Beesotted regular contributor Jim Levack shares his thoughts after Swansea’s latest last gasp win.
It’s a sorry state of affairs when as well as looking at the opposition team sheet, you check the name of the match official.
Because despite the cliched assertions that “luck evens itself out over the course of a season”, two decisions this week suggest categorically otherwise.
I wouldn’t dream of suggesting referees David Webb and Gavin Ward acted improperly in both their recent Swansea games. But I would suggest they are extremely poor at their job.
In the Beesotted podcast this week (above) the question was posed, can a team cheat its way to the Premier League? I thought ‘no chance’ when I heard the show. But now I’m starting to have second thoughts.
If us mere mortals get things wrong at work, someone will have a word with us, fire a shot across our bows or worst case scenario, give us a verbal warning.
Many referees – we all know the usual suspects’ names when in reality we shouldn’t – swagger arrogantly through the season with impunity, their decisions having a huge effect on the outcome of a side’s campaign.
With millions of pounds at stake, big money signings leaving if their side misses out and often those things decided by a few points, they have a critical say.
I’ve not done the math but I’ll guarantee that recent Premier League sides like Swansea, Watford and Norwich all get the rub of the green from referees eager to be mates with the top table.
Previously when I’ve written about refs being poor, some Bees fans pop up to defend them – well I’m sorry there is no defending these two clowns. Their displays have handed Swansea an extra four points. Four points which could prove pivotal in 12 games when the officials will be sunning themselves on a beach.
Webb’s decision to award an injury time spot kick to Swansea at Stoke was embarrassing. No contact but pundit Cameron Jerome was quick to praise Kyle Naughton for conning the official.
Middlesbrough’s first equaliser, ruled out when if anything it should have been a penalty for them rather than the other way round, was equally laughable.
Boro clawed their way back into the game late on, but only after I’d already tweeted…
Warnock… and he had every right to be livid.
“We have had few of these. You saw the penalty at Stoke City. It was never a penalty in a million years and they won the game so by that reckoning they should get promotion shouldn’t they… if they keep getting the right referees?” he raged.
The Professional Game Match Officials Board, presumably set up to give referees some credibility and gravitas they don’t deserve, will say nothing on the two blunders.
Warnock’s final seven words will probably earn him a fine for his suggestion that certain officials favour certain clubs. If that happens perhaps fans sick of seeing their sides robbed by hapless officials should chip in and pay it to show the powers that be how sick of their closed shop cartel we all are.
Football is an emotional game and unless and until the men in the middle are forced to justify their contentious decisions, there is no need for them to be any better.
The referees themselves, as Warnock also said, don’t have to justify their actions. They are untouchable, beyond criticism or at least any form of publicly available assessment.
Both will be plying their trade at another Championship ground within the next week when instead they should be hauled before an EFL or FA board to explain how they could get so many things so horribly wrong.
And I’m sorry I don’t buy the “Oh it’s a really hard job” argument. It’s not. If you’ve played the game to any half decent level you know what players are going to do, the way they think, the cheats they’ll try.
This season – without crowds to bawl at them – I’ve seen players kick the ball away, stand in front of free kicks and the new one, run off with the ball seemingly stuck beneath their feet. I’ve probably seen two yellow cards dished out for it.
Regardless, the decisions at Stoke and the Liberty were appalling and should be enough to get the pair called in for at least a refresher course. They won’t be though.
I’ve always been a fan of VAR in certain aspects, and properly administered – another thing PGMOL haven’t got right – it would have worked in Brentford’s favour this week.
As it is, we are left with a sinking feeling in the pits of our stomachs or a pinch to the gut at the searing injustice of it all.
Swansea aren’t a great side but they’re savvy and street-wise and know what they need to do to trick referees like Bidwell did when he flew in hoping for contact. They get away with it purely because some referees simply aren’t up to the job.
As Warnock said Steve Cooper’s kicked his boys off the park just as they shared the yellows out against us, but the way I’m feeling tonight the authorities might as well hand them second place now.
Tomorrow will be different and after a few glasses of red wine I’ll be less angry.
But right now it feels like the game I love is being dismantled brick by brick, strangely by the very people who are supposed to be safeguarding it.
I’m left hoping that the cliché is right after all and that luck and football karma will play their part in the end.
Somehow I doubt it because we by and large we try to play football the right way.