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Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011

PREMIER REPORT

Redknapp wants two refs per match


LONDON — It has been another bad week for referees. Chris Foy (Stoke vs. Tottenham) and Mark Clattenburg (Chelsea vs. Manchester City) became the latest to be blamed for the defeats of Spurs and City by, unsurprisingly, the losing managers.

Christopher Davies

While it is far easier to pass judgment from an armchair having watched incidents in slow motion from various angles, too many penalties and red cards have been missed plus incorrectly disallowed goals. At Premier League level, match officials could reasonably be expected to get it right.

Needless to say, most critics just put the boot to the referee, who is always a convenient scapegoat who can cover up the shortcomings of the losing side. So step forward Harry Redknapp, manager of Spurs and the people's favorite to succeed Fabio Capello as England manager, with the solution.

Redknapp's idea to improve the standard and help eliminate mistakes is to have a referee in each half. Yes, two refs.

"If we had two referees on the pitch,"Redknapp said with, I am assured, a straight face, "it would cut the risk of getting a big decision wrong by 50 percent."

So, a referee would be 50 percent better if he had only one half to control?

Human errors would be reduced by half if a ref's work load was reduced by, well, a half?

Can you imagine the response had Sepp Blatter come out with such tosh?

Redknapp also seems unaware that the elite list of referees in the Premier League is down from 24 to 18 because it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find top-class officials. Yet in Redknapp's world a magic wand would be waved and the elite list could be doubled.

Many managerial moans are about marginal offside decisions — statistics prove assistant referees are correct 99 percent of the time — but Redknapp does not go as far as to suggest four linesmen which would make a total of seven officials, including two refs and a fourth official.

Redknapp said his two-refs ideas could make him "the most unpopular manager" among his colleagues. Not unpopular, just leaving them and others scratching their heads.

Referees, like players and, whisper it, managers will always make human errors whether there is one, two five or eight officiating.

After saying Foy "seemed to enjoy" not giving Spurs a penalty or two at Stoke, Redknapp claimed that "in 30 years I have never criticized referees."

That is, of course, apart from the Football Association misconduct charges in 2003, 2005 and 2007 for remarks made to match officials.

I would like to see the Premier League follow the example of the National Football League, if only for a two-month experiment, and ban managers and players from talking about the officials.

Of course this would mean post-match press conferences and match reports concentrating on the game rather than the losing manager "blasting" or "pointing the finger at" the referee but for many the blame game is becoming tedious.

Spurs had 12 attempts on target at Stoke but scored only from the penalty spot, while their defending for the home side's two goals was dreadful, so perhaps Foy was not the only reason the visitors lost. But far easier to criticize the referee than your own players.

* * *

FERNANDO TORRES is, according to a report, available for £20 million to £30 million less than Chelsea paid Liverpool for the Spain striker in January.

Which club would take the chance of paying even £20 million for a player earning £160,000 a week and who has scored only three goals in 25 games for the Blues?

It is two years since Torres' pace, skill and clinical finishing made him the most danger striker in the Premier League. Two knee operations have blunted his edge and with Didier Drogba and Daniel Sturridge in superb form, Torres, who has four years remaining on his contract, has become a reluctant permanent substitute.

He is unlikely to be part of Spain's Euro 2012 squad and rarely can a top player have fallen from grace so quickly. Chelsea say Torres is "not for sale at any price" but it knows no club would take a chance on a highly paid, out-of-form player.

* * *

PHIL BROWN became the 56th managerial casualty of 2011 when he was sacked by Preston North End. Of the 56, only four were Premier League managers. Apparently the average tenure of the 52 in the Championship, League One and League Two was 10 months.

What on earth can a manager be expected to do in less than a year in charge?

* * *

IS THIS THE quickest, most humble pie-eating grovel of the season?

Bryan Ruiz, the Costa Rica international who joined Fulham for £11.5 million during the summer: "I didn't want to go to Fulham at all. I was happy with Tottenham's previous interest in me. They are a dream club, and one you join without hesitation.

"Fulham came along Aug. 30. I had my doubts again but attractive financial terms, and a talk with Martin Jol, dragged me over the line."

The next day: "I wish to make it known to the club's supporters that as soon as Fulham's interest was apparent to me in the summer, and despite very public interest from other clubs, I was only ever intent on joining FFC."

Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.


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