SEZ LES: Under-fire Howard's no-win

A GOOD few years ago there was a splendid headline in the Daily Mirror that has always stuck with me... More Red Whine at Anfield, which headed up an article about more moaning from the manager.

You'll quickly work out who that manager was because he's just started his second stint in charge there!

Now, he might be a fine manager, excellent company apparently and certainly a shrewd cookie and he also provided a nice little anecdote for me when he turned up at Millmoor one day to cast an eye over a talented young Millers midfielder who a few clubs were watching.

As he went through the door leading towards the boardroom and guests area, the then Millers chairman Ken Booth was coming the other way... "As tha' come to buy us out then?" queried Rotherham's blunt-talking chairman.

Tongue-in-cheek, of course, and Kenny Dalglish saw the funny side but was rendered momentarily speechless as he assessed the moment!

Anyway, back to Sunday and he was soon finding something, ie the ref, to have a moan at.

You might reckon, I do, that Howard Webb took two very brave decisions. Whichever way he'd gone, ie do what he did or say 'no penalty' and just yellow card Steven Gerrard, there would have been people disagreeing and some stick, rightly or wrongly, flying about.

My instant reaction on the penalty was "that's a foul but they'll not get a penalty in the first 30 seconds." Interestingly, Sam Allardyce said that he thought it was a penalty "in real time" - which is what the ref gets to see it in. Then, of course, you see 185 replays from 23 different angles and you start looking for reasons why it might not be a penalty. By now you're armed with the view that Berbatov exaggerated his fall because the touch on him didn't seem that strong.

So, what does Allardyce's tv studio colleague Gareth Southgate say... "these days, if players are touched they go down, they don't try and stay on their feet."

Nobody actually asks what the defender (Agger) was doing (or criticises him) for making a challenge that wasn't anywhere near making contact with the ball.

Yes, Berbatov was very cute, knew what he was doing and it might be what you'd call "a soft penalty". But a penalty it was. As for the Gerrard tackle, it seems to be accepted that under the letter of the law, it was a red card offence.

Overall, we had a classic case of a referee almost being in a no win situation.

Say 'no penalty' and they'd have been analysing and making out a case for one. Yellow card Gerrard's foul and they'd be saying he was off the ground and it should have been red. And he'd only stayed on because he was Steve Gerrard.

And Ryan Babel putting Webb in a Man U shirt on his twitter isn't a joke as some have suggested. It's much more serious than that.

It suggests that the referee is/was biased towards Manchester United.

That's not a joke, it's damaging - and couldn't be further from the truth.

The following day, with Dalglish and others chucking in their two penn'orth, Webb might have felt like staying under the bed covers.

But he'd a junior school visit to make, talking to kids out Doncaster way in one of the less privileged areas.

I'm told by someone who was there that the youngsters, 10 and 11, loved it and here was someone they'd seen on tv the day before and, after it finished, one little lad said: "that's the best thing that's ever happened in my life, ever."

Howard, walking out at that point with the teacher, went back, put his World Cup Final medal round the lad's neck and a photo was taken and something that lad will remember for the rest of his life.

Don't suppose that will make Ryan Babel's twitter page!

Got a view? Leave a comment below.

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