It's the Standard Verdict - an exclusive weekly look at Colchester United (From Essex County Standard)
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It's the Standard Verdict - an exclusive weekly look at Colchester United
ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD U's REPORTER SIMON SPURGEON DELIVERS HIS THOUGHTS ON Colchester United IN HIS WEEKLY COLUMN:
I heard a comment this week on a radio phone-in show saying that the only decent referee is one that you don’t notice.
It was made in the light of the farcical ending to Tottenham’s visit to Old Trafford last weekend and referee Mark Clattenberg has been pilloried for his handling of Nani’s late goal for Manchester United.
I’m not going to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs of that situation here, but it does raise the issue of the work of officials as, like Tottenham, Colchester were also the victims of a contentious refereeing decision at the weekend.
Referee Simon Hooper made a judgement with the U’s leading 2-0 at Bournemouth that you could argue led directly to the Cherries spoiling a clean sheet and giving Colchester’s travelling fans an uncomfortable ending to the game.
Hooper decided that Steve Fletcher hadn’t pushed Ben Williams in the back as the ball went out of play late in the game and awarded the corner from which the hosts scored – rather than the foul that the players thought had been committed.
While the goal thankfully didn’t affect the final outcome, it did make things nervy in the final five minutes and Hooper’s decision saw him become an unwitting talking point at the end.
I will say, though, that I wholeheartedly applaud John Ward for refusing to comment on the referee’s performance after the game.
As a journalist, I praise BBC Essex’s Neil Kelly, who tried his best to prise some thoughts on the subject from the U’s boss, but a post-match manager’s rant against the referee is always unseemly and Ward deserves praise for not being drawn into one.
However, the comment about the noticing of referees is a valid one as a football match is a contest between two teams and there must be very few who pay their money at the turnstiles to revel in the experience of watching the officials go about their business.
But by the very nature of what they do, they must be noticed.
Two fiercely competitive teams are going to push the laws of the game to the limit in their bid to win and that can’t help but bring the officials into it.
You could say that if a referee gets all his decisions correct, then there would be no criticism, but that’s clearly not going to happen outside a footballing Utopia that some commentators think we should be living in.
I don’t know what a referee gets paid to officiate a professional game of football, but I would wager that it’s less than the players and we allow them the scope to make mistakes.
A mis-placed pass or a wild shot from a scoring position are all part and parcel of the game and so too should be mistakes by referees in my view.
There is a strong call for technology to be brought in, but I don’t subscribe to that.
Mistakes are part of sport and always have been and I think they add to the rich tapestry of it – whether they are in your favour or not.
Refereeing decisions against you are always evened up by the ones for you in the end, but it appears some managers find it harder to recall the ones that go in their favour.
Bill Shankly once said: “The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they do not know the game.”
However, that’s a patronising view, if you ask me.
I’m sure the men in black have a perfectly good understanding of the game and while not many have played at the highest levels, they apply the laws to any incident they have seen before them at the time.
That’s where the problem lies.
They are instantly judging a situation as they have seen it, while others all around the stadium – whether they be players, managers or fans – are judging it through their own eyes at the same time, but with the luxury of not having to make a decision.
I’m all too aware of the problem that different viewpoints present.
Compiling player – and also referee – ratings is the most feared part of any journalist’s match-day experience as you are bound to incur people’s wrath.
That’s because everyone sees each player’s contribution in their own way and it rarely coincides with your own.
We are as open to criticism for our views as any referee is for theirs, so I do have some sympathy for them when they get flak as Hooper and Clattenberg have done this week.
However, I don’t want you to think I’m blindly standing up for referees. I’m not.
If they make mistakes they should acknowledge them and if they are making too many then they should be moved on.
There are often times in games when my hands are thrown up in exasperation at a decision from the man in the middle, but I do recognise that he has a difficult job to do.