Andy Townsend was talking to Alex Griffiths
The dismissal of Kyle Walker for a second yellow card following his clash with Dominic Calvert-Lewin convinced me that we have reached the point where the referee owes the fans, first and foremost, followed only shortly afterwards by managers and players, some kind of post-match explanation.
Don’t get me wrong, in general I’m as happy as the next man with how few incidents to provoke such debate there have been in what has been a fantastic Premier League start.
Even if we’d had VARs in place, most of the tighter calls have been so tight we’d have been kept waiting, either way, but the Walker incident stands out for one extra reason.
You see, I suspect the man who made the actual call at the Etihad was the fourth official, Michael Oliver, and not the man holding the whistle, Bobby Madley. And if that’s true, how unfair was it that Michael found himself in charge of Manchester United versus Leicester while Bobby was given a 4th official appointment for the following weekend?
True or not, there is the appearance of a slap on the wrist for one of them, and while I can see the logic of protecting refs from the kind of fire-storm that might arise from back-to-back game-changing errors, I would prefer they go through what the player goes through, and be forced to get back on the saddle… trust me, it builds character!
I’m only guessing, but it certainly looked to me like Michael felt he was in a better position, so he got into Bobby’s ear to pronounce serious foul play, when all Walker actually did was step across. Sure, the movement he went through can sometimes indicate an arm is going to be thrown, but with 22 cameras out there, you just can’t hide any more. We are always going to find out pretty quickly whether there is contact or not, and there wasn’t.
We all saw Pep getting after Michael at half-time in the tunnel, there’s no doubt it affected the game and it also left us all perplexed as City’s manager, didn’t it? What I am proposing is that even if the gag remains on the official concerned, can’t the boss, Mike Riley himself, come out and give a statement which allows us all to move on straight after an incident like this?
Otherwise once again we are left with a situation where a global audience is allowed to feel it knows better than the individual whose call it actually came down to!
Even better, how good would it have been for Mr Madley to stride out for that second half on what was undeniably a tough old night, having had Michael say something, however brief, to the press, and/or TV about having got it wrong himself before we settled down for the restart?
Let’s adjust to how the game has changed… I’m sure I’ve seen Mr Riley go on record himself and concede that it’s only a matter of time before post-match comments are permitted.
And I don’t think it has to be a case of dragging the ref through every single decision, just the clear errors. I just feel the day has come that we should make everyone accountable, so that these things do not have to hang around for quite so long and make a mockery of the high stakes involved.