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Reffing hell!

Robbo Robson | 09:46 UK time, Tuesday, 30 September 2008

And the award for the Season's Pottiest Decision goes to.... Rob Styles!!!

(Actually there was Reading's ghost goal at Watford but I'm sure Rob would have given that had he been there. Oh and there's Spurs's decision to replace Berbatov, Keane and Defoe with, well, nowt.)

Now not so long ago I was banging on about respecting the ref. But it must be hard when Styles makes such a blatant mistake. Styles has only just saved himself from permanent linesmanship by his very sensible decision to apologise to Bolton for the 'penalty' he gave Man U on Saturday.

Man City fans might make the case for Steve Bennett's award of a pen for Wigan on Sunday being just as bananas, but at least there was some contact made between the two players.

Lee Dixon claimed Palacios made 'a meal of it'. In fact he made a 12-course banquet with extensive cheeseboard and choice of dessert wines of it, Lee! If they can't use TV replays for such decisions then at least they could analyse exactly how high Palacios jumped. That's got to be a Honduran national record.

But Bennett's decision was eagle-eyed compared to Styles's strange penalty award to Ronaldo and Man United. Note Fergie's initial reaction: "surprised, but then he owed us one."


Wouldn't it be nice if a manager that profits from such an error could just say, out-and-out, that it was a terrible terrible decision and if I was Gary Megson I'd be furious. (Actually if I was Gary Megson I would be furious, but who wouldn't?)

But maybe I'm being harsh on Rob. Perhaps, rather than slagging the bloke off, we should walk a mile in Rob's shoes. Then, at the very least, we'll be a mile away from a dodgy decision - and we'll have his shoes.

Seriously though, what Palacios's woeful salmon-leap proved more than anything (and St. Michael of Owen rather bought his spot-kick on Saturday 'n' all) is that the players couldn't be trying harder to make the refs look stupid. And it's bloody depressing that these blokes get paid huge sums for conning officials rather than winning fair and square.

Having said that, the refs need to do a bit better and soon. When the world sees a ball won fairly by an excellent tackle and Rob see a studs-up assault on one of the shining jewels of the modern game (and I see a Portuguese long-jump record from Cristiano) you have to wonder whether they are watching the game from a parallel universe.

Pretty soon we'll be playing a radical new version of You Are The Ref.

For example, It's the Merseyside derby and a rabbit runs across the pitch (no I don't mean Phil Neville).

1. Do you (a) see a cute furry bunny and order a drop-ball or (b) see a vicious two-fingered gesture and send off Tim Cahill?

2. In a closely-fought match a long-range shot hits the bar and bounces very close to the line before being cleared. The attacking players begin to celebrate. Your assistant is unsure as to whether the ball crossed the line.

Do you (a) explain to the players that it's impossible to award the goal without being certain or, (b) do you find a dandelion head and blow it several times saying 'he scored it, he scored it not, he scored it, he scored it not'?

3. At Tottenham Hotspur, Aaron Lennon races towards the byline and prepares to clip over the sort of delivery that wouldn't pass muster at the Royal Mail. His momentum takes him over the hoarding and he falls into the waiting arms of Spurs fans.

Do you (a) allow the Spurs physio on to check the player at the next available stoppage in play, or do you (b) send the hoarding off for ungentlemanly conduct and then book Lennon for diving and then give him another yellow for jumping into the crowd?

4. John Terry appears on the pitch with a pair of giant foam hands on the end of each arm. He proceeds to block shot after shot with these enormous mitts. Do you (a) award a series of penalties or (b) realise that a man bestowed with the title of England captain could never do such a thing and sensibly ignore it?

5. At the JJB, a defender and an attacker are rushing towards an excellent through-ball from Titus Bramble (this is hypothetical, right?). Their shoulders meet and both players go down in a heap.

Do you (a) wave for play to go on as it was a fair shoulder-charge or (b) look at the relative directional velocity of each of the moving bodies and apply Newton's Second Law of Motion to the situation and work out that the distance travelled by one player clearly implied the application of more force to that object than the other and, to conclude, it's a stonewall pen...

If your answer to all these questions was (b) then you too can apply to the referee's association today. If your answer was (a) then you are bleeding perfect and have probably never had to deal with a bunch of play-acting Premiership princesses before.

And if your answer to all the above was (c) 'I was looking the other way and I haven't seen a replay' then your name is Arsene Wenger and Hull's boys gave you one hell of a beating.

Upcoming fun questionnaires include: 'Are You A Footyball Club Owner In Waiting or Do You Have Enough Toys Already?' and 'Are You The Next Messiah?' (Tynesiders only, please)


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