This column will fix football once and for all... perhaps!
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
I’m not usually one for making bold, sweeping and frankly ridiculous statements (I am), but in this column, I vow to once and for all fix football.
Or – at the very least – suggest to those with the power and authority, a few ways they could do so.
Obviously, being a diehard Norwich City fan, I go into every game wanting the Canaries to win by any means necessary, but given a choice, I would rather it be a thoroughly deserved win, with no contentious issues and no reason for the opponent to feel aggrieved.
However, on Tuesday, I actually went to Carrow Road begging for City to claim a dodgy win thanks to an abysmal decision from the referee – a 1-0 win courtesy of a blatant ‘Hand of God’ or a penalty given in front of the Barclay that even I down the other end in the Gods could see should never have been awarded – even if I took that split second to clean my specs.
Why, you ask? Simply because otherwise my planned column would end up purely looking like sour grapes, which I assure you it is not – it’s a genuine concern.
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I turned 30 on October 22, the day of the East Anglian Derby,
My 30s are yet to even span a fortnight, but already they have been something of a whirlwind for Norwich City, with four games in the 12 days since I gracefully (ish) said farewell to my 20s.
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- 7 'Lots to learn ' - Busy spell continues as City striker makes Swindon debut
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- 10 'You just want more' - McLean settled at City and focused on top-flight return
These four games have provided one victory – I forget who against – and three defeats.
Wolves were an exception – they were exceptional and deserved their win against a fairly weary looking City side, clearly feeling the effects of a busy fortnight.
Admittedly, they were in the same boat, having also gone 120 minutes with a Premier League giant a week ago, but bear in mind they made nine changes for that fixture, while City made four.
That is neither here nor there though; they were worthy winners and will most likely be there or thereabouts come May.
It is the other two defeats – away at Arsenal and at home to Derby – that I plan to address today.
For, in my eyes, and I am sure the eyes of many, these defeats were far from deserved and largely had very little to do with the opposing 11 – more the opposing one: the referee.
I usually don’t like pinning defeats solely on poor refereeing, but when the officiating is as calamitous as it was in both of these games, it is clear something is not right.
Now, I’m not going to go all Jose Mourinho and start spouting conspiracy theories of ‘campaigns’ and vendettas, which is also the very reason I was crying out for a dubious City win.
Instead, I come bearing solutions to the issue every football fan has found themselves effing and blinding about.
It is clear from both the Arsenal and Derby games that there are officials out there who just aren’t fit for purpose, who buckle under the pressure of the big decisions.
I don’t hold this against the two individuals; being a referee is a thankless task and I doff my cap to anybody brave enough to do it.
However, we are in a climate where every decision they make comes under meticulous and public scrutiny. Refs are human, of course they are going to be hesitant knowing what awaits.
Therefore it is utterly ludicrous that they do not receive help with such moments in the game.
I’m not talking about 50-50s in the middle of the park, niggly challenges that could go either way or the 64,323,987 times per game James Maddison is chopped down in his tracks.
I’m simply talking about the big decisions. The ones that define outcomes and change the course of games. Moments like Nelson Oliveira being hauled down by the last man, James Husband being tugged down in the box and Scott Carson blatantly fouling Josh Murphy – all at key moments.
These were, for all intents and purposes, very, very easy decisions to make, and they were all made incorrectly.
But I argue, berating the refs isn’t the answer, helping them is.
Practically every other sport in the world has ways of helping officials in these pivotal moments. Football does not. It has made a start with goal line technology, but that’s all it is.
My solution? Decision referral.
Exactly like tennis and cricket: each captain is given a number of opportunities to appeal at which point, an off-field official can watch a replay and make a more informed decision.
If the decision stands, the appeal is lost and we can all get on with our lives knowing justice has been done. This would also stop every decision being frivolously appealed, which would of course happen if they were unlimited.
It is hardly a revolutionary suggestion, but one I feel would prevent the sour taste of once again feeling stitched up by honest, human error.
I can’t say I’ve ever been a big fan of zonal marking – Wolves reinforced that feeling.
I’m not dead against it, City had a great run of clean sheets using it. However, there is one situation it’s a definite no-no for me – corners.
When it’s a free-kick coming from deep, I can see how it can work – players can see clearly whose zone the ball is coming into and can attack it.
However, at corners this is not quite so easy, and so often this season we have seen City static, leading to a sloppy goal.
Tuesday’s opener was the clearest example of this I’ve seen and one of the cheapest goals I’ve seen us concede.
With man-to-man marking, culpability comes back into play, so if I were a defender I would break any bone in my body to make sure my man wasn’t the one to get on the end of the ball.
With zonal, it becomes ambiguous – was that my zone or yours? They are, after all, relying on invisible lines.
It sounds odd, but I imagine it being much harder to work out whose zone is whose at a corner, so use man-to-man.
Timm is looking heroic
Timm Klose has been a breath of fresh air since coming back to fitness – in more ways than one.
The man looks like a lion at the moment, and were it not for his efforts, the Wolves results could have been much worse.
The Swiss defender made at least three truly heroic blocks, putting his body on the line for the City cause.
The way he speaks though, is the biggest breath of fresh air for me – open, frank and with great passion. It is so refreshing to see somebody wear their hearts on their sleeve and play that way too.
It really seems as though he has also done some real research on the league, how to be successful in it and what its demands are, which is reflected in how he has approached this season.
By his own admission, he under-estimated the physical demands last year, but this season, he looks like a warrior.
If the dazzling James Maddison continues to play how he is, he will no doubt walk player of the year, but for me, Timm is a big contender.