Filed: Monday, 21st March 2016
By: Paul Walker
Consider, if you dare, what would happen if the disgraceful refereeing decisions that have overwhelmed West Ham these past two matches had happened to Manchester United.
Can you image the purple rage of old Fergie if his side had been denied a place in the FA Cup semi-finals and then been robbed of a Champions League qualification place in successive matches?
Two games against Manchester United and then Chelsea that could have defined our season, both games we should have won, our two biggest matches of the campaign against not just two of Englandís biggest clubs but two of the worldís very biggest.
And we have done so well, received praise from all quarters and have put down markers now on what we are capable of. I cannot praise Slav and this fired-up, compelling squad enough for what they have achieved already, with so much more to come.
But they always seem to be fighting against the odds. These have not been the run-of-the-mill cock ups we see every game, but definitive mistakes that could cost West Ham millions.
We all know what would have happened if it had been Man U on the receiving end. Fergie would have screamed blue murder for days, David Gill would have been pressurising from within the FA and refereeing careers would have been fatefully damaged. Just ask Andy D'Urso!
There would have been days of media overkill, deep analysis, pages of moaning. But we all know that such misfortunes rarely, if ever, befall the likes of Manchester United, they just seem to happen to us.
Now I know it is easy to sink into a claret and blue bias here. Mistakes do happen, these things eventually even themselves out. Or so we are told.
But they donít do they? Because a couple of sets of statistics published recently do seem to suggest that West Ham get the rough end of these decisions more than anyone else!
And you sense that there is a growing anger from within the corridors of power at the Boleyn, and itís coming from the very top. David Gold has ventured into twitter of late to carefully bemoan the current unsatisfactory state of play.
Firstly there was a remarkable survey that looked into mistakes by officials that have seen goals wrongly awarded against teams, and had seen their own efforts wrongly ruled out. West Ham had suffered the most of both.
Then there was an even more interesting investigation into penalties awarded. You guessed it, over the past four seasons we have been awarded fewer than any other team in the top flight. And amazingly, not been awarded one penalty in four seasons in an away match.
Just think about that for a second. I am not sure whether this survey included this incomplete season or not, so lets say for arguments sake that we have played 75 away league games in the past four seasons. Thatís 6,750 minutes play. Or another way, 112.5 hours football. Thatís 4.6 days.
Are we seriously expected to accept that not one foul on a West Ham player in the penalty area has occurred during nearly five continuous days of football? I doubt David Gold accepts that for one minute.
So is this just unlucky, or do referees just not like us? Or maybe we didnít get the phone call from the referees' mafia that said we would be looked after because we were a big club? (Sorry, this sort of stuff does make you paranoid.)
The penalties survey makes interesting reading. Not only did we not get an away penalty in four years, we only had nine at home. In that time, Manchester United had 20 spot kicks, ten away. Manchester City and Liverpool had the most, 26, with Chelsea 25 and Arsenal 18.
Now I accept that clubs with better players will find their opponents committing more fouls against them. But to this degree? I am not having that.
The big club/little club syndrome has always been there, whether officialdom likes it or not. Take, for example, that ridiculous penalty awarded to Liverpool in the final seconds at Crystal Palace.
Christian Bennteke going down after a tiny connection with Damien Delaneyís knee. Our old boss Alan Pardew went potty and insisted that sort of penalty would never be awarded to his team. The statistic suggest he was right.
Now for our own recent problems. Dimitri Payet was clipped from behind in the FA Cup quarter-final at Old Trafford. Howard Webb, on BT Sport, Dermot Gallagher on Sky and Graham Poll in the Daily Mail all agreed it was a penalty. Why would Payet have gone down in that position if he hadnít been fouled?
But ever since we have seen the full might of the Manchester United media machine turned against him. Louis Van Gaal said it was ďmore or lessď a foul. Make your mind up pal, you have done a pretty good job of character assassination.
Of course, he went down too easily claims the deluded Dutchman. Almost as easily as the way Anthony Martial went down when mildly caught by Nathaniel Clyne in the Europa League match with Liverpool a few days later. He flew through the air in true Ashley Young style. Didnít hear anyone at Man U doubting hat decision, did we?
And then there was the obvious foul by Bastian Schweinsteiger on Darren Randolph, it was too obvious for words but it still cost us victory and Manchester Unitedís equaliser should not have counted.
That, by the way, is the same German midfielder who smashed his arm into Winston Reidís face during the league game there in December, and was only punished later because Mark Clattenburg had failed to see it from ten yards away..maybe his hair gel and fake tan got in his eyes.
And now we have another shocking decision by Bobby Madley at Chelsea, a referee who does not know how to mark out ten yards, by the way.
The supposed connection between Michail Antonio and Ruben Loftus-Cheek was clearly outside the box. Madley was also not in a good enough position to give a spot-kick anyway.
The Chelsea lad clipped his own heels, dived into the box and got a penalty, Payet went down under a limited connection and didnĎt get a penalty. Martial went down the same way, dived, and got one. Benteke was barely touched, dived and got a spot-kick. See a pattern there? Big clubs get, small clubs donít.
And how many clubs have had to appeal, successfully, against three bad sendings-off in a year like us? Adrian, Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate have all had red cards rescinded. That is a very high figure, surely.
So my paranoia has taken over. And I wonder if our leaders are starting to feel the same way? They will be aware of al these facts and injustices and I bet someone, somewhere has had a word or two about it all.
Will things change? Unlikely. Will Payet get booked for diving some time soon? You can bet on it, thanks to loopy Louis.
But not even dodgy referees can spoil this season. Slavís men seem able to take things in their stride, attack at every opportunity and are giving us one hell of a ride.
European football, though, is going to be tough to attain. With none of the current top four still in the FA Cup, qualification will now not get to sixth place. So we have to cling onto what we have. And for a change I am not betting against that!
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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