By Tony Attwood
First, sorry I am late this morning. After the match yesterday, the underground system was in total chaos, with the gates closed against the crowds at both Arsenal and Finsbury Park stations. No one knew what was going on, no one bothered with announcements. And why should the authorities bother? We were just football supporters. Hardly worth running the trains for.
Then eventually, when we were finally permitted to enter the stations, back to Leicestershire with Ian, James and their sons (taking the youngsters to a match is always good fun, and always reminds me of my own early days at Highbury with my dad), watching in amazement on the journey as Leicester rattled in the goals.
And after that a quick change and a drive to Nottingham for a Christmas dance with my friends, which was utterly brilliant. Let me tell you, if being old has yet to get to you, this is the way to do it when it comes. Just live life to the full. OK I am done in this morning and my legs don’t work properly but it was fun.
But… be a bit wary of the old heart, if you do take that route, not because of the dancing but because my heart rate really went up in this match. Never, ever, ever have I seen such awful refereeing in my lifetime of watching football. And never have I come across such terrible support since the days of the Manchester United Supporters Club (London Branch) in the 1970s.
That some Stoke fans ever sang songs celebrating their player’s crippling of Ramsey over six years ago is disgusting enough, but that now they still sing the song is just beyond belief. Yes there are always morons who sing disgusting songs, just as there are people around who are anti-Semitic, racially prejudiced, and so on. But to have so many of these Stoke people singing this together really is a reflection on their club. As is the fact that the club does nothing about it – which of course they could because they have access to the films, they sell on the tickets. Stoke City is the pariah of football.
But the ref… Lee Mason was atrocious, appalling, and disgraceful. This is not a question of giving a decision one way not another, nor just of endlessly ignoring the breaking of the rules. This was a referee who made up new rules as he went along. At one stage indeed he seemed utterly to lose control of the game, didn’t like the way a dropped ball was played, and so picked up the ball and just rolled it to a Stoke player and waved him on giving Stoke the advantage they should never have had.
Throughout the whole game Grant in the Stoke goal was taking more and more time to take the goalkicks (of which there were many). The crowd booed and jeered and the referee did nothing. Some years back the rules were changed to allow the goal kick to be taken from anywhere inside the goal area (rather on the side of the goal area at which the ball went out). This was to speed up play – showing the rule makers realised the need to keep the game going.
The laws indicate that a player has six seconds to restart a game unless stopped from doing so by the referee. If the player does not follow this rule he should be warned, and then subsequently an indirect free kick awarded and/or the player be given a yellow card.
All referees are lenient about this rule – but in this case we were getting to 20 or 30 seconds each time. Eventually in the second half the referee spoke to the keeper about the issue. The keeper took no notice and carried on as before. The ref did nothing.
So the tactic spreads because of people like Lee Mason, and the fact that the issue is now of no consequence can be seen from the fact that the newspapers today don’t even bother to mention this point. Nor indeed the nonsense over the dropped ball fiasco or the other incompetences too numerous to mention
Is Lee Mason bent? Is he incompetent? Or was he just having a bad day?
Who knows, but what we can say is if PGMO do nothing about this display there is something very very seriously wrong with refereeing in the PL.
Of course judging by watching the event on TV is not helped by the fact that the TV cameras pull away from all time wasting in order to show film of men running back towards the half way line ready for the goal kick.
But whatever the reason for the display of Lee Mason, let me tell you as one who was there, this was an utterly and totally inept display and one that should result in him being sent for re-training, re-entering refereeing at somewhere within the non-league level (although I would hate to give this man over to the Southern League). Perhaps North Korea should be the destination.
We won, Man City lost, we are top of the league, and we did it all despite Lee Mason. (And come to that I got to the dance despite the incompetence of Transport for London). So in the end the right result. Shame about the ref. And TfL.
(PS: Today is the anniversary of Arsenal’s first ever match – and it is Walter’s birthday. Happy birthday to both).
Tales from Untold