Huddersfield Town played Sheffield Wednesday yesterday. The game itself was something of a non-event, from what I hear, with both sides looking no better than 6/10 on the ‘will they win it’ scale.
From such drudgery, though, rises an interesting point, appearing, as if by magic, to ensure something eminently forgettable is rendered unforgettable.
Early in the game, the Wednesday player Jeremy Helan was cautioned. A little before half time, he was cautioned again. Red card, 10 men, Terrier procession to an easy second half victory, right?
The referee, Mick Russell, had written down a different Wednesday player’s name in his book after the first incident; Helan’s booking was his first, and he stayed on until the end.
It is a huge error for a referee to make, and he apologised to the Huddersfield manager afterwards. Referees are humans. They make mistakes. This one was more glaring than others, but that’s all it was.
On balance, this is far less bad an error than awarding a penalty that shouldn’t be (a likely goal), and, I would hazard, less bad an error than dismissing a player who shouldn’t be (as Anthony Gerrard found out at Palace, through no fault of his own). So, why the uproar?
An 11 man Huddersfield were in no way guaranteed to beat a 10 man Wednesday. Helan himself did not score the winner, though I think I am correct in saying two Huddersfield players were booked for fouling him after his reprieve.
Huddersfield have been somewhat out of form of late, and the massed ranks of a 10 man team scrapping for a point are no bucklers and no way guaranteed success. They did not lose two points as a result of the non-dismissal. Indeed, a lot of the Huddersfield reports I’ve read said they were lucky to get a point; doesn’t shriek of a win denied.
All it showed is that referees can sometimes make really silly mistakes. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. If you go to another system, so long as humans are involved (video reviews, etc) then errors will still occur. Its not malice, its humanity.
If footballers respected the referee enough to not try and trick him at every turn, and feel personally affronted when those tricks fail, then run, shout and gesticulate in the referee’s face, then they might have a chance of being heard when a referee does make a mistake.
It is the boy who cried wolf all over again. The more you protest something that is obviously untrue, the less likely the truth will be believed. Huddersfield Town were not victims of anything other than a human error yesterday. It was unfortunate, but Mr Russell did nothing other than make a note of an incorrect number.
Everybody has done that from time to time, haven’t they?
In short. Mick Russell is neither hero nor villain, just a man who is now at the centre of a storm for a simple mistake he made. I hope he is given a weekend off (to avoid overscrutinising his work) then comes back to refereeing after that.
Any further sanction, from striking him off the list to replaying the game are simply absurd. Count me on Mr Russell’s side. He did my team a wrong, but I don’t hold it against him. At the very worst, next time he referees Huddersfield, he’ll likely want to make amends. We play Leeds in February, please.