We are approaching another day featuring two big derby matches in the Premier League and I’m confident that Craig Pawson and Michael Oliver will be taking the prospect seriously.

By that I mean I don’t expect leniency, the kind of which I discussed in my last column, I just think these guys have now got enough experience to tell the players that passion is all well and good, but as soon as they do something stupid then they will be laying the law down in no uncertain terms.

I don’t expect them to leave it at a pre-match chat with the captains, either; they will need to be communicating throughout as to where exactly they are setting the bar and the kind of challenges they are prepared to tolerate.

I’d like them to show some leeway only when it comes to those 50-50s. These games have such a standing in our national game, they deserve that much respect from the officials, as well as every other participant.

I had to smile hearing Jamie Carragher preview the Merseyside derby, because I remember being in tunnels with him both on his side and against, even if it was when I was representing a London side. He’s not the only one who did not want to know about shaking the opposition’s hand of course, although I was always fine doing that myself.

But I also remember making him laugh as I tried to break his pre-match mask. I know full well how much players with his mindset see it as a weakness to show anything but complete focus on ultimate victory and giving no quarter in the process.

Despite those apparently manic levels of determination, however, I can’t recall him ever losing control in a derby and getting his marching orders, whereas the fact we used to be able to rely on at least one Everton player doing just that was key, in my opinion, when it comes to explaining Liverpool’s supremacy over the Premier League era.

I paused to put myself in the shoes of Nathan Redmond the other week, as he found himself accosted on the pitch following Southampton’s narrow defeat at the Etihad.

The FA have decided against any action where Pep Guardiola’s little chat was concerned, and for the life of me I don’t think anyone should have been questioning what he was up to in the first place!

A Paul Trevillion art work

If the player concerned has not complained and is fine with it himself, that’s good enough for me and I am convinced Pep was coming from the right place. Do people think of us players as so easily influenced that we will change our approach just because of an incident like this?

It’s not as if Redmond is going to suddenly ditch his loyalties and disregard the instructions of his own manager, and I can only think it’s the aggression Pep displayed in making his point that has put so many noses out of joint.

We should remember how most humans react in the heat of the moment… I witnessed Pep at such times myself, once after Liverpool had knocked him and Barca out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage. There would be something wrong if he hadn’t been going off at us in the tunnel about us not playing real football, if you ask me. It’s certainly no big deal.

I’m all for him wearing his principles on his sleeve and I wonder if people might regret their casual criticism if we ended up with a game completely sanitised, where we were all deprived of the unique way his teams, who love him so much, go about things and the way he expresses himself.


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