My day job gave me the chance to welcome one of the game’s outstanding officials the other day when we got Mark Clattenburg on the phone at TalkSPORT.
He’s obviously been the subject of some fuss since he went on a podcast at the end of last year but for me his honesty should be applauded. I well remember commenting on the Chelsea/Spurs game he refereed at the time in this column and he played his part in one of the best Premier League games I can remember, ever.
He refereed that game the way the punters wanted it refereeing, and there was nothing wrong with letting a few things go given how high the stakes were that night. Referees should also be able to come out and say why they gave specific decisions following the actual game, in my opinion.
Fans will have so much more time for a man or woman who explains they do not have super powers and that’s why the odd error has been made. They are currently protected far too much and it really doesn’t help.
All in all, Monday’s show proved to be an entertaining introducion to a man I’ve not met in person before, and in case you missed it, another topic we raised with Mark was the sheer increase in cameras that accompanied his rise to the top.
Things simply used to get missed when there were, say seven cameras trained on a top flight game, so I could find myself agreeing with his argument that it’s not a case of standards dropping among the officials.
We had him on as a way of previewing the historic first use of VAR in this country, in the FA Cup at the AMEX, and I agree with Mark that we must keep things simple and not go using VAR for absolutely everything.
Now, I know some people thought the winning goal was a valid reason to refer a decision for the first time, but I can’t agree, as it was hardly an obvious error when substitute Glenn Murray did nothing wrong in scoring.
I must say, the experienced Neil Swarbrick, in tandem with Andre Marriner out there in the middle on Monday night, were definitely the right choices for me, even if it did not get as tasty as you might expect, given the history of this derby fixture. I was also impressed with Palace manager Roy Hodgson’s verdict afterwards.
Coming to the interview with no axe to grind, I was still surprised to find my co-host on the day, Joey Barton, was looking forward to our chat as much as I was. Joey obviously played in matches officiated by Mark, and, far from that being a cause for bitter recriminations, having been through that had given Joey the same kind of respect for him that I had for referees who were capable of a bit of banter during a game myself.
So the week got off to a great start for me, at least. Mark spoke very well and we had every reason to be optimistic that VAR will be a valuable aid to our top refs in future. In fact, I’m certain it will be.
Until next time you can catch me on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast every week day on TalkSPORT, 6-10am.