7 February ~ Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson was a model of restraint after his side's 1-0 defeat to a late Brighton goal at the weekend. The defeat was "a difficult one to take at the moment", but for now he would be maintaining a diplomatic silence over the decision of the referees to dismiss Jermaine Beckford, apparently for foul and abusive language. Or, putting it another way, we lost and we all know it was the referees' fault. It was just another average weekend in the top two divisions of English football when it came to blaming the match officials for the final score.
If it hadn't been for Howard Webb and his refereeing team at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, both Chelsea and Manchester United would have won the game. Royal knight Alexander Ferguson said Chelsea "should have had a man sent off in the first half", a non-call for which he blamed linesman Darren Cann. Chelsea boss André Villas-Boas meanwhile lamented "a dubious decision that shifted the running of the game". He wasn't talking about the Gary Cahill challenge that caused Fergie to moan, though, but the award of Manchester United's second penalty.
Tony Pulis knew exactly why Stoke had lost at home to Sunderland. It was less down to James McClean's fine individual goal and more to do with Robert Huth's earlier sending off. Indeed, if Huth had still been on the field when McClean ran through the middle of Stoke's defence, maybe he could have taken him out with a sliding two-footed challenge and kept the score at 0-0.
Millwall's Kenny Jackett said West Ham's winning goal against his team followed a foul and should have been disallowed. Barnsley's Derek McInnes said one of the two red cards his team received while losing 3-0 at home to Leeds was wrong and "very harsh". But he also conceded that "we can't blame the result" on the referee's decisions.
"If we had 11 against 11 I feel very confident in saying we would have won the game quite comfortably," said a sanguine Mark Hughes following QPR's 2-1 defeat to Wolves. He could hardly argue with Djibril Cisse's straight red card for violent conduct, but the fact his team was a man down still merited a mention.
West Brom's Roy Hodgson cited the "clear penalty" his side should have been awarded during their 2-1 home defeat to Swansea, while admitting "we didn't do enough to win it". Martin Jol mentioned in passing Adam Johnson's "greatest dive I've ever seen" that lead to Manchester City's penalty and first goal during a 3-0 win against Jol's Fulham, but he too acknowledged that his team had ended up mainly fighting to keep the score down.
Shame, though, on Aston Villa's Alex McLeish for failing in any way to scapegoat the referees after losing 2-1 at Newcastle. Instead, he blamed his own defence and the hard work of the home team. Even more naive was Blackburn's Steve Kean, who could find no reason to dispute Gaël Givet's red card at Arsenal. "If there is intent with leaving the ground with two feet, the lads know the rules and you have to slide with one foot," he said in the wake of the 7-1 shellacking.
The Professional Footballers' Association and the League Managers Association should have a word with Kean. Does he not realise the can of worms he is opening by laying the blame for defeats at the door of anyone besides the match officials? Football cannot afford such rational post-game analysis – the dangerous idea that referees are fallible should not be allowed to take hold.
Referees cause nothing but untold stress, anger and frustration for players, managers and fans alike. We should abolish them, because clearly all they ever do is get it wrong. Let our players – those models of professional sporting behaviour down on the pitch, with their clear, eye-level view of all incidents – make the calls in the course of the match with rapidly reached consensus and a firm handshake. This would finally mean an end to all the wrong results that referees needlessly cause our wonderful game. Ian Plenderleith