Category: Archive

Soccer Scene O’Leary leads managers’ assault on poor refs

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Joe Behan

"That fourth goal was offside," protested Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier. "I thought the decision was a bit dodgy. We are very disappointed."

The Liverpool defense was tired coming into the Leeds game after their midweek extra-time victory, 2-1, against Chelsea in the Worthington Cup. Leeds beat Liverpool 4-3 with Mark Viduka hitting four, but the controversial winner marred the Aussie’s heroics.

Managers are all over referees these days, and leading the warpath on bad refereeing is the Leeds United boss, David O’Leary.

The toughest job in soccer is refereeing. In the last few years refs are getting roasted in the game for poor performances. Due to the outspoken O’Leary, the cards are on the table and the chips are red for the man in the middle. The Irishman is now the voice that leads the posse for managers to be able to speak their minds about bad officiating without facing disrepute charges as FA punishment.

While living in a democracy, O’Leary claimed, one is supposed to say nothing or the book will be thrown at him. Meanwhile, the officials get off scot free, and that cannot be right. The Leeds boss wants explanations for clear mistakes made by referees during games and uses the 3-0 loss to Manchester United as his prime example of his frustration. An O’Leary comment after that game was a sign of things to come for the poor ref.

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"I thought the decision making and the handling of that game was a disgrace," he said. "What makes it worse is that nothing will be done about it. Officials make mistakes, as we all do, but even when faced with those mistakes they are reluctant to withdraw them. Perhaps the saddest aspect of the whole thing is that, as a manager, I am not allowed to voice even the most constructive criticism."

After last weekend’s great comeback against Liverpool, O’Leary was too elated for his youngsters to comment on the ref. Leeds badly needed that victory after fellow Irish manager John Aldridge of Tranmere Rovers outfoxed O’Leary 3-2 in the Worthington Cup last week. Aldridge is struggling at Rovers, but that personal story was overshadowed by comments that Aldo made after his game against Norwich.

Aldridge with ref posse

Aldridge, the former international, spoke of his frustration after seeing Rovers beaten 1-0 by Norwich. Tranmere’s recent form has drawn media attention, which may ease since the Rovers’ cup triumph against Leeds. But Aldridge is not going away and joins forces with his friend O’Leary. This ref story is taking off and the men in black need the FA to back them up, including managers.

Aldridge was unhappy with the performance of Northampton official Richard Beeby. When quizzed on his comments, Aldridge explained that he was angry the official had failed to spot a first-half handball and also failed to penalize Norwich when a late Tranmere free-kick appeared to be handled in the wall.

Aldridge joined the posse when he said, "I really do agree with what Joe Royle and David O’Leary have been saying about referees – that you should be able to comment on their performances whether they be good or bad."

Aldridge went on to say: "So far this season we’ve only had three or four good ones and, I know, I’ve got to be careful about what I say about the bloke today, but let’s just say I don’t think he was born too far away from here. He won’t go any further in this league, no chance."

The game has become more sophisticated and it may be that refs are a little behind. The introduction of technological assistance makes it clear that more precise decisions have to be made. But in the last few years players have conned refs by going down as much as possible. Brousia Dortmund did it against Juventus in the Champions League final. Deliberately but very cunningly Dortmund wasted time. The momentum is taking away from the game when refs fall for players diving. The cheating gets more boring in midfield especially. It’s time managers of the football world organized courses for refs and promoted the most important man in the game.

Robson, Wenger, Burley on refs

Arsene Wenger and Bobby Robson pinpointed the 22nd-minute penalty award and sending-off of Mark Crossley as the turning point in Arsenal’s 1-nil victory over Boro.

Robson argued that Crossley’s dismissal by referee Andy D’Urso was harsh. Wenger, with a shrug, more or less admitted that the action of match officials continue to perplex him.

"I just don’t know any more," he said.

The Frenchman gave praise to the fighting qualities of Boro. Arsenal was able to raise gears to take the three points and keep the pressure on Manchester United.

Robson was unable to mention his standing in the league and was unable to point the finger at any of his players.

"I don’t think the referee helped us, because I thought it was a harsh sending-off," Robson said. "I think it was a definite penalty, but I didn’t think Crossley was the last man, so he didn’t really need to go.

"I can’t ask any more of the players than what they gave today. They worked very hard, the commitment was excellent and they didn’t get any breaks."

Newcomer George Burley got on the bandwagon after his side, Ipswich, went down 2-1 to Newcastle. Burley commented after the game, "The referee was 50 or 60 yards away, Alan Shearer falls, the crowd shouts and the ref gives the penalty. Our defender didn’t think it was a penalty and if it had been at the other end, I know which way it would have gone."


Managers do not always speak out about bad officiating after they have won a game. Once opposing managers make the same complaint about officiating, then it’s time the FA did something. It’s time that refs got some notice. The game depends on the man in the middle and the men on the sides.

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