It seems that almost every week at least one manager struts into his press conference talking about how their team or players have been judged on their reputation, spouting lines such as: “These kind of decisions keep happening to us.” The claim of being victimised by officials is not a new one, but it is one that has been increasingly prevalent this term.
The likes of Kenny Dalglish, Roberto Mancini and Tony Pulis have all hit out at referees at some stage, believing that the reputation of their players have caused referees to act in a certain manner. Quite often they have a point, with some performers under the scrutiny of the man in charge from the get-go.
Okay, a reputation is often created due to multiple incidents where player, or team, has acted in a certain manner. However, referees are required to be impartial when they enter the field of play, judging an individual on the merits of the games actions, and not something that happened weeks, or even months ago. Whether you love or hate Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli, you can’t deny that he is under the spotlight every time he steps onto the pitch. Take the league tie at Anfield earlier this season, where, on as a substitute, the Italian forward picked up two bookings, for two pretty innocuous challenges. If it were a player such as Steven Gerrard would he have been given his marching orders? Probably not.
Mick McCarthy was left fuming as well, when Frank Lampard’s two-footed lunge on Adam Hammill went unpunished. Even the Chelsea man admitted he was lucky to have stayed on the pitch, and help his side to victory. McCarthy was particularly enraged, as he felt if it were Karl Henry, or any other of his midfielders, that a red would have definitely been produced for the offence.
Perhaps the biggest sufferer of victimisation on the pitch remains Joey Barton, with the mere mention of his name giving even the most lenient of referees an itchy trigger finger. Yes he has committed various awful challenges down the years, and been a less than lovable character away from the action, but did his ‘head-butt’ against Norwich’s Bradley Johnson deserve a red card? After all, it was the man in yellow who placed his head against the ex-Newcastle midfielders face, before falling theatrically knowing full well who would been seen as the felon.
It may be frustrating to hear managers bemoaning decisions due to reputation and subsequent victimisation, but quite often they do have a point. Referees come in for a lot of criticism, but in some cases it is deserved.