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Iwan Roberts: Treat referees right and it will work in your favour

PUBLISHED: 19:00 15 March 2018

Iwan Roberts makes a point to the referee during a game against Preston in March, 2001. Picture: Archant

Iwan Roberts makes a point to the referee during a game against Preston in March, 2001. Picture: Archant

I have never been involved in a game where there have been four penalties awarded – and off the top of my head I can’t even think of a game where it has happened either!

Iwan Roberts collects a yellow card during a game against Grimsby in 2001. Picture: ArchantIwan Roberts collects a yellow card during a game against Grimsby in 2001. Picture: Archant

It’s such a rarity, but it did happen last Saturday when Norwich visited Hull’s KCOM Stadium.

I saw the highlights of the game and I was gobsmacked at one of the penalties that Hull were awarded. I’ve watched it over and over again and I honestly can’t see why referee Tim Robinson blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot. I saw no contact whatsoever and not one of the Hull players appealed.

I’ve been asked many times over the years if ever a referee thinks he’s made a mistake after making a bad decision in a game – and will he then try and even things up by giving the team he thinks he’s punished unfairly a decision they shouldn’t get? And my answer is, yes, I think some refs have done and will carry on doing so.

There were certain referees I never got on with and when I saw before a game that they were in charge I’ve thought to myself. ‘I’m not going to get a lot going my way today’!

In my younger days I could be really argumentative on the pitch and question the majority of decisions that would go against us. I would get in the ref’s face and tell him exactly what I thought, without, of course, pushing the boundaries too far, which would mean me receiving a red card for dissent – something that never happened I hasten to add.

The more I complained the more decisions went against us, so as I got older it sank in that if I shut my mouth and didn’t question every decision that went against me then maybe I wouldn’t get punished half as much as I did. And guess what? I was right! It worked and I started becoming friendlier with refs and got my fair share of decisions going my way.

I was appalled by Jamie Carragher’s reaction last Saturday when he was driving away from Old Trafford. We’ve all seen the footage of him spitting at a Manchester United fan’s car after getting a bit of stick – the driver’s innocent 14-year-old daughter, who sat in the passenger seat, was struck by his spit.

Professional footballers take all sorts of abuse aimed at them and their families and it’s scandalous, but they have to take it on the chin.

Even now I still get people trying to be funny with me – and I’ve been retired 13 years! People become over-familiar with you and will either be very personal about your appearance or about your intelligence. It is as if they think they know you and can say exactly what they want, when they want, to you and not expect a reaction. However, one thing you cannot do is retaliate and spit at someone – it really is the lowest of the low.

I’ve been bitten on the football field, but never spat at and if someone had spat at me while I was playing football I’m not sure I could have kept my cool. In fact, I know I would have lost my head and reacted violently and probably got myself sent off.

The worst case of spitting I’ve ever seen on the football field happened in a World Cup qualifying game between Romania and Wales in Budapest. It had been an ill-tempered first half which was coming towards the end when all of a sudden my footballing hero Ian Rush got in a bit of a scuffle with former Chelsea defender Dan Petrescu. I was sat on the bench and instead of following the ball I continued watching what was going on between the two players.

I was sickened at what I saw next as Rushie put his hand out to shake Petrescu’s hand; the Romanian right back, from about a yard away, spat straight into Ian’s face. It was shocking. He had phlegm all over his face and it was still there when he walked into the changing room. He’d gone up and shown the ref what had happened, but sadly the ref could do nothing about it as neither he nor his assistants had seen the incident!

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