I worked with some of the most competitive managers and coaches you could ever imagine at Liverpool. Men who were obsessed about winning and even gave us dog’s abuse when we didn’t win in the manner they expected.
But asking for a game to replayed because they were on the wrong end of a refereeing mistake? No way. They would never have wanted it. And during my time in management, neither would I.
It was an embarrassingly poor VAR error which denied Luis Diaz his goal at Tottenham and became the talking point all week. But I did not agree with Jurgen Klopp coming out to say he wanted last weekend’s game replayed.
Where does that all end? Everyone will want the same when they feel aggrieved. It opens the door to a 12-month season.
I think Jurgen probably knows full well that there’s no possibility of it happening — but being granted a replay isn’t the point of asking for one. He is now making the most of an opportunity to galvanize that group of players. Turning the injustice they feel to the team’s advantage.
Darren England’s VAR error to deny Luis Diaz’s goal for Liverpool was embarrassingly poor
England was in charge of VAR and ruled out Diaz’s goal for offside despite the Colombian forward being clearly onside after he wrongly believed the on-field decision to be ‘goal’
The criticism he might have received from some about his call for a replay won’t bother him one bit. He’s circling the wagons. This is where Alex Ferguson was a master. For him at Manchester United, it was: ‘Us against the world.’ For us at Glasgow Rangers, it was: ‘Nobody likes us. We don’t care.’
The VAR farce was so ridiculous that it seems to have given rise to some conspiracy theories in the past seven days. But I have to say that through all my years in British football I have not once witnessed a hint of deliberate bias and calculated wrongdoing affecting the outcome of a match.
Neither can I say that I felt my old team were hard done by, over the years. In my nine years as a manager and player at Liverpool, I would say we got more than 50 per cent of the decisions that were a close or difficult call.
What mystified me most this week was the audio they released of the various officials who were involved in the Diaz decision. It was all ‘2D Line’, ‘kick point’ and ‘delay, delay’. Will someone please enlighten me as to what that gibberish actually meant? Was it only me thinking: ‘Why don’t they speak in plain and simple English?’
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But there is a reason for them spouting this nonsense. These people are incapable of speaking in sentences because they know they are getting criticism for taking too long to make a decision, and are desperate to try to reach one quickly. That’s why we got all that sharp, abbreviated, staccato VAR-speak. Terminology that you can bet your life they’ve been coached to use.
Offside decisions should not be a difficult call for these people, with the technology at their disposal. They can put the ‘lines’ up. They can see when the ball is kicked. It ain’t rocket science. All they had to say in this case was: ‘Perfectly good goal. Onside. This goal should stand.’ It takes a second to spit out.
This mistake in the Diaz case stemmed from a failure to communicate adequately, rather than the technical decision itself. But the reason so many of these VAR calls are taking an eternity to reach boils down to those individuals making them just not having the feel for the game that a real football man would.
People talk about the game being so much quicker today and the referee’s job much harder. To which I would say: ‘Get lost.’ When I was a player, referees had far more difficult decisions to make because there was far more aggression in the game and some of them were making calls on incidents that took place on the equivalent of farmers’ fields. But you would often never even notice the refs. It’s generally a good refereeing performance when you’re not talking about them after the game.
Jurgen Klopp knows his calls for a replay won’t be heeded, but he is forming a siege mentality
Officials are now a much bigger part of the game and some think they are the stars of it all
Officials are a far bigger part of the game now and it always makes me chuckle to see them walking on to the pitch like rock stars, warming up in sync as they cross the pitch. Some of them think they’re the stars of the game.
VAR should have made their job a doddle. Because of the technology at their disposal now, it’s nigh-on impossible for these operators to make wrong calls. They can look at these incidents from every angle. They can slow it down. Watch it several times. But they’re still making poor decisions because they truly just don’t understand the game. We’re getting howlers every week. These people can quote you every word that’s in the rule book, from the first sentence to the last. But they don’t know football.
The Premier League must be concerned about the sometimes shambolic decision-making being transmitted around the world every weekend. They have to be looking to get ex-pros involved — something I’ve advocated at every opportunity — because there are many good young professionals out there who didn’t make it, for whatever reason. But refereeing seems to be a cabal. A closed shop. I now feel it really is time to put the PGMOL on notice that: ‘Two years from now, we won’t need you, because we’re going to develop our own referees.’
Last weekend’s incident will have been a sore one for everyone connected with Liverpool. A hard one to take. But now Jurgen now has to turn that around to his advantage, starting at Brighton on Sunday.
Rangers job proved too big for Beale
In hindsight, it was an enormous ask for Michael Beale, a rookie manager, to take over at a giant club like Rangers.
It went well for me in Glasgow, though it was the most difficult job I had in 20 years of management because of the expectation levels, the pressures and the unyielding spotlight.
And I have to say that it would be the same for any Celtic boss. Michael lost his job after three defeats in seven and the one which will have hurt most was losing to Celtic at home.
Getting recruitment right is the top priority for any boss but unfortunately for Michael, his signings haven’t turned up yet this season.
The job of managing Rangers ended up being too big for Michael Beale after he was sacked
They are struggling at the moment but I’m sure Rangers will still attract a big man for a big job
Rangers and Celtic are operating with TV incomes of around £3million, while playing to full houses of around 60,000.
I live on the south coast, where Bournemouth get gates of 11,000, and their TV revenue is around £100m. For the Rangers and Celtic manager, it’s all of the pressure and a fraction of the money.
Though the Premier League is still the No 1 destination for any aspiring coach, I’m sure Rangers will attract a big man for what is a big, big job.
A mouth-watering match-up at the Emirates
We have a mouth-watering prospect at the Emirates this weekend. A game which will probably be won by one of the top players doing something very special or someone making a mistake. That is football at the highest level.
Until Arsenal win this title, City will have a psychological advantage over them. All great sides hate to lose. But if City were to lose this, they will deal with it better than Arsenal going forward. City showed last season that they don’t panic under pressure and keep doing the things they believe in.
Arsenal spent £40million net more than City this summer. After this weekend, we will have a better idea of whether that outlay has taken them any closer to their title rivals.
Arsenal’s vs Man City at the Emirates on Sunday afternoon promises to be a tantalising affair
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