DON'T BLAME THE REF
Managers need to change tack
WOULDN’T you just love it if a manager came out after a game and admitted that he'd made a complete mess of it. Perhaps something like: “I’ve got to apologise to my players and our fans today because I got the game-plan and my substitutions totally wrong.”
Self-criticism is a concept that seems to have bypassed managers. Witness their postmatch press conferences and you see that it’s usually the referee or his assistants who carry the can. Flicking through a recent copy of The Foot
ball League Paper, it was the sheer amount of verbal assaults on referees that caught my eye.
For starters, consider Bradford boss Phil Parkinson’s comments after keeper Jordan Pickford was sent off after just ten minutes of the last-gasp home defeat by Rochdale.
Speaking about referee Gavin Ward, Parkinson blasted: “They’ve got a penalty and he’s been sent off – it’s never a sending off, it’s an absolutely atrocious decision.
“It summed up the referee’s performance – he was terrible on the day. I won’t hide away from it, there was a pitch inspection this morning and he was telling me how he’s come up from Surrey.
“If that’s the best ref we can get and we’ve brought him up from Surrey, then God help us. That performance was shocking.”
Meanwhile, Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy was fuming at a penalty call that didn’t go his side’s way in the 1-0 home defeat against Derby and referee Kevin Wright’s decision not to send the Rams’ John Eustace for an earlier bath than he eventually received.
In typically blunt style, the former Republic of Ireland manager said: “Come on, the game has gone. Let’s come out here and say it how it is. Is it a f***ing penalty? Yes. Is it a f***ing foul? Yes. He’s got his arm out here. The ball hits his hand. It’s a penalty.
“With the Eustace one, I asked the referee at half-time what was going on. He said it was an accidental collision. Well, I have to tell you – I committed some accidental collisions in my time.
“It’s violent conduct. He bodychecks him from the side. He’s been booked already and he would have had to go. It was a very strange decision.”
Then there was Orient’s Fabio Liverani after his side’s 1-0 home defeat by Fleetwood Town. The Italian was sent off in injury time after seeing his side awarded a free-kick just outside the box rather than the penalty he felt it should have been.
“The match has been badly conditioned by the referee’s decision,” he whinged. “It’s impossible to say anything to my players after that because the referee got it wrong.”
Oldham manager Lee Johnson hit out after his side squandered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 at home against Doncaster. The Rovers comeback began after the Latics’ Joseph Mills was dismissed for a foul.
“It’s not a great challenge from Mills, but the manner in which the officials dealt with it was very, very poor,” he moaned.
“The game changed on some poor officiating. Sometimes you get three or four poor decisions but, in fairness, it was probably more 18 or 19.”
Walsall boss Dean Smith also got in on the act. He let rip at referee Lee Collins for awarding visitors Scunthorpe a penalty in their thumping 4-1 away victory. It came after the referee had reversed a penalty decision against his side minutes earlier.
“I’ve seen it again and it’s never a penalty,” said Smith. “It’s cost us the chance of getting back into a game that I felt we were getting back into.
“He couldn’t give the earlier one quick enough either – he looked almost disappointed that he didn’t have to give it.
“To be honest, I wasn’t even that angry about it – I felt sorry for him more than anything because I thought it was such a poor decision.”
AFC Wimbledon boss Neal Ardley joined the ranks of ref-bashing bosses, blasting Graham Horwood after his side’s 2-1 defeat at Stevenage, the hosts netting a 70th-minute penalty winner.
“It doesn’t surprise me that the penalty went that way,” he said. “I thought the officiating all game was awful. It was a scrappy, tough League Two game and I thought in the end he was giving bad decisions for us to counteract the ones he’d given against us.
“It’s a brave decision to give the penalty and, down the other end, one player blatantly doesn’t play the ball and it doesn’t surprise me he never gave it for us.”
Funnily enough, referees do seem to get praise – or at least their decisions accepted – by some managers. But you see a pattern emerging – it’s only the managers of winning teams.
For example, Stevenage boss Graham Westley insisted referee Horwood made the right call in that match against the Dons.
“I think when that challenge went in everyone in the ground knew it was a penalty,” he said. “I’m surprised the police weren’t on for a GBH charge, to be honest.”
And Newport gaffer Justin Edinburgh saluted ref Michael Bull for letting his side’s controversial winning goal count against Portsmouth.
He said: “I don’t feel we had any luck with our goal. The laws being the laws, it has to stand. Aaron O’Connor wasn’t in the eye of the goalkeeper.
“When I played the game it was offside, but now it isn’t and credit to the referee for staying strong and making the correct decision.”
Yes, I can sometimes understand managers being unhappy with decisions and complaining about them afterwards. They’ve worked all week to prepare their team for the game and it could be ruined by a referee’s error. Managers’ jobs are on the line in this cut-throat results business.
But does it always have to be the referee’s fault? Did the manager have a perfect game, did the players not make any mistakes?
Some managers aren’t afraid to blast their players, but you get the feeling that others don’t want to upset their temperamental star striker.
And when you’ve got referees who don’t answer back, they’re easy scapegoats. But the next time your side gets beat, just ask yourself the question – did your team really lose that game of 90 minutes due to one mistake by the ref or is the manager trying to pull the wool over your eyes? Sour grapes anyone?