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Tag: football

Mark Halsey is the best referee in the game but even he can have a bad day

It is not exactly a secret that Mark Halsey is in my opinion the best referee in the British game. I have thought this for the best part of the last decade. He lets the game flow and seems to realise that it is a man’s game and allows games to get physical. He isn’t overly officious and seems to understand the game better than most. Having said all that though his performance in the Wolves v Tottenham Hotspur game this afternoon was disappointing and when the best is making big mistakes then we have a problem.

How Alan Hutton wasn’t sent off for pulling a Wolves player down when shooting on goal in the six yard box is beyond me. Halsey saw it and gave the spot kick therefore he had to send Hutton off. It was without a shadow of a doubt a clear goalscoring opportunity, which is what it says in the laws of the game but only a yellow was shown. Halsey told Sky at Half-Time that he didn’t think it was a clear goalscoring opportunity. Well when a player is shooting from six yards with only the keeper to beat isn’t a clear goalscoring opportunity then I’m puzzled to put it mildly.

Later in the game Wolves seem to have equalised but a foul on the keeper was given and the goal chalked off. A poor decision again. Following his off the field physical problems though I was disgusted by the Wolves fans chanting, ‘You’re not fit to referee.’ I thought that was in very poor taste.

The thing is though that referees are deciding games and livelihoods. In the past week several high-profile referees have made pretty awful mistakes that have potentially impacted who wins the league and who stays up. It isn’t good enough. I watch a lot of north American sport and the level of officiating is far higher over there all in all. Having said that I was watching Daryl Harper the other day and the Australian umpire had an absolute shocker. His knowledge of the LBW law seems to be shall we say lacking.

As an aside I just typed in ‘Daryl Harper’ on google and the first option was ‘Daryl Harper worst umpire’ – hilarious.

Going back to EPL refs. Mark Clattenberg is seen by many to be our #2 behind Howard Webb but his decision to not send Wayne Rooney off last week when he saw the incident was mind-boggling. Martin Atkinson’s decision not to send off David Luiz on Tuesday was nearly as bad and the assistant referee in the Arsenal game yesterday flagging Arshavin offside when he wasn’t coupled with not seeing Titus Bramble’s two-handed shove in the back of the same player when clean through and in the box was woeful.

Referees will not be right 100% of the time. We know that and we always go through phases of high-profile mistakes but these are not hard ones. These are incidents the referees are seeing but not making the right decision and that it where the worry comes in. Let’s be blunt here. In the early game Phil Dowd should’ve flashed his red card on more than one occasion in the first half of Liverpool v Manchester United but seemed scared to do so. He saw all the incidents and gave three yellows when two were dead cert reds and one was a nip/tuck red/yellow.

The refs are seeing the big game-changing incidents but are not acting on them accordingly. That isn’t good enough for full-time officials and something needs to be done about it – and soon.

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Replacing Richard Keys & Andy Gray – a fortnight on…

So here we are a fortnight or so since Andy Gray was dismissed by Sky and Richard Keys followed him out of the door They are working together over on talkSPORT with a daily 10-1 show that is probably rather interesting. I will admit to not having listened to it but I think they’ve found a good home there and it was a great coup by the broadcaster to bring them on board but enough about them. This ramble is about what Sky have done to replace the face and one of the voices of Sky’s football coverage.

Presenting wise we’ve seen a three-headed monster of David Jones, Ed Chamberlain and Jeff Stelling. Ben Shephard has not really been asked to step up and this says a lot. I have always been a Ben Shephard fan but watching him on Goals on Sunday last Sunday it was cringing. He would interrupt guest Big Sam Allardyce all the time and not let him finish his point. Pretty shocking for a trained journalist certainly when you consider Chris Kamara sitting alongside him was never guilty of that. Bn Shephard has talents but he needs to learn (in my opinion) that people want to listen to the guests on a show and not the presenter. Just calm down and you’ll be great as you do ask good questions but seem to keen to answer them yourself.

So this leaves us with three and no surprise that Jeff Stelling is involved to some degree. Jeff is a class act but doesn’t want to build up a big portfolio of live football because of his Soccer Saturday and countdown commitments. If Jeff were to become the new face of football on Sky Sports then no-one would complain but I don’t see it going that way. So that leaves us with two.

And from those two I think I’m leaning on Ed Chamberlain’s side. I think he seems more at ease than David Jones (whom I’ve always liked) and I’m very interested to see how Ed develops over the next few weeks. David Jones I’d think has the inside track long-term if they hire in-house but after a couple of EPL weekends I think Ed is looking great. I still think they should go outside and bring in James Richardson but we’ll see what they do in the summer.

Replacing Andy Gray though has not been impressive with so far Alan McInally, Glenn Hoddle and Ray Wilkins all being asked to step up to a co-commentator role that they just aren’t suited for. Ray Wilkins did the Milan v Spurs game last night and just wasn’t great. Terrific studio pundit and I like him a lot in that role but I didn’t think he added any real insight sitting up on the gantry. Hoddle put his foot in his mouth and that won’t have gone down well in Sky and as for Alan McInally, another pundit I like but not sure he brings anything to the gantry. I’d still love Chris Kamara to be brought back as he was great on the football league a few years back.

Sadly great co-commentators are hard to find in football when you consider the likes of Craig ‘every ref is an idiot – every time’ Burley, ‘Mark ‘I like to complain at everything’ Bright and Chris ‘Whinges a lot’ Waddle are all getting a lot of live work on big fixtures. Jim Beglin is the best one out there but not sure Sky will go out and hire him. Much more likely to keep trying ex-pros to see which ones work and give you real insight during a game.

So replacing Keys doesn’t look like an issue but replacing Andy Gray still looks like something Sky have to worry about.

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Half Time Burger? I don’t think so. How about tofu on a stick instead?

I suspect many of you will have read the widely reported article this morning that Forest Green Rovers have banned red meat from the ground in an attempt to promote healthy living amongst their fans. The ban on players eating red meat has been running for a few weeks but now it is being spread to the fans. the BBC News version of the story is here.

It is certainly an interesting decision by the owner, who coincidentally is a vegan who has made his millions running green electricity company Ecotricity. He says that is will promote healthy living and will move the club further along in their ambitions to become a green company. What is doesn’t do though is promote choice. Surely he could bring in this food and give those interested the option to eat greener and give up their Half Time burger or hot dog with onions. He says that he believes it is a step-forward for the club whereas we all know it is in fact a step backwards. More choice is the future. Less choice is the past. (Vote Yes to AV).

What I’m interested to see is how this affects attendances at Forest Green matches and also what away fans will think if they didn’t know the news before making the trip to the aptly green named ‘The New Lawn’ where they play their home games. Will fans take this lying down or will there be an uprising against the owner? Will home attendances suffer as casual fans stay away? Is the Half Time meat pie vital to the football afternoon or evening to some fans?

Many questions but it’s a bold step by this man. One that is admirable but also lamentable. I suspect many fans will now stream out of the ground at Half Time and go to the nearest burger van. If you are a burger van owner that has a pitch near to this ground then your Matchday profits are going to go through the roof. This will undoubtably lose money for the club, the question though is will it lose enough money to concern the millionaire owner? Somehow I doubt it.

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Sky Sports News Transfer Deadline Day – It’s Porn for Men at Work

Twice every year football fans get themselves worked up into a lather about football transfers. As the Transfer Window slowly comes to a close hope and panic are abundant amongst football fans and Sky Sports News sees their viewership go through the roof. Every football fan with Sky and a PC will have it on in the background via SkyPlayer and most will go home tonight and watch it until the deadline passes. Something always happens from the famous Robinho transfer to Man City to Lassana Diarra signing for Arsenal 90 mins after deadline. We’ve even seen players sign days later because players have fallen asleep and missed flights. It all goes off.

Today we have two massive transfers on the cusp of happening. Fernando Torres is expected to move to Chelsea in a £48million transfer package that will include Nicolas Anelka going the other way. Also Liverpool are tying up a £26.5million move for Luis Suarez and have apparently bid a quite mind-boggling £35million for Andy Carroll from Newcastle.

These are the headlines but players are moving all over the country today and Sky Sports News will be bringing us the news first. Everyone who is a Sky Sports News Deadline Day veteran will know that as the window reaches its final hours Jim White will be the man to take us through to the end. He has become the face of Deadline Day and really makes the whole show just a bit more exciting. Fans of all clubs will either be hoping for some incomings and hoping that no-one leaves. Big names are still in the mix for moves today even though no fees have been agreed and there is only seven hours or so until it is all over.

As a Pompey fan I expect nothing today. Well nothing good anyway. However the Torres and Carroll moves will keep my interest peaked and you just never know what’ll happen as the day unfolds. You can watch porn whenever you like but Transfer Deadline Day comes about but twice a year. I just wonder who Spurs are trying to sign on the sly after the Rafael Van Der Vaart move on the last deadline day and we all know Harry Redknapp has form…

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Replacing Andy Gray is tough but replacing Richard Keys…not so much. Step forward Mr James Richardson.

Whatever you think of what went down at Sky regarding Richard Keys and Andy Gray one question still needs to be answered – who will replace them? I’ll have a look at who I see as some of the candidates.

First we’ll look at the #1 co-commentary position – Andy Gray’s old job.

Internally Alan Smith, the former Arsenal and England striker is the obvious candidate. He has been the #2 co-commentator on Sky Football for a fair while now. Knowledgeable but does he have the gravitas to pull off the big games?

Elsewhere within Sky Football you have Don Goodman and Garry Birtles. Both doing well but do the hierarchy really think they are ready for the step up to the big games? I doubt it.

Another name to mention is Chris ‘Unbelievable Jeff’ Kamara. The former Navy boy has a following on Sky but hasn’t done much, if any, co-commentary for several seasons. Was an astute co-commentator when he did it but most would see him as not serious enough for the gig.

So this leaves me to think that for the start of next season they’ll look to bring in a new voice.

Outside of Sky you look at ESPN and they have both Craig Burley and Chris Waddle, neither of whom are exactly the darlings of the message boards. Would be a surprise for Sky to move for either of them.

The BBC has an array on names but are any of them any good in the co-commentators chair? The answer is no, not really. Mark Bright got the big live Carling Cup semi-final 2nd leg this week and was nowhere near the standard you’d expect for a top flight football match. Mark Lawrenson has been ok in the past but would Sky go there? Not sure they would.

Over at ITV you have David Pleat and Jim Beglin and here is where you’ll find the most obvious candidate. Jim Beglin has grown in stature over the years and is now very good at his job. He’d certainly attract some looks from Sky if they look for an external hire. However when all is said and done replacing Andy Gray is not going to easy for the company, unlike however replacing Richard Keys.

When looking at replacing Richard Keys Sky have a very simple decision. Do they promote internally with the likes of David Jones, Mark Bolton, Jeff Stelling and Ben Shephard all already on payroll or do they look externally and go and get the best in the business – yes the best – who is currently not doing any live football to my knowledge.

All football fans who any knowledge or who even have a passing interest in TV presenting know who I’m talking about, yes James Richardson. The former host of Football Italia on Channel 4 and Bravo’s coverage of the same league is the class of the field. He knows his stuff and has a fantastic demeanor. He has been criminally overlooked by the big networks for too many years but now an opening has shown itself and if they want to totally revamp their live football coverage then he is clearly the guy for them.

I won’t knock the internal candidates, all of whom would step up and do a solid job but none of them would step in and bring what James would bring to the table. He knows the game inside out, has a laid back style but asks the right hard-hitting questions. For me this is a no brainer and should Sky want to take this opportunity to move it’s football coverage into a bold new era then they don’t have to think twice.

Replacing Gray will be tough as there isn’t anyone out there who screams out at you but as for Richard Keys, James Richardson is just a phone call away.

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The Return of Mark Halsey

I read today that Mark Halsey has passed his fitness test and will return to the top flight as a Select Group Referee. This is excellent news and I for one am delighted to see Halsey return to what he does best.

His battle with cancer was well documented and to get back to full fitness in such a short time is impressive in itself. However I’m happy that he is returning not only for him but selfishly because he is one of the top officials in the country.

The way he referees is unlike most of the young up and coming referees. He lets a lot of things go, his attitude seems to be ‘it’s a man’s game’ and lets the players get on with it. He also understands the advantage rule better than most and the players seem to respect his style.

Halsey returning to the middle is great news for him but it is just as good news for fans of the beautiful game. If referees have done their job properly then most people won’t even know who has officiated that game. When Mark takes charge of a game you wouldn’t know it and that is the way it should be.

I wish Mark a successful season and look forward to seeing him referee again this season. Hopefully it can end with him leading out two teams at Wembley for the FA Cup, preferably Portsmouth but some things are a real long shot!

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