Wednesday, 24 December 2008

If Carlsberg Made Referees........Part 1

The New Voice Of Football column at

While wondering how Ref-Cam would reflect on certain referees in ascertaining the ones that were competent from the ones that, well leave you scratching your head as to exactly what they saw that the rest of the world didn’t. I happened upon two refs that show the good and the dire in refereeing today.

The one that Carlsberg probably wouldn’t make is Stuart Attwell, who seems to have been fast-tracked into the higher reaches of the game fairly quickly and already has a string of howlers, Graham Poll would be proud of to his credit in his fledgling career as a referee to date.

Now every ref gets it wrong on occasion after all they are human like you and I, but Ref-Cam would show this Attwell to be as one fansite put it a “buffoon”. What does he see that everyone else doesn’t?

Attwell is the youngest ref to officiate in the Premier League at 25-years-old after being promoted to referee in the Football League at the start of the 2007/2008, season. A few good performances in the lower leagues and he was promoted to ref in the Championship later in the season.

Within six minutes of his first Championship game Sheffield United v Blackpool he sends Ian Evatt off for Blackpool for a professional foul on Billy Sharp and awarded a penalty to United. Replays show a good view for Attwell and no contact made by Evatt. Blackpool manager Simon Grayson didn’t question Attwell, but the Football League for putting the relatively inexperienced referee in charge of the game.

So everyone makes mistakes and this was his first big one in his debut season in the Football League. He went through the rest of the season without much incident apart from Swansea manager Roberto Martinez accusing Attwell of failing to control the players in their FA Cup tie against Havant & Waterlooville and even refereed the League 2 play-off final at Wembley.

The Football League, I’ll come back to them later promote him to the roster for the Premier League in this current season, which to say the least has left me gasping in sheer astonishment as to why this relatively young ref has been thrust into the limelight.

Not one, but three big occasions, where you just want to see what he saw or even gain the slightest bit of insight into how he reached the decision he did and were not even at Christmas yet.

On the 20th September Attwell gave Reading their ‘Ghost goal’ against Watford. The ball went four-yards wide the assistant flagged, Attwell thought the assistant was flagging for a corner or something else, which everyone else could see it was and then called Attwell over and said it was a goal. Attwell then gives it, much to the astonishment of everyone on the pitch, but especially the Reading dugout, who could hardly control their amusement.

Now while the assistant thought it was a goal and gave it as such. Surely Attwell as a ref has to be able to tell if the ball is in the net or not? After all this is probably one of the easier things to do as a ref. Being able to put yourself in a position to see if the ball is in the net. Not a goal-line clearance, just in the net or not. So while this is happening, what exactly is he looking at during that short period of time to not see if the ball was in or not?

No punishment though for getting something so easy so wrong. You see the Football League have plans for the “Buffoon” and have even blocked the showing of the ‘Ghost goal’ on you-tube, but you can get a great Chris Kamara version of events.

Six-weeks later in a local derby between Nottingham Forest and Derby he disallows two late Derby goals. The second one incensed Rams boss Paul Jewell, who is no stranger to stalking a referee after the game to have it out. However, on this occasion Jewell was right, Attwell had seen what no other had seen and decided to disallow it. He also booked 8 players and gave a straight red in what was considered to be not a dirty game by both sets of fans.

Attwell was hauled in by referees chief Keith Hackett this time and dropped from the fixtures the following week, but this didn’t mean a week ban for he was fourth official at the Hull v Bolton Premiership game.

Then last week in the Stoke v Fulham Premier League clash a cross comes in from Fulham that Stoke defender Danny Higginbotham sticks his arm out to and handballs, while also lurching with his head. A clear handball and penalty, but not given. Maybe Attwell was unsighted? Not at all, while Fulham protested he simply pointed to his head and reiterated that Higginbotham headed it. Ok fine maybe it was hard to tell after all his head was near the ball too. So why did the ball go backwards then? Arsenal legend Paul Merson summed this up best on Sky Sports, when he suggested that maybe Attwell thought that Higginbotham had his “head on back-to-front” to head in a totally unnatural direction. So what is Attwell seeing that no one else sees and how does he come to these bizarre decisions?

You would have thought that three howlers in as many months would see Attwell having to ref in the Blue Square Conference for a lengthy spell, but no. As I say the Football League have plans for what they perceive as the future of refereeing and have got him on to the FIFA roster. So its Champions League here I come for Attwell.

There have been other incidents involving Attwell in his short, but clanger-prone career. Now if there was, a way to see what he saw then we would all come to the conclusion that he is just not up to it. Perhaps promoted by the Football League too fast, but still not up to it nonetheless.

So the Premier League and now the Champions League and probably the World Cup at some point in the future, have ended up with a ref, who is a perfect example of how Ref-Cam would expose them for what they truly are, awful.

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