It’s About Time

The decision by the Premier League to select Chris Foy as a referee for a fourth division game this weekend (League Two in new money) after he officiated in a home game Manchester United lost, is a demotion that highlights the pressure put on officials at certain grounds. Foy could arguably have given United a penalty against Spurs on Saturday for shirt pulling that was nowhere near as bad as happens in penalty boxes every week, yet that, and the failure to add enough time on for United to win the game (and considering Van Persie’s miss on the day we could still be playing now), seems to have induced a punishment the Premier League say is coincidental.

That the United Manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, was even complaining about a referee decision considering the fortuitous history his side has had in the same fixture over the last ten years in particular due to refereeing, is somewhat laughable. When Howard Webb gave a United a game-changing penalty that never was when Spurs were 2-0 up in the second half at Old Trafford in 2009 he wasn’t demoted three divisions, nor was Mark Clatternberg, either when he failed to give Spurs a deserved winner after failing to see Pedro Mendes had clearly scored in the final minute of the game in 2005, or in 2010 when he allowed a United goal when the ball seemed to be dead.

Not that any of it should overshadow an excellent Tottenham performance that was assertive in the first-half, with brilliant movement from a front three of Jermain Defoe, Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. Lennon’s positioning and pace meant Patrice Evra could never tuck in side to support his centre-backs who struggled to cope with Spurs players running towards them at pace.

Though, as in the disappointing draws at home to West Bromwich Albion and Norwich, Spurs dropped off far too deep in the second half, with no outlet on the halfway line when defending corners or no-one pressing the opposition in midfield in open play, Spurs hung on for a long overdue and deserved victory due to having one of those rare performances when every player had a very good game.

United had decent chances, but they failed to convert them, and finally not even a bad refereeing decision, as Spurs have experienced so often in the past at Old Trafford, could deny them a victory.  United still have the strongest squad in the league, with goals aplenty and cover in all positions (despite their current defensive injuries); they should still win the League, but it would be better for all officials weren’t in in fear of give any 50-50 decision against them due to the message the Premier League are sending out.


The Substantive Football Columnist Mel Gomes’ e-book ‘Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley’ is now available to preview for free and download from Amazon and Smashwords. With past recollections of matches including Clasicos, Milan Derbies and Diego Maradona’s one appearance at White Hart Lane, it covers a journey over land and sea in the 2010-11 Champions League, with an epilogue at the end of the 2012 season. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.