Date:Thursday May 4 2006
Well I've witnessed some appalling refereeing over the years, but tonight's 'performance' by Graham Poll is right up there with the worst of them.
Now before everyone says I'm looking through blue tinted lenses, let me say I really try hard to be objective when writing articles, and do my best not criticise match officials, but there comes a time when you can't ignore total incompetence and you need to speak out and that time is now.
I have rarely seen such a one-sided display in which City received three yellow cards without hesitation for the most innocuous of challenges, whilst Poll chose to ignore flagrant diving, handballs and cheating by the usual suspects from Highbury, who managed to complete the game without a single caution. City also had three penalty shouts summarily dismissed, two of which were absolute dead certs, whilst the other, I agree was more debatable, but would probably have been given had it been at the other end of the pitch.
It just seemed that Poll was star-struck to be amidst his Arsenal icons and couldn't imagine for an instant they were capable of transgressing the rules, let alone trying to gain advantage by cheating - surely not !
To start with, the crowd took the initial trickle of inexplicable decisions in their stride and with grumbling acceptance, but when the trickle became a torrent it was too much and the normal good humour on match-days turned quickly to utter disbelief and anger; it was not a pleasant atmosphere at all.
Now, what's worse is that this guy has been chosen to be England's representative in the World Cup. I wouldn't want him refereeing my lad's U9s matches on a Saturday morning, let alone given the biggest stage in the footballing world.
The final straw was Poll laughing at the City crowd and taking bows on the field of play in response to a string of poor decisions. I hope the FA and the Referee's Association review Poll's performance this evening; he deserves to be cautioned for his display. I hope the papers pick this up too - it's not acceptable behaviour for a referee.
If players can be charged and disciplined for crowd incitement and a whole string of associated offences, the same laws should apply to the officials; believe me it nearly got very nasty out there, due entirely to the Referee's conduct.
I've not had time to see Pearce's post match reaction, but I should think it will be as stoical as ever and he won't publicly criticise Mr Poll, so I'm doing it for him; Graham it was a disgrace this evening!
I don't really like ending on a low, so just to show there's no hard feelings, I wish the Gooners all the best in the Champions League final - well they're almost an English club after all. We saw the best and worst of them again this evening; the diving and cheating does them no favours whatsoever and we just expect it now, but in Thierry Henry, they the ultimate role model for any young lad wanting to be a striker. What a player he is and a gentleman too; it was great to see and hear City fans applauding him out of respect when he was near the touchlines, which is more than the did for the Ref !
It's bad enough when City lose any game, but to round off a really bad day, McClaren's just been appointed England Manager - surely it can't get any worse !
In response to the 1st comment - yes I was at the match and saw it all close up and at first hand; if you'd been there too you'd understand why City fans are incensed
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