Alan Biggs at Large: No conspiracy against the Owls - but referee inconsistency is a concern

Bristol City's Marlon Pack stops Owls' Fernando Forestieri
Bristol City's Marlon Pack stops Owls' Fernando Forestieri
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Let’s be clear. There is no conspiracy against Sheffield Wednesday or any other club. That sort of nonsense ignores those times when all clubs, including the Owls,

get breaks in their favour.

But the voice of reason also suggests the boot has been firmly on the other foot just lately.

Referees know better than most that reputations go before players. Because, naturally enough, they do their homework on them. But sometimes that “history lesson” doesn’t tell the full story.

That’s why Keith Hackett is fearful for Fernando Forestieri and why he feels Sheffield Wednesday’s top goalscorer could become a marked man for referees as well as defenders.

Of course, this represents just one example of what Carlos Carvalhal reckons has been a catalogue of injustice for his side in recent weeks.

Sometimes it’s not just a matter of opinion but a simple case of right and wrong. The FA’s rescinding of a red card for West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate, for a similar and arguably more severe challenge than the one for which Barry Bannan was sent off at Nottingham Forest (over which an appeal failed), was inconsistency at its worst.

Around the same time came glaring inconsistency on the field when Mark Hudson of Huddersfield somehow escaped a second yellow card, and therefore a red, after scything down a Wednesday player in the 1-0 win in West Yorkshire.

Not just any player – that player was Forestieri. The same Forestieri who, a few weeks earlier, had been on the end of a dangerous red card-rated lunge from Hull City’s Michael Dawson – only to be bizarrely sent off himself as a result of a second yellow for “diving.”

Now I know supporters of other clubs are sick of hearing about this. But it can’t be ignored, as it wouldn’t for their teams, because these incidents lumped together are graphically wrong.

Forestieri had also been previously sent off at Preston where he picked up another contentious yellow card for simulation.

Sheffield-based former referees chief Hackett told me: “The danger is that this guy is getting a reputation that is clearly wrong. He is not a ducker and diver. He is a low centre of gravity type player who rolls the challenge in order to avoid injury. Hopefully referees are not going to go out hunting for him.”

But Hackett’s view, even as an Owls fan, is far from one-sided. For instance, he feels the highly combative Sam Hutchinson has escaped justice rather than been a victim of it: “On a number of occasions he’s committed reckless challenges and not received the appropriate yellow card or even the second yellow. I remember one game – against Arsenal in the Capital One Cup – where he should have received red for endangering the safety of an opponent and was very fortunate.

“This is down to education. I think Sheffield Wednesday should bring in a referee to have a discussion with this player and the management. When a player leaves the ground with two feet he is out of control irrespective of whether he wins the ball or misses the player. The outcome doesn’t matter – it’s a red card.”

Hackett feels Carvalhal’s conduct has been a credit to the game, adding: “His responses are measured and thoughtful. Putting that catalogue together and calling the PGMOL is the way to go about getting a change. These are genuine grievances.

Quite apart from taking the team up the league, I think he has been magnificent in his approach.”