Monday 22 September ~
In the wake of the bizarre decision to award Reading a goal against Watford on Saturday, we take a look back at the worst officials of the 20th century. As part of his series to mark the turn of the millennium, Cris Freddi examined some of the more controversial refereeing moments in WSC 152 (October 1999)
As always, there are enough examples of dreadful refereeing to fill a book, let alone a couple of pages. Only room here for a quick mention of Alan Hudson being given a goal for Chelsea against Ipswich, when the ball hit the side netting, and Clive Allen being denied one when his free-kick came back off the stanchion, both pushed aside by more momentous examples.
The lifetime achievement award goes, with the usual lack of originality, to dear old Clive Thomas, who’s still dining out on the controversy he seemed to enjoy creating. In 1981 he gifted Wolves a penalty in the FA Cup semi-final after Kenny Hibbitt had fallen over Glenn Hoddle’s leg: “If I had a chance to relive those moments I would not now give the penalty,” Thomas said later. He wasn’t allowed anywhere near the replay, which thankfully Tottenham won.
In the same year, he allowed a Liverpool goal in the League Cup final after Alan Kennedy’s shot had passed over Sammy Lee lying in an offside position. West Ham manager John Lyall was reported to the FA for making a reference to cheating.
In the 1978 World Cup finals, Thomas famously blew the final whistle a fraction of a second before Zico’s winning header hit the net, a remarkably accurate piece of timekeeping (only eight seconds of injury time). The thought raised its unworthy head that Clive was punishing the Brazilians for time-wasting and FIFA seem to have agreed – he didn’t referee another game in the finals.
But his masterpiece had been put together a year earlier, when he disallowed Everton’s winning goal in the FA Cup semi-final. He didn’t help his cause by not explaining why immediately after the match: “Watch TV tonight,” he said, “you’ll see it then.” Well, we did, and we didn’t. Linesman Colin Seel was already on his way back to the half way line “satisfied with the goal”, and Emlyn Hughes is still chuckling about it today. Like West Ham, Everton were beaten in the replay.
Liverpool got yet another helping hand in a League Cup final when Alan Robinson didn’t see Alan Hansen putting palm to ball in the penalty area in 1984. Again, Everton lost the replay.
Another ref who tried to excuse himself after the fact was Percy Harper, who allowed Newcastle’s equaliser in the 1932 FA Cup final when the ball had gone out of play before Jimmy Richardson got his cross in. “As God is my judge,” quoth Percy, “the man was in play.” Yeah, but the ball wasn’t: photos and tv stills prove it. “I was eight yards away,” Harper claimed. Not from the ball, he wasn’t. He’s clearly visible, yards outside the penalty area. “I do not mind what people say,” he insisted. Just as well. Arsenal lost 2-1.
Harper would have been a star of the Hands of God department, in which I suppose Ali Ben Nasser of Tunisia has pride of place. But he wasn’t the only ref to miss a Maradona handball in a World Cup. Before the 1990 tournament, Diego had done the dirty deed again in a Serie A match. During it, he kept out Oleg Kuznetsov’s goal-bound header with his hand. Swedish referee Erik Fredriksson missed it.
As did German referees Klaus Peschel, when Stuart Pearce’s handball prevented Brazil’s equaliser at Wembley in 1990, and Peco Bauwens, when Italy’s Silvio Piola punched a goal against England in 1939, blacking George Male’s eye in the process. Robert Wurtz of France gave Scotland a penalty in a deciding World Cup qualifier against Wales in 1977 when Joe Jordan handled. In the 1978 finals, Swiss referee Jean Dubach gave Argentina a penalty when the classy French sweeper Marius Trésor touched the ball with his hand while falling over. Without it, Argentina wouldn’t have reached the second round of a tournament they went on to win.
One of the forgotten moments in the 1970 quarter-final was England’s disallowed equaliser, after Müller had put West Germany 3-2 ahead. Francis Lee beat Karl-Heinz Schnellinger and pulled the ball back for Geoff Hurst. Lee hadn’t fouled his man and Hurst couldn’t have been offside, but the goal was still wiped out by the dreaded Angel Norberto Coerezza, who’d awarded hosts Mexico a malodorous penalty against Belgium.
One of the most famous refereeing blind spots of all time cost Huddersfield their place in the top flight in 1952. Holding out for a point at White Hart Lane, home of the champions, they lost 1-0 to a headed goal after Eddie Baily’s corner had come back to him off referee Barnes. Baily therefore illegally touched the ball twice, but Barnes allowed the goal. Huddersfield spent only one season in the Second Division but, like Baily’s touches, it was one too many.
Talking of Huddersfield and relegation from the First Division, Man City needed to win there in 1938 but lost 1-0 after Alec Herd’s shot came back off the stanchion and the referee thought it had hit the bar. A similar incident occurred at the end of 1969-70, when an Aston Villa shot hit the stanchion (as the Leicester keeper admitted) but wasn’t given. Villa lost 1-0 and were relegated to the Third Division by two points.
Remember the old joke about the reclusive order of monks who tell each other jokes by reading out just their numbers? Ray Tinkler. There, sometimes you only need the name. He allowed the controversial West Brom goal that effectively cost Leeds the championship in 1971, leading to a pitch invasion that closed Elland Road the following season. Apparently, when Tinkler took charge of his next league match, thousands of Leeds fans travelled just to give him a suitable reception.
Allan Clarke had some consolation when he scored the only goal of England’s game in Belfast in 1971 after Francis Lee had clearly handled, Clarke himself may have been offside and referee Alastair MacKenzie had disallowed George Best’s famous cheeky flick when Gordon Banks was about to kick clear.
Way back in 1907, the great Steve Bloomer was deprived of a winning goal against Scotland, given offside by Scottish referee Tom Robertson despite having beaten two men before shooting. “The error was so clear that Bloomer may be forgiven his breach of etiquette,” according to the press. Robertson refereed 20 England matches in all, but his mistake in 1907 gave the championship to Wales for the first time and wrecked Bloomer’s last international. That 29th goal would have been the England record until 1956.
Trying to decide on a top three, I’ve settled for Hans-Josef Assenmacher, Alberto Tejada Noriega and Gottfried Dienst in that order. Assenmacher should have sent Ronald Koeman off for that dastardly piece of shirt-pulling when David Platt was clean through in the World Cup qualifier in Rotterdam. Like England, Assenmacher stayed at home, dropped from FIFA’s list. In the finals themselves, Kurt Röthlisberger was sent back to Switzerland after admitting he should have given Belgium a penalty for Thomas Helmer’s foul on Josip Weber. Germany won 3-2.
Tejada, who was also sent home, goes to the top of the list. Actually Dienst is up there really, for passing the buck to a Soviet linesman who was in no sort of position to decide if Hurst’s goal was legit (it wasn’t: the position of the ball’s shadow proves it beyond any doubt) and because his error decided the biggest match of all. But it’s a hoary old story and not worth repeating at length. So Tejada gets the award, if only for a journalist’s description of his misdeed.
Argentina, champions in 1991 and 1993, might have won the Copa América three times in a row but for our Peruvian friend’s white stick. In their quarter-final against world champions Brazil, they were 2-1 ahead when Jorginho’s cross was put in by Tulio Pereira after what TV replays confirmed as the worst case of heavenly hands since the divine Diego. The Brazilian press loved it, one of them calling it “an illegal goal of untouchable pedigree. I would let Tulio’s goal marry my sister”.
Still, somebody up there has a conscience sometimes. Tejada was sacked after admitting his error, and although Tulio put Brazil ahead in the final against Uruguay, he was the only player to miss a penalty in the shoot-out. He gets top spot here as a consolation prize, especially as he also admitted that the goal he scored to give Botafogo the Brazilian league title for the first time had also been illegal.