The latest in our occasional series that pokes Salut! Sunderland noses into the business of others …
Graham Poll was a referee whose apparent excess of self-confidence was often interpreted as arrogance. There was much gloating when his three-card trick – in fact it was one card, the yellow one he showed three times to Josip Šimunic of Croatia in the 2006 World Cup – signalled the end of his international career.
In truth, it was his decision to stand down, directly because of his error, and he refereed for only one further season in the Premier before retiring.
He now does an excellent and necessary job, commenting in the Daily Mail on controversial issues arising from match officials’ decision.
Unlike many supporters, I admired him as a ref. I saw him make calamitous errors against Sunderland’s interests (eg failing to spot Ben Thatcher commit GBH on Nicky Summerbee as Wimbledon raced upfield to score a winner, missing Andy Cole’s handball before a Man Utd goal that beat us at the SoL).
But he did not make nearly as many mistakes as I have seen from our own players, and indeed the handsomely paid players of any team you can mention, over the years. Generally, I believe, he refereed strongly, fairly and well.
In this week’s column, he considers a disallowed penalty in Aston Villa v Liverpool and the offside call that denied Southampton an instant equaliser to Emanuele Giaccherini’s early goal.
The focus of his remarks is the tendency of too many TV commentators to assume that because a decision is tight, it must be wrong and/or give the team against whom it is made reason to feel aggrieved.
* The Sturridge non-penalty:
Brad Guzan dives at Daniel Sturridge’s feet to prevent the goal that would have doubled Liverpool’s lead and sealed their win even before the final whistle performed the same function. Poll describes “an interesting game very well refereed by Mark Clattenburg” and points out that Guzan clearly touched and diverted the ball as he challenged.
Sturridge went to ground as his momentum took him over Guzan. Sky commentator Rob Hawthorne called it a clear penalty, as the camera panned to Clattenburg who indicated that he had seen a small touch of the ball by Guzan with an excellent hand signal. Another replay supported this and yet co-commentator Alan Smith ignored the evidence and joined Hawthorne. They went on and on about how crucial an error it would be IF Villa equalised. They also highlighted that Clattenburg was lucky that Liverpool led as that was why Sturridge had not made more of the situation.
This reporting is irresponsible and on this occasion wholly inaccurate. Clattenburg was not lucky – he was right. Not because of some quirk of fate but through determined running which afforded him the best angle to see what happened – at full speed and without replays.
* The Rodriguez offside
Match of the Day, Poll says, erred in similar fashion in its coverage of the Saints v SAFC game. Southampton’s joy, when Jay Rodriguez headed home, was short-lived as the assistant referee, Andy Halliday, raised his flag for offside.
Replays showed this to be an excellent decision. Sure, it was marginal, but the best decisions are – however it was correct.
BBC commentator John Roder went on about how Southampton should feel hard done by after seeing the replay. What nonsense. Rodriguez was offside and Halliday should have been applauded for his excellent judgement.
* Catch Pete Sixsmith’s inimitable match report from St Mary’s: https://safc.blog/2013/08/a-useful-point-or-an-indication-of-troubles-ahead/
Watching on an internet stream, I head another commentator and pundit (Sky for overseas consumption, I think), talk of Southampton feeling hard done by even though it was admitted that the officials had actually got nothing wrong in this or the other contentious moments (generally when Southampton players fell over elaborately after imaginary fouls in the penalty box).
Poll never hesitates to identify what he feels, with the mighty benefit of numerous replays, were genuine howlers.
He is right in saying commentators ought to take more responsibility for their comments. The game is all the better for having his intelligent Monday morning verdicts on the talking points of the weekend – and I say that in the knowledge that he has more than once dismissed exaggerated grievances on Sunderland’s part, or supported someone else’s complaints about decisions in our favour.
Fancy leaving a comment? Not sure what you have to say fits this post? Go to the new feature – https://safc.blog/2013/07/salut-sunderland-the-way-it-is/ – and say it there.
** Help Salut! Sunderland: make your Amazon purchases via our link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0007262833/salusund-21 takes you to the Graham Poll book, just £6.47 for the paperback