Graham Poll: Invisible assistants leave men in the middle exposed
Let's start with a quick quiz: who was the referee who sent Thomas Vermaelen off on Saturday? That's right, it was Martin Atkinson. Now name me his assistants. Not so easy? Try naming the referee and assistants at the other live game on Saturday between Aston Villa and Wolves. The ref was Mark Clattenburg but who were the assistants? Off you go: Martin Atkinson shows Thomas Vermaelen the red card More from Graham Poll... Graham Poll's Official Line: Liverpool pay the price for unsporting behaviour21/03/10 Graham Poll: German inefficiency robbed Chelsea of two penalties17/03/10 GRAHAM POLL: Warning to Gerrard... clean up or you're next England villain 16/03/10 GRAHAM POLL: Sol was lucky not to follow Boateng to an early bath15/03/10 GRAHAM POLL: Liam Ridgewell's 'goal' shows that it's time for bumbling Blatter to cross the line08/03/10 Graham Poll - The Official Line: Why Stoke City are just not a dirty team07/03/10 Graham Poll: Eight horror tackles...but only one ref gave right punishment05/03/10 THE LIST: Graham Poll's top 50 football referees - Nos 10-104/03/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVEThere is a saying in the refereeing world that a referee can only commit suicide but an assistant can commit murder. If they make mistakes it is the referee who carries the can. Assistants are seldom berated by managers and virtually immune from criticism in the media. Yet, looking at the controversies from another fascinating weekend it is hard not to have sympathy with the men in the middle. At the Emirates the speed of the break and the long ball by West Ham meant that Atkinson had no chance of seeing any contact between Vermaelen and Guillermo Franco. Assistant Phil Sharp flagged very quickly and in doing so committed Atkinson to both the penalty and red card. It was a pity than the assistant was not quite so attentive at the penalty kick when he failed in his responsibility to ensure that goalkeeper Manuel Almunia was on his line before the kick was taken. That must have helped him to save the penalty from Alessandro Diamanti. Up at Villa Park it was again the assistants who was required to make key decisions. Firstly Dave Bryan, one of the most experienced Premier League officials, who failed to indicate the John Carew was offside as the cross came in for him to open the scoring. What should have been an easy decision was inexplicably missed and so it was particularly pleasing that Steve Child got a much more difficult decision correct when scored his and Villa's second goal. Opener: John Carew slots home his controversial first against Wolves At key incidents, when a referee has his hands full with management of players and getting big decisions correct, they usually ask one assistant to keep his eye on where the restart should take place. So I would imagine that Alan Wiley would be disappointed that neither assistant informed him that Mikel Arteta had placed the ball for a free-kick over five yards further forward than the foul by Gretar Steinsson on Yakubu. Of course, as a refs' luck would have it, Everton scored from the free-kick. When one considers that Sol Campbell was cautioned and Hull awarded a penalty last weekend after an assistant missed that Jan Venegoor of Hesselink was clearly in an offside position, you begin to understand the refereeing issues - as referee after referee is being killed by assistants' decisions. GOOD WEEK FOR...Mike Riley BAD WEEK FOR...John Terry and co Riley stood up to Tony Pulis and rightly turned down the Stokemanager's request to take Mike Dean off the game with Spurs. Dean, who sent off Amdy Faye and Andy Wilkinson this season, is the strongest disciplinarian on the list. Whatever hashappened in previous games, managers should have no influence over whoreferees their games. After Chelsea's exit from the Champions League against Inter Milan last week, the captain has been bemoaning histeam's fate at the hands of the referee. While they should have had apenalty, it has gone and Terry should focus on his next game and not riskcensure form European football's governing body UEFA.
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