'Dirty' Everton - and the referee from Wigan

The shocking tackle that has sidelined Dimitri Payet for three months is bad enough for any hint of a sympathetic hearing for Everton to be strangled at birth.

Yes, I am now going to be unreasonable and totally failing to give Everton and James McCarthy even the slightest benefit of the doubt. The Glasgow-born Irishman should have been sent off for the cynical foul on the brilliant Frenchman, and it is hard too see just how rookie referee Paul Tierney, who was right on top of the incident on Saturday at the Boleyn, could see it any other way.

Tierney booked McCarthy, so the FA have no grounds to re-consider the incident. But when you look back at what McCarthy did, the outlawed scissor tackle, how on earth did Tierney not see it as red? This particular challenge has been targeted this season, we have seen many players given straight reds for a "tackle" that sees one leg take the ball while the following leg takes man and body.

It is deliberate, dangerous, and can do immense damage. And that is what McCarthy did. Our own Tony Gale, who could be accused of being a touch biased, said on TV that it was a tackle intent on "being out to 'do' the player. To hurt an opponent".

Scores of West Ham fans have launched into Everton, McCarthy and Tierney on social media, along with joint chairman David Sullivan's son Jack--who I wish would keep his opinions to himself generally--but for once I can understand his anger.

Losing Payet is a terrible blow, such has his influence and inspiration been. It could be a pivotal moment. I hope we are strong enough to overcome such a body blow.

What is equally annoying has been the nasty, spiteful stuff from Everton fans on their own fans' websites, way out of order and not what I would expect from fans I respect for their passion, and a club who are as honest and responsible as they come.

The word "dirty" has become underused these past seasons, more often now tackles like that are called professional fouls, or the player is prepared to "take one" for the team to stop an opponent. All very cynical but in modern terms, acceptable as being part of the game.

Back in my day when you mentioned Leeds, the word "dirty" always preceded it. Such was the hate and dislike for Don Revie's brand of football thuggery, that no-one who witnessed it has the slightest sympathy for any misfortune that comes Leeds' way. The more the merrier.

Are Everton in that bracket, of course not. I spent over 15 years working in the city and have great affection for Everton and the way they have punched above their weight, and the job Bill Kenwright has done there as owner-chairman.

Our own owners think just the same way, which is why when the appointed Tony Henry as recruitment officer, chief scout to you and me. What they really wanted was for him to persuade his mate David Moyes to replace Sam Allardyce.

Everton, though have acquired a reputation for being tough and hard, with a chip on their shoulder having played second fiddle to Liverpool for so long. Only in the days of the great, late and loved Howard Kendall as manager did they have any real parity in the modern era.

Under David Moyes they were fearsome at times, they loved the image of being the battling underdogs. And they did not take prisoners.

Now, under Roberto Martinez, there is still an abrasive edge to them, fierce and combative. Just ask Arsenal, Moyes' men took great delight in giving them a serious going over.

And that, sadly, is what I felt happened on Saturday. The first half-dozen fouls committed by them could all have been yellow cards. They were targeting our attacking players, and Payet in particular. But Tierney just talked to them and warned them.

That approach just gave licence to push the boundaries even further. These days when players see a referee who lets things go a bit, they take full advantage.

West Ham will miss their talisman for three months following McCarthy's reckless challenge

It was interesting how the "dirty" tag took hold. Liverpool Echo man Dave Prentice, an old pal and top operator if ever there was one, trawled through the twitter stuff from West Ham fans on Saturday and questioned in an article the amount of times Everton were called dirty. He suggested that they had commited only one more foul than the Irons and anyway our disciplinary record was nothing to write home about.

That was a case of the facts proving anything you wanted. It wasn't the amount of fouls, but the nature of them. And Everton were certainly digging in at times early on. And that paved the way for the tackle on Payet, which Tierney could have avoided.

Tierney was clearly trying to be a "talking" referee, prepared to warn and explain decisions. All very praiseworthy, but laws have to be applied and if the early kicking had been punished then the Payet tackle may not have happened.

McCarthy knew what he was doing. He had tried a couple of challenges earlier on Payet. They used to be called "pacifiers" when the likes of Tony Adams and Steve Bould were about.

And West Ham fans have seen this coming. Payet has been so good, so clever and inventive, so inspirational in Slaven Bilic's plans to rebuild and rediscover our style, that he was going to be a marked man.

Of course opponents were going to single him out, try to nullify his influence. It is what we would do to clever opponents. That is where referees are duty bound to protect skilled players from the hatchet men.

And that is where Tierney let the game down. He is a new, young referee. At 35 one of the youngest in the Premier League. And he needs to be helped and encouraged.

He comes from up my way. And as a referee myself who did something like 30 years on the parks, I have paid some interest in the progress of new referees. Good grief, we need them.

My own lowly refereeing career was basically Sunday stuff, pit village league games in the Midlands, and south Manchester youth games. I can only say that I would like to see Mark Clattenburg, with his perma-tan and boy band hair cut control some of the colliery games I handled!

So I appreciate a little what the referees at the top have to cope with, and how hard it is to break through. And Tierney ticks the boxes. Bright, young, confident, and very good. Also straight as they come. Which is why I feel he was let down a bit with the appointment at the Boleyn.

As conspiracy theories go, Jose Mourinho would be more than impressed with this one. Tierney is Wigan- born a bred. That puts him about 17 miles as the crow flies from Goodison Park. Roberto Martinez played for Wigan in the lower divisions and managed them. McCarthy also played for Wigan.

In true Daily Mail style, I can now ask: "Did the referee know Martinez and McCarthy?"

Not for a second am I suggesting that the official is anything but totally honest. But why did his bosses put him in such a position? It is just like an Essex official from say, Upminster, being sent to referee West Ham at Goodison. You are just asking for trouble.

I have heard several Premier League managers in after-match press conferences, moaning about where referees come from. A few years back the FA stopped clubs putting home town names in brackets alongside referees' names in their programmes. There is no need for extra pressure.

So why appoint a Lancashire FA referee for this game? It was suggested to me during the match that it looked like the referee had arrived on the away team's coach. Too close for comfort that.

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