Believe it or not, I truly sympathise with the lot of the modern referee and must emphasise we in the media want to help as much as we can, even if it does seem the scrutiny levels are sometimes over the top.
That’s just one reason why the whole idea of You Are The Ref’s website is a positive one for me, because it provides a forum for informed discussion between those at all levels of the game and we certainly need officials to be a part of the conversation going forward.
I know there are meetings featuring the elite group scheduled to be held regularly at St George’s Park, and I also know exactly what would have been top of my agenda if I’d been in charge of the PGMOL at the first one of the season!
It is vital that Mike Dean is given full and public backing for the stance he has taken in penalising so-called grappling in the penalty area. While his award of a penalty against Shawcross was generally applauded there were many who felt the decision against young Sterling was too harsh. I don’t see that at all, because players still seem to feel they can wrestle with opponents and not so much as glance at the ball as set-pieces are being taken.
Dean’s colleagues must follow his lead and ensure this is not dismissed by the players and fans alike as just another clampdown that is destined to fizzle out after six weeks! And his boss must come out and back him, too. That’s the first thing I’d say to the refs as a group, given the chance.
Officials might be surprised how much empathy there actually is out there for them among ourselves and the fans, even among the managers, when it comes to those marginal decisions which no one can be expected to get 100% right.
What baffles me, however, is when the nasty side is not punished and by nasty, I think most people will agree with my description of Diego Costa’s challenge on West Ham’s goalkeeper, Adrian.
While I’m one of Mark Clattenburg’s biggest fans, I felt Arsenal were lucky he ignored a clear-cut appeal for a Leicester penalty, yet these kinds of things are nowhere near as serious as what Anthony Taylor missed in letting Costa’s challenge go unpunished at Stamford Bridge.
Costa simply had to go, and Mr Taylor got it wrong, wrong, wrong!
Something you don’t see every week is a player receiving two yellow cards for offences committed during the same passage of play. Readers may remember an example during Northern Ireland’s Euro qualifier at home to Hungary when Chris Baird found himself controversially dismissed, about a year ago.
There’s been another case already this season with Partick Thistle’s Sean Welsh sent off in their Scottish Premiership clash with Aberdeen. Now I know full well that Welsh’s second card was for dissent and that there can be the added factor of the advantage rule being applied in any hypothetical discussion of this.
Even so, for me, one yellow should be sufficient punishment in most such cases.
Until next time, you can catch me on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast every week day on TalkSPORT, 6-10am.