Horrifying Howlers: when refs lose the plot!

Who would be the person in the middle of the pitch with the black or green shirt? Who would dare carry the weight of the red and yellow card; the power to give a goal; the right to deliver a penalty in the last minute of a crucial game?  Only a foolish few take up the challenge, but only a few of these are foolish.

Our Saturday evenings are often taken up with passionate descriptions of the failures of the referee too.  But, to make us all feel grateful, we thought we would list some real howlers that put the odd questionable corner into the shade.

Ali Bin Nasser: the man who gave a hand to god

This howler must come first.  Argentina v England in the 1986 World Cup semi-final and Maradona hits the ball into the net with his hand.  And, the goal stood.  England fans have a long-held resentment towards the hand of the Argentinian.  However, the real blame should be at the feet of the ref who remained unmoved by protests from the English players.  Not only should Maradona have been sent off, the goal disallowed – but the second goal also scored by Maradona would likely never happened.  England would have progressed with a score of 1 – 0.

Jorge Larrionda: to be Frank, it was a goal

It would have been one of those classic goals you would talk about for years.  Frank Lampard made sweet contact with the ball, which hit the top bar of the goal.  What happened next is only in contention in the mind of Larrionda, who waved on play.  Everybody else in the stadium, at home, watching on television, catching a glimpse from a passing spaceship, could see it bounced over the line.  Sure, it didn’t matter as England were properly thrashed 4-1 by an outstanding German team.  But, if you are Frank Lampard, you would have wanted that to be a goal!

Stuart Attwell: when a UFO landed

A UFO landing is what Watford manager Boothroyd compared to Atwell’s decision.  Reading scored a goal when the ball was 4 yards the wrong side of the goal post. Sure, the Reading defender kicked the ball back into play from behind the back line – but the ref and the linesman both agreed to a goal – even those players who benefitted failed to celebrate, in sheer shock at one of the worst decisions in football.  The 25-year-old newbie may have been a controversial choice for ref before this match, but soon his appointment would seem incomprehensible.

Graham Poll: what’s this whistle-thing for?

Graham Poll is one of our favourite refs for howler corner.  He once gave a player three yellow cards before sending him off, after the match had finished.  In this particularly Merseyside Derby, when full-time came but no whistle was forthcoming, the goalie kicked a free kick upfield for Liverpool.  He expected that the ref would signal the end of the game at the same time and whacked it pretty carelessly upfield.  The ball hit a defender and rebounded into the net.  But, Poll forgot to blow the whistle for full-time, so the goal stood.  Everton won the Derby 0-1, and the Kop went mental!  “Security detail!”

Dermot Gallagher: “This is MMA, right?”

If the match between Portsmouth and Man City had been a mixed martial arts bout, then Ben Thatcher would be the unquestioned champion.  He ran into Pedro Mendes, leading with his elbow, knocking the Pompey player out.  Dangerous play, undoubtedly, so red card, right? Nope.  Although Mendes required oxygen on the pitch, it was considered only worthy of a yellow card by Gallagher.  The level of this mistake was clear when Thatcher was handed an eight-match ban by the FA for what was nothing short of an intentional physical assault on another player.

This top five of referee shockers should make you glad for the odd questionable call this weekend.  Just remember, if we didn’t have the referee who would we call a…. well, maybe that is for a different article.

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