Beat around the Bush

IN my early days, I used to play the wonderful game (badly), but when I retired (or should I say when I was retired) I turned my hand to running the line, albeit for a very short time. I think they call them “assistant referees” now, but as far as I’m concerned they’ll always be linos.

It quickly became apparent that this was not the profession for me, if only because of the abuse you were subjected to when, in the opinion of the footballer, plus every man and his dog, you’d made the wrong decision.

Of course the pressure of running the line or refereeing a match down at the local park is nowhere near as great as at Old Trafford, with 75,000 biased punters and many millions watching your every move and just waiting for you to make the inevitable mistake.

I really felt sorry for Mark Clattenburg on Saturday. I mean, he correctly followed the rules, but was in a total no-win situation whatever he’d awarded, and the sports channels were still harping on about it two days later.

Let’s take the Loftus Road referee against Burnley. From my elevated position with panoramic view of the pitch, I can honestly say that I can count the decisions I thought were correct on my left hand, and 50 replays later, I still don’t believe a penalty should’ve been awarded.

It’s only my opinion, albeit along with 10,000 others who probably had a good view of it, but the referee might well have been right! I can’t help wondering, though, how we’d have felt if a penalty had NOT been awarded in similar circumstances at the other end of the pitch? Who’d be a referee, eh? I wouldn’t.

I believe that we, as fans and indeed those directly involved with the game, should give the referees a break; stop questioning their parentage every time WE think they’ve got it wrong and try and understand what a tough job it is, especially with players diving around and basically trying to con the officials at every opportunity.

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It’s my belief that the players themselves have made the official’s job more difficult than ever before. As much as I love him to bits, Adel Taarabt’s attempt to gain a penalty on Saturday was frankly embarrassing to watch and I only wish that the authorities could find some way of stamping it out.

That type of behaviour, coupled with the ridiculous offside law that requires half a dozen pairs of eyes to work it out, is making life impossible for officials.

Oh, by the way, it wasn’t a penalty.