I’m sure Lathaniel Rowe-Turner is a lovely bloke. He’s probably good to his mum, gives lots of money to worthy causes, and generally lives up to the fact that he has been blessed with a name which seems most suited to a generously benevolent character in a Charles Dickens novel. He took the Dickensian desire to mix the festive season with horror a bit far yesterday though.
His horrific lunge at Joe Clarke yesterday makes me furious, but I’m more livid about the failure of the referee to do anything about it other than give a yellow card. (It’s the first incident in the highlights package below.)
I’m not looking to attack Rowe-Turner. Anyone can make a rash, wild error on a football pitch. Have a look at Johnny Hunt’s horrific challenge at Barnet. We all know Johnny’s a nice lad and although such comments draw derision, it’s hard to fight the impulse to say that it’s not like him to commit a foul like that. But he did, and all the excuses in the world weren’t much consolation to the guy he put in hospital.
At least the ref took action, though, and sent Hunt off. Perhaps it helped that his foul came in injury time, because officials seem to have adopted a disgraceful position on bad challenges. Basically, an early reducer seems to be absolutely okay, and something they’ll turn a blind eye to. There seems to be a tacit agreement among referees that broken legs acquired in the first twenty minutes don’t hurt all that much.
We’ve seen a few incidents lately where players have got away with very poor challenges early in the match: Samuel Eto’o’s shocker on Jordan Henderson being not only the most controversial recent example but also a chance for me to play fast and loose with apostrophes.
This phenomenon is an example of football losing sight of what’s important. Pundits constantly tell us that a referee has done well to “manage” a match and keep twenty-two players on the pitch; that by avoiding a sending off he has added to the entertainment by ensuring a game isn’t warped by the loss of a player.
It’s all very well to sit in a studio and spout platitudes about a game you have no stake in, but why do officials pander to such observers? Their job isn’t to keep a game entertaining for the neutral; it’s to ensure fair play. If a player commits a foul so serious that it warrants a straight red, why should he be let off?
If Wrexham had enjoyed a man advantage for seventy five minutes, surely we’d have been in a position to win that game; who was the referee to play God and decide he’d protect the balance of the fixture? Was he really looking to keep the game entertaining for neutral fans? If so, he needs to look around the sub-four figure crowds in the Skrill Premier and realise there ain’t many neutrals watching!
A referee’s job isn’t to be a modern day Belle Brezing, ensuring the satisfaction of the paying clients. It’s to ensure fairness, and ignoring serious foul play simply isn’t fair.