The Cup got a long overdue re-boot. Now the Toon need one. Send for Mourinho.

Published: Monday, 18 March 2024

If ever a competition needed a re-boot it was the FA Cup. This weekend it got it. And in some style.

Three of the four quarter-finals were breathless affairs. Absolutely brilliant.

Wolves and Coventry set the bench mark. We weren’t working until later in the day at beINSPORTS, so I watched the game with Andy. I’ve got to be honest - when Wolves equalised I left the room. I knew they’d get a second and I thought once that happens we‘re done for. I know. Shameful, but I can’t take too much tension these days. I’m getting old.

Down the years it’s also been the case that if I walk away from a match that Coventry are involved in something good happens. It worked at Wembley last May when Gus Hamer got us an equaliser v Luton. I should really have gone for a walk during the shoot-out. I’ll always regret that!

Again. I know. What a load of bollocks, but it works. 😂.

Anyway. What happened next was stunning. I’m so pleased for the boys and Mark Robins. I’ve said many times before - he’s a top operator. He deserves some time in the spotlight again.

I’ll come back to City/Newcastle. Chelsea fans were driven to distraction by their team (again) but at least they made it. It’s a pity really. I fancied us having a go at Leicester at Wembley!

And although Liverpool should’ve won comfortably at OT - fair play to United, who made the most of the presents that Klopp’s side handed them with.

Just a foot-note re-that game. I felt for both Amad Diallo and ref John Brooks. Brooks had no choice but to send Diallo off, but would anyone have cared if he’d joined in the celebrations moments later? It was ridiculous that he had to stay in the dressing room while everyone else at OT drank in United’s best moment of the season.

Mac Allister doesn’t come out of what happened very well either. It was churlish of him to kick the ball at Diallo so he got booked - appearing to stop a free-kick being taken. I hate that kind of ‘professionalism’. Apolgies if it wasn’t Mac Allister, but it was bang out of order shithousery.

City/Newcastle was awful. City didn’t need to break sweat. The Toon were never in the game. They’ve gone backwards. The project up there has stalled. They need a re-boot as well.

I’m genuinely sorry that all the hard work Eddie Howe and his staff have put in has come to nothing. Another year has passed without silverware. How many more campaigns can they waste?

I was never convinced that Howe was the right man for Newcastle, but in fairness he did a terrific job last season. It was great to see them mixing with the big boys again. He restored pride and belief, but it’s time for change if they want to push on.

I really don’t think Howe can take them to the next level. His team reflect his personality. They’re ‘nice’. And nice doesn’t win at the very top. You need some devil. City can be easy on the eye, but they’ve got devil. All the best teams have.

My answer? Jose Mourinho. Few people know more about winning than he does. He’s done it everywhere he’s been - including ‘half a trophy’, as he puts it, at Spurs. What madness that was - sacking him in the week of a final.

I know there’s a view that Mourinho is finished. That the game has moved on. Bollocks. The game will never move on from winning. There are no guarantees in football - except that Mourinho will win you a trophy.

He would be perfect in the North East. He’d energise the place again. Set it alight. Eddie Howe is a good man, but everyone has fallen asleep on his watch.

If Newcastle want to sign top players they need a top coach to attract them. Geography plays a huge part these days when players are making decisions about which club to join. London is always favourite. The North West - Alderley Wedge and surrounding areas are popular - even for players at Liverpool and Everton.

Newcastle is a big ask. I’m sorry, but it is. Keegan’s magnetism drew players. Mourinho would have the same effect.

It’s ridiculous to think that Mourinho still needs to prove himself after all he’s done, but for some, it seems he does. Where better than with Newcastle? When he started winning - and bloodying the noses of United, Chelsea, City and the rest again, Newcastle fans would love him. When he delivered a trophy they’d adore him.

One last thing - with Klopp leaving us, our league needs Mourinho back

On another subject - I read today that Newcastle will meet Spurs in Melbourne three days after the season ends. Er - player fatigue guys? Let’s hear no more about that.

And I can’t imagine how David Moyes is feeling this morning. One big handball decision after another has gone against his team in their last few games. The last of them took a record 5 minutes 37 seconds to sort out.

What sort of madness is this?

It took over 4 mins to allow Coventry’s first at Wolves. This can’t go on. If it takes more than 30 seconds to make a VAR decision - forget it. Go with the onfield decision. It’s ridiculous to make us all wait any longer. It’s discourteous and arrogant in equal measure by VAR operators.

What did Klopp have for lunch?

Published: Monday, 11 March 2024

What did Jurgen Klopp have for lunch if he thought Stewart Attwell was going to tell Michael Oliver he’d made a mistake? There was no chance of that happening. Zero. None. Not Sunday. Not ever. And I’ve been telling you all this for months now.

Of course Liverpool should’ve had a late pen - but once Oliver had decided otherwise, Attwell was in a really invidious position. There was no way he was going to ask Oliver to go to the monitor.

Not since Saturday, September 4 2022 has that happened. Do you remember the incident? The match was Forest v Bournemouth. Forest were awarded a pen by Oliver when Bournemouth’s Lloyd Kelly handled.

Before the kick was taken, Oliver was invited to the monitor to review his decision. He decided his original call was correct. Of course he did.

At the time we all praised him for having the guts to stick with his decision. I believe it was the first time a ref had stayed with his on-field call after being sent to check it. Well - overturn it, because that always happens.

What isn’t so well known - but I’ve referred to it before - is that Oliver was furious he’d been asked to check his decision and he let his colleagues know, in no uncertain terms, at their next meeting. I can’t think of too many times since - if any - when Oliver has been back to a monitor. I would add that he’s one of the busiest when he’s in the bunker - but the message is clear when he’s got the whistle - don’t bother me.

I mentioned this only last week. I’ve lost count of the other occasions when I’ve referred to it. I’ve had people ridicule me for sticking to my guns on it - but now do you believe me?

Oliver is a fool to himself behaving the way he does. Perhaps he didn’t see Doku do his Nigel de Jong impression? What’s wrong with checking? Or perhaps Guardiola’s pre-match comments (which the FA should ask him for his observations on) were rolling around in his mind? Whatever - Attwell failed to do his job properly.

I read as I write that Attwell believed Doku’s foot was in a ‘reasonable position’. Please. Why do we go through this farce every week? You got it wrong guys. No amount of covering up or excuses will change that.

Oh. Craig Pawson got another one wrong as well. How on earth did Jakub Moder stay on the pitch at Brighton? Was his foot in an ‘reasonable position’ as well guys?

I guess you could argue that Pawson shouldn’t have been needed in the bunker, because Michael Salisbury should’ve shown red immediately that Moder assaulted Neco Williams. It’s worth pointing out that both refs have got form when it comes to howlers this season.

It isn’t getting any better Howard (showbiz showbiz showbiz) is it? But I guess they’re giving you plenty to go at on the next episode of Sorry! And get a grip on Oliver.

As for the game at Anfield - it was terrific. We really enjoyed it here in the Middle East. I went on air a little concerned that it might let us down - as so many big games have recently - but there was no need to worry. Everyone gave everything they’d got - except for Pep Guardiola post match - again.

What is it with this guy? Guardiola was just plain rude our reporter - the excellent Andy Kerr. If I’d been Kerr I’d have shut the interview down and walked away. And I told him as much afterwards.

Guardiola was a disgrace. He couldn’t be bothered. He offered nothing - just one-word answers and a daft smile. He looked at Kerr like he was a piece of shit on his shoe. He did the same last week. In fact - he does the same most weeks. I’m told he was just as dismissive to my mate Jan Fjortoft, but I haven’t spoken to Jan so I’m not certain.

Guardiola only talks to journos because he’s contracted to do so. He let his feelings about us be known at a press conference last week.

But here’s the thing Senor Guardiola. We’re all trying to do a job - just like you. Nobody, whilst doing that job, deserves to be ridiculed by you. Andy Kerr deserved better Sunday, not because you have a contractual obligation to speak to him - but because you have a moral obligation to treat him - and others - with manners and respect.

Andy is talking to you as a conduit between you and your supporters - and there are more of them in our broadcast area than anywhere else in the world.

I’ve suggested to my bosses that we should simply ignore you unless you come down off your high horse and behave. Sadly that won’t happen. But it should.

I could understand Guardiola’s attitude a little more if the pen had been given. If City had been beaten. If frustration had got the better of him - but none of those things applied.

When I watch him, Guardiola gives me the impression that nobody has a right to ask him questions, because none of us has the same lofty genius that he clearly believes elevates him above everybody else. He might be right - but, as my old mum used to say - good manners cost nothing.

We’ve got to mention Spurs. What a good job they did on Villa. They spanked them - and it had nothing to do with McGinn’s sending off. It had more to do with Emery getting it wrong in a big game again. That’s a worrying trend if you’re a Villa fan. But that shouldn’t detract from Spurs’ performance. They were great in that second-half.

I was going to have a little pop at Sunny Jim again today, but Andy Dunn got their first. I like Dunn’s stuff and he was spot on in The Mirror today. Read his column for yourselves…..

Brilliant. I couldn’t have put it any better. The only thing I’d add Andy, is that I’m not sure Seb Coe should be anywhere near the project. I like Coe as well, but the last project he was involved in led to the London Stadium being built - a hybrid athletics/football stadium that’s never been fit for purpose.

Finally, on the first day of Ramadan - may I wish all of you celebrating love and blessings, good desires and purity. Ramadan Kareem.

Yes. It was Man U not Sheff U

Published: Monday, 04 March 2024

Well now you all know what I’ve been telling you is accurate. It’s over. We’ve had a bit of fun with his name previously - which was perhaps a little naughty - but here we go for one last time. He’s now Erik ten Games. That’s just about all the time he’s got left.

The Dutchman wrote his resignation letter Sunday. United were awful. Wretched. Well - let’s give them some credit for a disciplined 45 minutes. They stuck rigidly to their jobs and frustrated City. And I’ve always believed that there’s more than one way to play the game. But that said - I had to keep reminding myself that I was watching Manchester United - not Sheffield United.

There can’t be a United fan on the planet that wasn’t embarrassed by the way ten Hag set his team up. To borrow a phrase from a U.K. pundit ‘this was Manchester Uniiiiiited’.

It was incredible. United - admitting that they are simply aren’t good enough to be on the same pitch as City anymore. That they can’t compete on equal terms. No wonder Rashford is pissed off. Can you blame him?

I’ve got a feeling that if United weren’t still in the FA Cup, ten Hag would be out already, but whilst there’s feint hope that they could somehow win the thing Sunny Jim will stick with him.

City were terrific. I said many many months ago that I can get bored watching them. (Others later repeated that view). City are often guilty of overplaying, but I they put on a master class to win Sunday. They were patient. Never once did they look desperate. They all believed that eventually they’d find a way through. And when they did it was with a spectacular goal from an absolute diamond. How Jack Grealish must wish he could conjure moments like Foden does in a City shirt.

From the dull tedium of watching United pretend that they still have a seat at the top table - to City proving why they could yet do another treble - it was a glorious transformation in the game. Stunning.

Just one other thing that I noticed. It was a terrific ball from Onana to Fernandes in the lead up to Rashford’s goal. But did you notice that the keeper had the ball in his hands for a full 17 before he delivered it?

Why does that matter? Well I thought it odd that IFAB announced the day before that they are going to trial an idea to extend the time a keeper can keep the ball from six seconds - to eight. Confused? Me too.

The last time I can remember a keeper being penalised for holding onto a ball too long was at Newcastle when Mike Riley was reffing. (Yes, him) Apparently the feeling is that awarding a direct free-kick for the offence is too strong a punishment so refs are hesitant to do it.

So the cunning IFAB plan is to extend the time to eight seconds and if a keeper hasn’t released the ball then, possession reverts to the opposition. I didn’t read how the opponent gets the ball back. I guess they’re still working on that bit.

It’s all to do with time-wasting of course. We can only wait with bated breath for this next dramatic change to the game. In the meantime I’d suggest that the current laws are enforced properly.

Other weekend highlights? It hurts a little bit because I don’t like to see Everton in as much trouble as they are - but I was pleased to see West Ham record a win that lifts them back into 7th. What are they doing in East London? Why haven’t they put a contract in front of Moyes yet? He’s right you know - never have West Ham enjoyed a time like the one he is delivering. Never. What Moyes has done at the club is incredible.

In some ways it was fitting that he made his point again at Everton. What would they give now for a time when they were finishing in the CL places and taking part in finals? Karen Brady would do well to learn a lesson from history. So would Hammers fans.

There was plenty this weekend for Howard Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) to get his teeth into on the next edition of Sorry! I’m not getting into the incident, but when I heard Paul Tierney had ignored his 4th at Forest before dropping an enormous bollock, Graham Poll came to mind.

Apparently Tierney told the Forest staff he’d ignored advice from Scott because ‘I’m the boss’. What arrogance. Poll reportedly did similar prior to his 3-yellow card trick. He told colleagues ‘don’t get involved with the bookkeeping. I’m good at that. I’ve never fucked up’. Really?

Keep an eye on the Championship this week. It’s going to be a fantastic finish in that division. What looked certain for Leicester is all of a sudden in the balance.

And finally….I see the PGMOL are planning to strengthen staff levels at their Stockley Park VAR hub next season. They’re looking for a new operations executive who will provide support to refs and video assistants. I’m not kidding. I’ve got a better idea - how about Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) gets a grip and raises standards? Refs would feel a whole lot better about themselves then.

It was a Cup final - not a PGMOL training exercise.

Published: Monday, 26 February 2024

It’ll make a great quiz question in years to come - ‘which player scored two perfectly good goals in a Cup final, but his team only won 1-0?’

Madness. Absolute madness. Football has grey areas. It always has had. And I’ve got news for the guys trying to turn it black and white - you can’t. You will kill it in the process.

I’ve never felt as flat as I did this weekend when the mood spoilers and nit pickers ruled out van Dijk’s first goal for Liverpool. Why are the operators of VAR always looking for ways to disallow goals? Their first instinct should be to find ways to give them - it’s what we pay to see. Goals.

There was nothing wrong with van Dijk’s first header. It was a Cup final for fucks sake - not a PGMOL training session. You do not - you can not - disallow a goal in a game of that magnitude for the offence that John Brooks spotted. Ok - by the letter of the law Endo made himself active by blocking Colwill after starting that phase of play offside. That’s exactly what Andy said on beINSPORTS as we watched the game. But come on - common sense should’ve prevailed. Touch guys. Feel. Please.

We see that happen every week - game in game out. We see worse from every set-piece Arsenal take. Watch Ben White the next time they have a corner. It’s part of the game. It’s a ‘grey area’. Football has lots of them. It’s not perfect. We don’t want it to be perfect.

Chris Kavanagh dutifully did as we knew he would once he’d been called to the monitor. Brilliant. Well done guys. Top marks - except that’s not what VAR was introduced for. The idea was that the technology would be used to correct clear errors - like Henry’s handball v Ireland. That was the birthplace of all this nonsense.

Did anyone complain about van Dijk’s goal? Nope. It was a perfectly good goal. Can you imagine that storm that would’ve broken out had van Dijk not got Kavanagh and Brooks out of jail with his 2nd goal. Incidentally, I’ve been critical of van Dijk in the past. He’s never struck me as a leader. I think he’s too selfish to be a ‘team’ captain - but he was enormous on Sunday.

I should add that Chelsea have cause to feel hard done by as well. Their goal should’ve stood. Again - what are we doing ruling a goal out because a hint of a shoulder is apparently offside? It really is a load of bollocks.

What Kavanagh and Brooks should’ve used the technology for was to send Caicedo off. That challenge on Gravenberch was a disgrace. There’s no place for that in the game. It met all the criteria for a red - except Kavanagh thought differently and his hapless mate in VAR did nothing. We asked why not? We were told by the matchday centre that Caicedo’s challenge was more of a ‘slipping motion’. What? Where does it say that in the laws of the game?

I’ll give Kavanagh an out - perhaps he wasn’t up with play? After all, this is a ref who started his season late because he failed fitness tests. But Brooks? You were looking at the pictures man. I wonder what both were thinking when Gravenberch was stretchered off?

Doubtless Kavanagh and Brooks will be lauded at the multi-million pound HQ designed to kill our game by their pen pushing bosses - but they won’t by people who love football - or by those who once did the job they now do a whole lot better. Read Mark Clattenburg and Keith Hackett in The Sun and The Telegraph respectively today (Monday).

In the end justice was done and Liverpool won the game. They deserved to. They were the better team. Chelsea didn’t ’bottle it’. They just weren’t good enough. And poor old Poch watched it all pass him by. I said Sunday - and I’ll repeat it here - he wouldn’t win the lottery if you gave him the winning ticket. Here’s a thought - how about Chelsea give the job to JT? Now he does know about winning.

Kavanagh and Brooks weren’t alone in their bungling this weekend. How did Harry Maguire stay on v Fulham? Michael Oliver should’ve sent him off. When he didn’t Rob Jones should’ve asked him to have a look at the challenge again - except Jones was scared to. No-one questions Oliver. He’s made sure of that. He hates being challenged by refs who he regards as inferior to himself - and that’s everybody in his view. So what’s the point of VAR when he’s reffing? This problem needs to be addressed. And it is a problem - I don’t make these things up.

Top marks to Tony Harrington, who did his job properly at Brighton. Gilmour had to go for his lunge on Onana. The irony is that it wasn’t as bad as Maguire’s or Caicedo’s.

It was good to see Oliver Glasner get off to a winning start at Palace, but as for the nonsense that he ‘took the handbrake off’ - he didn’t. Palace beat Burnley. Every team beats Burnley. It was a perfect game for Glasner. It’s just a pity that Steve Parrish didn’t give ot to Roy Hodgson. It would’ve been a perfect and fitting way for Roy to sign off.

Ten Hag was at it again. His players apparently ‘forgot their jobs’. Nothing to do with them not being good enough then Erik? Or the team you picked? Or the changes you made?

And I read about a £5000 match ticket at Chelsea. It’s the most expensive ticket ever. For your money you get to sit behind the Chelsea dug out for the game v Utd on April 3. I’m not joking. Perhaps they are? I wonder how many takers there will be? My guess is not many. £5000 to watch a team that is a shadow of what it once was - against another faded giant. No thanks.

Smarten up Gallagher.

Published: Monday, 19 February 2024

Well sock-gate got quite a bit of traction. And it turns out the majority are with me. I’ll get round to the subject again shortly.

Sadly, I can’t avoid mentioning our hapless refs and their even less proficient enablers in VAR - and if Howard Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) tries to defend what we saw at Newcastle in the next version of Sorry! then he should be fired.

Before I get to that it seems I need to explain a couple of things that accompany any mention of Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) and his programme Sorry! in this blog.

The programme title first - it was an 80’s sitcoms starring Ronnie Corbett. The content of the show doesn’t matter - I’ve stolen the title of it because Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) is constantly saying sorry. He’s always having to apologise. He should be on the phone to Brentford, Brighton, Bournemouth and perhaps even City as I write (Monday) to say it to all four clubs.

As for our headline chasing PGMOL chief and the reference to - ‘showbiz showbiz showbiz’ - well, it was a jingle that the brilliant Chris Tarrant would always play whenever anyone on his Capital breakfast show mentioned some C or D list celebrity hanging about at the opening of envelopes, hoping that someone would take their picture or ask them for an interview. It was a piss-take highlighting their desperation for publicity. Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) would’ve heard it a few times if ever he’d had a mention on Tarrant’s show. It still makes me chuckle even when I write it. So there we are Nabs.

To the incident at Newcastle then. You must’ve seen it? If not - this is what happened.

Newcastle drop a free-kick into an area on the edge of the Bournemouth box - which Schar tries to win. He’s off-side when the kick is taken. As he challenges for the ball his shirt is pulled and he falls over in the box. The flag goes up to signal that he’s off-side. The ref didn’t see his shirt being held, so off-side is given. It’s the correct decision.

But Rob Jones in VAR gets involved because he reckons Newcastle should have a pen. It takes four minutes for Michael Salisbury (yep - him again) and Jones to decide to give the pen.

Here’s the bit that is completely unfathomable. They agree Schar is off-side - but they say that he was ‘denied the chance to impact the play’. What? He was off-side for fucks sake. That’s the first offence. Give the decision. It’s easy. By the way - I’m not making this up. This is what the matchday centre tell beINSPORTS.

I understand that you can be in an off-side position and not be active. If Sxhar had been some distance from where the ball dropped - fine. But he wasn’t. He was the target. So he’s off-side. Andoni Iraola was totally bemused after clearly being given the same explanation as us.

This is why we need to be able to hear the conversations that take place at the monitor. What on earth were Salisbury and Jones discussing? And it took them four minutes to fuck it up. The level of incompetence is frightening. And I repeat - Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) can’t defend that decision.

Brentford should’ve had a pen. Robertson knew it was a pen. You can see that by the way he limply kicks the ball away after clattering Toney. The only person in the ground that didn’t think it was a pen was Michael Oliver. What happened to VAR? David Coote went missing because he knows that Oliver is never going to accept someone he regards as inferior to him sending him to a monitor. Operators are scared of Oliver so they back off. We know this because Mike Dean admitted as much early in the season. Refs help their mates out and duck controversy.

Brighton should’ve had a pen when Mitoma was bundled over. And City when Haaland was grappled to the floor. It’s not good is it? And it’s not getting any better.

Oh - one other thing. Fulham fans have got every right to ask why their club are always used as guinea pigs when it comes to giving new refs a run-out. Of course the process of finding new blood is important - but it doesn’t always have to be at Craven Cottage. Fulham’s games matter every bit as much as any other teams.

And a word of warning for West Ham supporters. I accept that they've got every right to express their frustration with recent results, but David Moyes is right - the Hammers have never had an era as good the one that Moyes has delivered. I’ve said it before - be careful what you wish for.

And so to sock-gate. I’m right. I know I am. The level of support I’ve had tells me I am.

I asked a top medic again today why players cut holes in the back of their socks. He confirmed what I’d previously been told. Apparently some believe the socks are too tight - and they stop the flow of blood to the calf. Bollocks. They don’t wear anything on their heads do they but clearly the flow of blood is restricted to that area of some of these young men.

It’s got to stop. This weekend Conor Gallagher resembled the poor lad who plays on Hackney Marshes every week that can’t afford kit. You’re a professional man. Look professional. You don’t see Messi or Ronaldo going round looking like they can’t afford socks do you? Perhaps Gallagher believes that players shouldn’t wear socks at all?

Gallagher will be at Wembley this weekend - the spiritual home of Bobby Moore - the greatest England captain ever to have played the game. Bob never once looked anything but immaculate on a football pitch. I hope Gallacher understands that - like it or not - he’s a role model who youngsters emulate and he could learn from Moore’s example. I get it that times and fashions change. There’s nothing wrong with that. But this trend is a nonsense. Smarten up man.

Top celebration Dec.

Published: Monday, 12 February 2024

Class, Dec. Real class. Of course, I’m referring to the ‘celebration’ after Rice smashed Arsenal’s sixth against West Ham.

I thought Rice had a thunderous impact on the game. He looked every inch the player that left West Ham and used to play like it every week in their colours. Perhaps it was because he was back on familiar territory, but Rice cajoled, hit probing passes and to some degree ran the game, in a way I haven’t seen him do often enough in an Arsenal jersey.

His goal topped it all off. He did everything I said he should be doing when I wrote about him being Declan Nice recently. And the celebration police were quite happy with what followed his goal. He was muted. Respectful. And classy.

On that subject Arteta proved that he can behave himself on a touchline. There were none of his usual tiresome antics - which he claims are because he’s an excitable character. Nonsense. 

I know why he behaved - because David Moyes was in the other technical area and he has too much respect for his old boss. So - try pretending he’s there every week Mikel. You looked dignified for once. Well done.

Has ten Hag stumbled on a team I wonder? I don’t think United have played all that well in recent games, but they’ve been nicking results by digging in and they look a far better unit than at any time during ten Hag’s tenure.

There’s no doubt that Villa were the better team across the piece, but why they backed off when they’d got United by the throat, after equalising, I just don’t know. My feeling watching Emery was that he was asking himself that very same question. Anyway - United won it and maybe - just maybe they’ve turned a corner? 

I’m so pleased for Harry Maguire. As I’ve said here often - he’s a top pro. He was immovable on Sunday. Awesome. A lesser man would’ve crumbled with what he’s been through. He deserves plaudits now.

A couple of other things - of course Casemiro was off-side from the free-kick that led to the corner - that led to the goal! BeINSPORTS viewers knew that on Sunday when Andy and I pointed it out.

The assistant should’ve seen it. Casemiro made himself active when he challenged for the ball. There was no way VAR could get involved though because the incident didn’t lead immediately to the goal. 

It was never a free-kick mind you. Having worked Fernandes out referees have got to be as strong with Rashford now. He should’ve been booked for diving, not rewarded for his cheating.

And finally on that game - isn’t it funny how life can work out? I’ll tell you this for a fact - if David Moyes had said ‘yes’ - McTominay would be at West Ham now.

Moyes chased him all last summer, but couldn’t agree a fee with United. They wanted £40m for McTominay - Moyes offered £30m. Because he got frustrated, Moyes went shopping elsewhere - only for United to offer the player for £30m on deadline day. By then it was too late. Ten Hag must be a very happy man that once again fate has served him well.

Antony Taylor had a shocker at Forest. What was it he didn’t see when Dubravka took Awoniyi down? It was a pen. Taylor was actually looking at it. VAR froze - of course they did. There was no way Tony Harrington was going to tell Taylor that he’d dropped a bollock. Like Michael Oliver - Taylor doesn’t take kindly to having his decision making questioned by people he regards as inferior to him. This is an another problem with VAR. And we know this, because Mike Dean said as much earlier in the season.

Burnley were unlucky as well. Never mind that Klopp was angry because he thought his team should’ve had a pen - Aaron Ramsey was clearly fouled by Mac Allister in the build-up to Liverpool’s 2nd. Why is it that more fuss isn’t made about situations like the one at Forest and this one?

It didn’t affect the result - but the boys in VAR had a bad day at Luton as well. There’s no way either pen should’ve been given. Neither was handball. VAR were far too busy. 

Our refs chief, Howard Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) will no doubt ignore all of the above when he sits down to get grilled (😂) by Michael Owen on the next edition of Sorry! I can’t wait.

Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) is going to have a busy month in March. I’ve been sent a flier for an evening he and his wife are hosting in Stockport for the Stockport Referees Society

Tickets are available at £6.00 each.

I don’t know where that money is going - perhaps it’s to cover the cost of food and organisation, but I’d hate to think Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) was taking a fee from the evening. I would love to know if that the case. If you do - please get in touch. 

WhatsApp Image 2024 02 12 at 16.43.53

I don’t know why it was sent to me. If the idea was that I should buy a ticket let me tell you right now - I’d rather spend the evening eating an out of date yoghurt. Webb should be concentrating more on doing his job and improving the standard of our refs than getting involved with stuff like this.

Poch wants out - so put him out of his misery.

Published: Wednesday, 07 February 2024

Jose Mourinho once called Arsene Wenger ‘an expert in failure’. The irony is that it was Mourinho who went on to become the expert - racking up £80m in pay-offs!

His latest sacking in Rome followed the usual pattern - row, rant, then retreat with the money.

He once told me he knew he’d be sacked at United for leaving Pogba out of three consecutive games - at a time when the Frenchman’s stock was at its highest. All planned. And it worked perfectly. He wanted the sack. He got it.

Never mind that he went on to say that his biggest regret at Old Trafford wasn’t that he should have left at the end of the first season - but taking the job in the first place. How does that sit with those suggesting he’s got ‘unfinished business’ at United?

I couldn’t help thinking about all of this when I looked at Pochettino in the dug out at Chelsea yesterday (v Wolves). He looked like he wanted to be anywhere in the world but at The Bridge. His body language screamed ‘sack me’.

He looked disinterested. Lacking ideas. Lacking motivation. Almost a ghost of a man. Short term he should perhaps ask Ben White or Jason Tindall which sunbed shops they use?

Pochettino looks shot. I said early in the season - wrong man at the wrong club. A guy who came third in a two-horse race. I haven’t changed my view. Chelsea should give him his wish - and fast.

It’s not all his fault of course. He wasn’t responsible for all of the £1b spend, but he should be able to get a better tune out what he’s got. The spend, of course, proved what we all knew - that Todd Boehly wasn’t going to re-write the rules that we’ve always played by in football. He didn’t have a magic formula to make Chelsea competitive again. He isn’t clever. He’s made a complete mess at the club. And where is he now? Missing is the answer. Oh - and let’s not forget that he was the current U.K. governments choice to buy Chelsea - proving that politicians should never be allowed anywhere near football either.

What’s the fix? Mourinho might just be, although I still think it’s more likely that he’ll turn up at Newcastle. He’s nowhere near finished. Chelsea fans would love to see him back. No matter where he’s been and what he’s done -Chelsea is still home for Mourinho.

If not Mourinho - perhaps it’s JT’s time? Maybe Mourinho and JT could sort it out together? They certainly couldn’t make it worse than it currently is. Something has got to be done.

My thanks to Paddy Power for the mention, but Odegaard’s celebrations didn’t bother me as much as others, who it seems now want to enrol in my celebration police. 😂. Sorry guys - it’s too late, but there’s bound to be something else that you can follow me on.

No. It wasn’t Odergaard, or his teammate's that annoyed me yesterday (Sunday), it was their classless coach. What on earth was he doing racing for up and down the touchline, clenched fists, celebrating like his team had just smashed a screamer into the top corner, to settle a final of some sort in added time?

I disagree with his view that Arsenal ‘went up a level’ to win that game. Yes, they were better than Liverpool, but that wasn’t hard. Liverpool were poor right across the park. I can’t think of one of their players that had a good game.

Arsenal were gifted the points by van Dijk and Alisson. You don’t celebrate a defensive howler, the likes of which those two conjured, by doing what Arteta did. He once again embarrassed The Arsenal. A proper club let’s not forget. One that has set the standards for behaviour down the years.

Show some dignity man. When have you ever seen Ancelotti do what Arteta did? The Italian has won the lot but never has he danced a ridiculous jig on the touchline whilst two top pros are trying to find somewhere to hide. It was poor. And so was Arteta’s behaviour on the touchline during the game. I thought we’d curbed his excesses? Clearly we need to again.

On another subject - one really disturbing story that I spotted today - according to The Sun (it’s the only paper I don’t buy - I read it online for free) we’ve got our first laughing gas addict.

Their story, by Richard Moriarty, claims a PL footballer has become the first to check into rehab facilities. Are we surprised? I guess not - football only mirrors society and vice versa, and we’ve seen plenty of players pictured using the substance. Those of us close to the sport also know that it’s used by many young players during down-time. But addiction is another level - albeit predictable I guess.

There was a terrific documentary series on the BBC recently entitled ‘Drugs Map of Britain’. You’ll find it on the iplayer. If you don’t know how dangerous this problem is - check it out. It’ll frighten the life out of you.

Whoever it is that’s been checked into the rehab facility - I wish him well. Sadly, he won’t be the last.

Please. Give us a break Howard (showbiz showbiz showbiz) and get your boys to get something right.

Published: Monday, 22 January 2024

No. No. I can’t. Not again. It’s too much. It really is. Every fucking week. I spent all Sunday evening considering what I could concentrate on today, but no matter how hard I tried, I realised I was going to have talk about our hapless refs again. Honestly - I don’t want to, but I’ve got to.

I bet you’re thinking ‘oh, give us a break Keysie’. And I agree. I’d love to. But I can’t. It’s Howard Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) and his motley crew who should be finding ways to give us a break.

Despite the millions spent on their fancy VAR bunker, facilities in general, Webb’s (showbiz showbiz showbiz) return, smart diets, fitness training, coaching (don’t laugh - these guys are coached) it’s just not getting any better.

I’ll repeat what I’ve often said - this generation of referees is the worst in PL history. Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) isn’t responsible for that, but it is his fault that we’ve seen not a jot of progress towards making things better since he took over at the PGMOL.

Alan Pardew was with Andy and myself on beIN SPORTS last weekend. He’s great company. He’s got some great stories as well. He’s also had a very good coaching career. It’s a mystery to me that he doesn’t have a job. Anyway - I digress as usual.

As we watched replays of that mad final few minutes at Bramhall Lane, he sighed and said ‘you know, I speak to all sorts of different PL managers all the time. They’ve given up’. No. They can’t. It’s why I decided to talk refs again today. We have to continue to demand that they get better.

As we were talking, right on cue, David Moyes joined us. He said the standard of refereeing now has left him ‘shrugging his shoulders’. He was both restrained and polite, but you could see he was seething. Once again it was a pity that, in a country that defends the right to free speech, a PL manager wasn’t allowed to tell the supporters of his club exactly how he felt about what had just happened to their team.

Let me quote what Mark Clattenburg said about Michael Salisbury’s decision to award Sheff Utd a pen in stoppage time. Btw - the game was deep in added time to added time, because Salisbury needed VAR to convince him that Rhian Brewster had to go for his assault on Emerson. I haven’t seen a clearer red all season. Why did Salisbury need VAR to convince him to upgrade his original decision? It beggars belief.

Sorry. Back to Clattenburg in The Mail ‘It is a foul by McBurnie on Areola. If you know football, know Sheff Utd and know McBurnie, you know he is going to try to disrupt the goalkeeper. It should’ve been a free-kick to West Ham’. Correct. Andy said the same as we watched it.

The key thing here the phrase ‘know football’. They don’t. The same thing happened at Burnley last weekend when Adebayo fouled Trafford, allowing Morris to score for Luton. Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) said that challenge was good on his show Sorry! He was wrong. Salisbury was wrong at Sheff Utd, but doubtless he had his gaffers words ringing in his ears when he made the call. Sorry!

But Salisbury wasn’t done yet. There was time enough left for Utd’s captain Ahmedhodzic to wrestle Bowen to the ground in the box, as he tried to get on the end of Johnson’s cross. Now this was a pen. As we know, Salisbury gave Utd a free-kick. Clattenburg’s view of this one - ‘appallingly wrong decision’.

Before we mention Toney’s antics, let’s not forget Kleivert’s leg-breaker on Diaz that went unpunished in the Bournemouth/Liverpool game. It was just like Disasi’s in the Chelsea/Fulham match the previous week, that had Marco Silva in a fury. Antony Taylor got that one wrong. This time it was Andy Madley who failed to do his job. What is it these guys don’t see - even with the help of VAR?

As for Toney’s antics - I’m torn on that. On the one hand you’d have to say ‘top marks’. Who doesn’t remember Gary McAllister moving the ball 10 yards nearer Everton’s goal when he nicked a late winner for Liverpool in a Merseyside derby? It’s clever of you can get away with it.

The difference between that one and Toney’s is that we didn’t have VAR when McAllister got up to his antics. Toney was smart, but I can understand Forest’s complaints. VAR should’ve intervened and ruled the goal out. Having said that - Forest were asleep.

I have to thank our bustling and busy stats dept for this one - having made a goal for Nunez at Bournemouth, Joe Gomez now has as many assists this season as £100m Jack Grealish at City - one. I know. 🤷‍♂️.

And how about this from today’s (Monday’s) Telegraph, which deserves a wider audience……

‘The Government is adamant Manchester City’s PL financial charges were not discussed during a meeting between the club and the sports minister last spring.

Stuart Andrew held talks in May with Simon Cliff, City Football Group’s general counsel, to discuss football governance reform’.

Really? Do we believe that? I don’t. But the Department for Culture, Media and Sport could prove me wrong. How? They could publish the minutes of the meeting. So far they’ve refused to do so. Why? What have they got to hide?

Keep going Russell Scott, who the Telegraph reveal is the investigative journalist asking the freedom of information questions.

And finally….a word of warning for those both hoping - and writing Jose Mourinho off. He is far from finished.


Published: Monday, 15 January 2024

How many of us are old enough to remember the 80’s sitcom Sorry!, starring Ronnie Corbett?

Actually, it doesn’t matter too much. It’s the name of the show that I’m more interested in. Watching the latest weekend of howlers from our officials it occurred to me that Howard Webb’s (showbiz showbiz showbiz) little programme with Michael Owen should perhaps be called that now - because he’s going to be doing an awful lot of apologising in the next episode - and much more going forward, unless he gets a grip on what’s going on at the PGMOL.

I know you don’t believe me when I say I really wish I could talk about something else - and I try, I really do. But how can I when week after week after week we’ve got mistake after mistake after mistake and the ineffective use of VAR blighting our game?

Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) inherited a shambles from Mike Riley. There’s no other way to put it. But what has he done about it? Nothing is the answer. Nothing that I can see anyway.

Matchweek 21 started at Turf Moor, where Burnley should’ve beaten Luton. Where Burnley would’ve beaten Luton if the officials had done their jobs properly. Sorry!

We’ve all seen it. Adebayo fouled James Trafford. Ref Tony Harrington should see it. Somehow he doesn’t, so he waits for Peter Bankes in VAR to get him off the hook. But Bankes didn’t see a reason to overturn the decision to allow Morris’s equaliser. Vincent Kompany called the decisions ‘a joke’. They were - except they weren’t funny. Sorry!

Inexplicably two of our elite group of refs couldn’t see what everybody else saw. It was a foul. End of. No debate. I just can’t get my head round how that can happen. How these mistakes keep on happening. These guys simply aren’t good enough and Webb ( showbiz showbiz showbiz) is doing nothing to improve matters. Sorry!

Fast forward to Goodison. Villa think they’ve scored when Moreno sticks the ball in the net. Ok. Goal given, but we need VAR, of course, to be certain.

Bailey is clearly offside when he receives the ball as Villa pop it about from a corner. You can see he’s offside by the cut of the grass. He’s ahead Everton’s last man - Danjuma.

What emerges from the first replay though is that Danjuma is fouled as he tries to clear the box with the rest of Everton’s defence. Lenglet grabs him and holds onto him so that Villa can remain onside from their little set-piece movement. It’s a foul. It’s clearly and obviously a foul - so all Paul Tierney in VAR has to do is call it - but oh no - he wants to check for offside. He wants to put lines on - which aren’t needed.

When he sees that Bailey is offside he wants to check if it was in an APP - attacking phase of play. I know - but I’m not making this up. He decides it was. Well done Paul. Spot on. But he’s not finished yet - he then wants to see if Lenglet is blocking Jordan Pickford’s view of the ball. Why? None of this matters. Sorry!

The best part of four minutes is wasted as Tierney runs these checks and both sets of fans - Evertonians as well - start chanting ‘fuck VAR’. Paying supporters appear not to matter to these guys.

None of Tierney’s checks were necessary. Lenglet fouled Danjuma on the first post. Dyche saw it - we all saw it - except Tierney. Why didn’t he see it? And here’s a question. What if Bailey had kept himself onside? If Lenglet had kept Danjuma, who Tierney used to draw his lines from, just a little bit closer to the goal? Would Tierney have then acknowledged the foul? It came first - so there was no need for an offside check. It’s scary. Sorry!

Is there any need to mention that Gusto should’ve seen red at Chelsea? Both coaches agreed on that. Somehow Anthony Taylor and Michael Salisbury didn’t. Sorry!

I saw the game at OT described as a ‘thriller’ by one newspaper. No it wasn’t. A thriller needs two teams to be involved in the game. United weren’t. As Andy said to me on beINSPORTS - if Son had played Spurs would’ve won that game comfortably.

Consider this - United touched the ball only twice in Spurs’ box in 50 second half minutes. Twice - and the 2nd touch was McTominay’s header, that he should’ve scored with, in the last minute. So just two touches in the box - at the Stretford End. It beggars belief.

I heard ten Hag whining about wanting a pen for something or other. No Erik. You can’t have a pen every time one of your players goes down after being sneezed on. Not unless Anthony Taylor is reffing anyway.

What game it is that ten Hag watches when United play? I know he’s desperate to convince us that he’s getting it right - after 18 months - but he isn’t. He isn’t fooling anyone. Oh - and Antony’s poor form has nothing to do with abuse claims made against him Erik. He’s simply not very good.

What a comeback by City at Newcastle. Top marks - although the Toon were out on their feet after 60 minutes. It was great to see de Bruyne back on the field, but introducing him when he did doesn’t make Guardiola a genius. What other coach in the world wouldn’t have made the same decision if they’d had the Belgian sitting behind them? Let’s keep some perspective please.

I’m Sorry! I haven’t spent any time talking about Saturday’s ‘big story’ - you know, the pitch invasion at Reading. Not too many other people are talking about it either. Perhaps there’s a reason for that?

Just in case you missed it - the other big story no-one is talking about was Hartlepool’s FA Trophy defeat at home to Hampton and Richmond Borough FC.

Why is VAR used in FA Cup?

Published: Monday, 08 January 2024

It’s the most basic of principles in any sporting contest - a level playing field. Agreed? Why then is the FA Cup played with one rule for some teams and another for the rest?

You know what I’m referring to? Of course - VAR. Whatever did we do when we allowed paper shufflers and nerds to ruin our game with its implementation? But that’s another question. We’ve introduced it and it’s not going away - even though its operators in England remain bemused by it and bemusing in its use.

I stray again. Sorry. Here’s the point. How on earth can we be using it in some games - at PL grounds - and not at others in the FA Cup? This is the same point I made a year ago, yet here we are again.

How? It’s not right. Look. I agree with those of you who believe that games are better without it. The derby at Sunderland was a barn-stormer, a proper football match, all the better for not having it. It ebbed and flowed - there were tackles that had people out of their seats, scraps and no interminable delays when a goal was scored, because someone in the bunker was trying to find a way to disallow what we all pay to see. It was a joy. I’m convinced that the lack of VAR is one reason Championship football is so popular now. No VAR - that’s the point - not whether the system is good or bad.

Ironically, there was VAR at Kenilworth Road, but even then they couldn’t get it right. Luton were left fuming because they felt they should’ve had a penalty when Alfie Doughty was fouled in the box. Andy Madley thought differently and VAR didn’t get involved - doubtless because they felt they hadn’t seen a ‘clear and obvious’ error. What a load of bollocks that is. It’s not hard - if an injustice is seen - correct it. Doughty was definitely fouled. Never mind ‘protocol’, which is the refuge sought by inadequate operators.

In fairness the Bolton boss Ian Evatt - experiencing VAR for the first time - understood Rob Edwards’ frustration at not getting the decision, but he went on to point out that there should be consistency with VAR in a single competition. He’s right. It won’t be used in the replay of course.

Mind you - don’t mention VAR to Sean Dyche, who’s ready to explode on the subject. How on earth did Calvert-Lewin get sent-off at Palace? We’ve all seen a few howlers engineered by VAR, but that decision was a belter.

Post-match Dyche was polite but you could feel his frustration ‘I remain a fan’, he said (of course he is - that’s what everyone who was wrong about the introduction of the technology always says) ‘but it’s beginning to test my patience’ he added.

The bottom line here is drop VAR for the entire competition (and give us all a break). It isn’t used in the Carabao Cup because, quite rightly, the EFL wanted to create that ‘level playing field’ that I started by talking about - and deemed it to be unfair unless every team was treated the same. It‘s a decision that makes perfect sense.

It could be used in three out of the four semi-final games, but because Middlesbrough don’t have it - it won’t be. That’s only right, but sadly it will be used for the final.

On the subject of Palace/Everton, what on earth were tv execs thinking when they chose that game to kick-off a weekend of FA Cup coverage? It looked drab on paper. It was drab in practice. It was a howler to cover it.

I guess decisions like that are driven by ego. ITV don’t get much live football these days - no PL football at all - so I suppose they want to chose a PL looking fixture where and when they can, as part of their FA Cup coverage. The BBC are as bad in fairness.

If we truly believe there is still ‘magic’ to be found on 3rd round day - gamble - go and find it. The Maidstone United co-owner Oliver Ash was right, after his team’s brilliant win over Stevenage, when he said ‘most people are amazed that the cameras weren’t here’.

He added ‘the competition is all about a game like ours’. Spot on Mr Ash. The broadcasters should be forced to make 3rd round picks like Maidstone v Stevenage in the contracts that they sign when rights deals are done. When I was at Sky we always went looking for stories like Maidstone’s before going to one of the big clubs. You can do that in the later rounds.

I had to laugh at The Telegraph’s headline after Sheffield Utd’s win at Gillingham. It screamed ‘Wilder delighted to get in winning habit’. I’m sorry? Winning habit? That was their 2nd win in 10 in all comps. 🤷‍♂️.

And come on Newcastle. That picture on the pitch at Sunderland was embarrassing. Save it until you end the trophy drought. It was crass - inflaming the home crowd and making yourselves look daft at the same time.

So Jordan Henderson wants to end his ‘Saudi hell’ and return to the PL? Really? What makes him think he’s still good enough? After six months playing the equivalent of League 1 football does he still have what it takes?

Another story that I was interested to read this past week was that the PL chief Richard Masters has been ‘summoned before MP’s to explain the delay on agreeing a financial settlement with the EFL’. You know the one - talks that would see £915m handed over to EFL clubs by the big boys.

If I was Masters the first thing I’d ask when I got there was ‘could you guys please explain to me why funds from the sale of Chelsea still haven’t found their way to Ukraine?’ They’ve got a nerve these people.