s most hated rivals, said: “I have sympathy for Kevin because, from where we were, which was very close, it looked a yellow card”. Nobody I have spoken to on the matter believes it was a sending off offence. If it’s good enough for a John terry rugby tackle, it ought to be good enough for a clumsy Kilgallon challenge.

Paddy Kenny was booked for time wasting today, as he waited for Danny Webber (playing on the right hand side, the opposite side from the dugout) to leave the pitch and Greg Halford to enter the field of play. This substitution took up no more than a regulation amount of time, yet Kenny was accused of deliberately stalling the game and was given a yellow card. Perhaps Mr Whitestone would have preferred us to restart the game with our right winger out of position, thus leaving ourselves severely weakened? Presumably then this alleged stalling was a far nastier offence than the aforementioned high feet, which could have seriously injured another player, as Kenny was awarded a card and the Preston player wasn’t? Kyle Naughton was booked for simulation, despite one of the most blatant trips you’ll ever see, yards from the referee who had a perfectly clear view.

I could go on about specific decisions all day, but the point of this piece isn’t to whinge, it’s simply that basic decisions like these that are destroying games of football up and down the country for spectators, causing players to pick up suspensions and potentially costing managers jobs. When Kenny picks up four more yellow cards, he will be banned and we will be without a key member of our team. When the referee makes four more hideous blunders, what will happen to him? Sheffield United are without their star performer at the back (who incidentally has had just one yellow card and Sunday’s red card in sixty matches, a phenomenal record for a centre half I’m sure even Mr Dean would have to admit) and if we leak goals, it could derail our promotion push and ultimately earn Blackwell the sack. These men make massive, life changing decisions in matches with millions of pounds on the line, the very least they could do is apply the rules with consistency.

BBC Radio Sheffield interviewed Kevin Blackwell after the game and when pressed on the issue of the referee, he told us that the FA come down hard on managers who speak negatively about referees and therefore he wouldn’t comment. I don’t blame him, but what kind of world are we operating in where there is effective censorship around those in charge? Isn’t that bordering on fascism? Why shouldn’t a manager be able to comment on some horrendous decisions that 25,000 other people could see were wrong, when these blunders are affecting his own tenure? The officials are simply not accountable; they rarely do press interviews, they almost never come out and admit errors and it takes something very serious for them to be relieved of their Premier League responsibilities and even then they are simply moved to the likes of us in the Championship, which is no punishment at all. Why on Earth should we have to endure incompetent officials? I’d imagine that the argument would be that, should a premiership player underperform, he will eventually find himself plying his trade in the lower leagues, but if that player has a run of poor games, his club will remove him from the side entirely whilst a referee enduring a poor run continues to officiate on a regular basis and that simply isn’t good enough.

Noone seriously expects referees to get 100% of decisions correct, but in the last three games I’ve witnessed, I’ve seen basic decision after basic decision go the wrong way. What do these people do out there? Three men between them can’t tell that the ball has clearly crossed the line, from a few yards away? That it went out off one player rather than the other? James Beattie had to be substituted with an injury today and later had stitches, but when he was down, the referee not only let Preston bomb forward, but he let them take a corner too. Fair enough, it wasn’t a head injury so he doesn’t need to stop the game, but surely when the ball goes out for a corner, Beattie must be allowed to receive treatment and Brian Howard should not be booked for pointing out Beattie’s injury to the referee? On Tuesday night, the referee stopped the game on at least four occasions that I can remember for Southampton injuries to parts of the body other than the head. Consistency chaps, it didn’t ought to be that testing.

Speaking of consistency, how do football clubs ever expect to achieve anything when they constantly change the managerial staff? Iain Dowie is arguably the most overrated manager in the history of the game, I’d welcome someone informing me as to what he’s actually done as a manager to warrant his fabulous reputation, but the QPR top brass can’t seriously believe that fifteen games in all competitions is long enough to assess a manager’s worth? Especially when they’re in the last sixteen of the League Cup and are just a point outside the play-off places, it seems like madness to me.

I think there is possibly a wider problem with society, we seem to live in a “want it now” culture, the PlayStation generation demanding everything at break-neck speed. You can see it everywhere you look. Gone are the days of musicians working hard and earning their place at the top for example, why bother when they can just bleach their teeth and appear on the X-Factor? Celebrities famous for simply being famous, young girls genuinely wanting be “WAGs” when they grow up, TV “dumbing down” and not risking intellectually challenging programmes, instead opting for safe bet ratings winners. If you work hard and give it time, you will see the benefits, ask Alex Ferguson. He was on the verge of the sack in 1990 and what an error that would have proven to be.

I opened with the OED, I’ll close with the OED. Take note, FA.

Consistency - noun; the state of being consistent.
Consistent - adjective; conforming to a regular pattern; unchanging.


mexineil said...

I do enjoy reading your rants. I completely agree officials need to be held more accountable for their actions, and it's decisions like these which lend credibility to the argument for replays/challenges to play their part in games, as they do in Rugby and Cricket, and more recently Tennis.

moDtheGod said...

That's another discussion for another day. I have to say I'm in favour of technology in the goals, as long as it stays there. I wouldn't want it introduced for every decision.