Norwich City A-Z: Play to the whistle... it's Reffin' Hell
PUBLISHED: 16:14 29 June 2018 | UPDATED: 16:14 29 June 2018
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Our alternative Norwich City A-Z has reached R for Reffin' Hell, illustrating the ability of the game's match officials to become enemies for life. CHRIS LAKEY looks at some of the villains... and one hero
If the referee has had a good game you don’t notice, so they say.
Which means there is a rogues’ gallery imprinted on the mind of every football fans still smarting over perceived injustices.
For Norwich City, you can list, among others: Simon Hooper, Tim Robinson, Alan Wilkie and Andy D’Urso (several times).
It might be appropriate to shift the name of Mr Hooper out of here, given his misdemeanour on the opening day of the 2015-16 season when he ruled out a Cameron Jerome goal. Quick recap: City trail 2-1 with a little under 20 minutes left, a corner is nodded goalwards and Jerome acrobatically hooks it into the net. Palace defender Joel Ward stretches his neck to get his head there, which makes it look worse than it is. Result: goal disallowed and City lose 3-1.
Even a former refereeing colleague, Mark Halsey, wasn’t having it: “Simon Hooper went looking for trouble when he should have just given the goal and got the hell out of it.”
Tim Robinson is equally unpopular in these parts: he’s the ref who turned a Norwich 3-2 half-time lead at Hull City into a 4-4 draw. When he awarded the fourth penalty of the game, to Hull, soon after the interval, he left everyone scratching their heads. No one had any idea what he’d seen. It remains a ‘ghost’ penalty.
Curiously, he was back in charge of a City game the same season, here in Norfolk, against Cardiff, with a performance which proved he’d missed the circular about referee’s refresher course. Neil Warnock’s Bluebirds pushed the rules of the game to the limit, and they had a helping hand from Robinson, who ignored foul after foul by the same players. Two Cardiff bookings was a poor reflection of their ill-discipline.
Turn the clock back a few years to 1995 with City struggling at the foot of the Premier League and facing a trip to Leeds. With 10 minutes left they were winning, but Tony Yeboah somehow forced a penalty out of referee Alan Wilkie, Leeds equalised, then got a winner.
City’s reaction to the penalty decision saw the whole team reported to the FA, but there was universal agreement from both sides that Wilkie had got it badly wrong – even though City’s was, not surprisingly, rather more vociferous.
“All the Norwich team will be reported, I won’t be isolating any one player,” he said. “That would be impossible because they were all around me, even the reserve goalkeeper.”
D’Urso has a string of previous with City: in March 2008 he wrongly penalised Lee Croft for handball at Bristol City, who scored the winner following the resulting free-kick; he wrongly sent off Gary Doherty (the red was later rescinded) against the same opponents a year later; his four reds (including one for Darren Eadie) and nine yellows in a home game against Huddersfield in March, 1997 included seven bookings in 18 minutes.
But sometimes the ref is on your side, even unwittingly.
At Reading, in April, 2004, Neale Barry was the man who sent City back to the top of the table – with time running out, a headed clearance bounced off Barry’s back and fell to Phil Mulryne, who curled it into the corner.
Barry said: “I want to apologise to all the Reading players and fans. It’s never happened to me before in 31 years of refereeing. You don’t know how bad I feel.”
Thing is, he’d been on the pitch for 86 minutes and he wasn’t wearing yellow and green or blue and white hoops so it was hardly his fault someone headed the ball at him.
They’re not all bad...