A picture from the weekend showed Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough as a linesman for his son’s team in Derby. And, after some of the decisions his side have been on the wrong end of lately, he probably reckons he is capable of doing the job full time.
The run of poor decisions began at Walsall in the JPT, when Chris Porter was well and truly wiped out by home goalkeeper Richard O’Donnell while bearing down on goal. Referee David Coote waved play on.
Then last weekend, United were denied again when Jamal Campbell-Ryce was dragged back in the area by Enda Stevens, who was on a yellow card at the time and should have been sent off. Instead, he wasn’t, and man in the middle Keith Hill inexplicably gave a free-kick.
But one of the biggest talking points, referee-wise, over the last week came when Keith Hill, correctly, awarded Rovers a penalty for Paddy McCarthy’s trip on James Coppinger. But then came the red. The laws of the game dictate that denying a goalscoring opportunity is punishable by a red card, but sometimes common sense has to prevail, surely? Seconds after McCarthy had completed his long trudge off the Keepmoat turf, Harry Forrester was presented with the most gilt-edged of chances to score - a free shot at an eight-feet-by-eight-yards goal, with only one bloke in the way who is, statistically at least, unlikely to stop it. How much more of a goalscoring opportunity do you want?
Luckily for the paying spectators inside the Keepmoat, McCarthy’s red card didn’t kill the game as a spectacle. But the ‘triple-punishment’ - penalty, red card, suspension - seems unfair at times, especially when the offence - as in McCarthy’s case - was mistimed, rather than reckless or ‘professional’.
This column first thought as much earlier this year when Manchester City’s hopes of overcoming Barcelona in the Champions League were ended with ten seconds of madness. Martin Demichelis brought down Lionel Messi for a penalty, was sent off and the tie, as a spectacle, was effectively over. The game became horrible to watch... and that was just on TV, forgetting the thousands of fans who had paid their hard-earned to be there. Take away one of the best things about the game - the uncertainty of the outcome - and what we have left isn’t very much at all. So, what’s the answer? I’ve heard sin-bins mooted, or even asking the opposition manager if he’d prefer to have the penalty, or see the defender sent off. My suggestion? Just try using good, old fashioned common sense, refs. Wonder if it’ll catch on?