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It’s hard to feel sorry for Rob Styles

It’s hard to feel sorry for Rob Styles

Aug 22 2007

Red Watch

By Andy Proudfoot, Liverpool Daily Post

Jamie Carragher argues with referee Rob Styles at the end of the game for Chelseas penalty decision - Picture: Colin Lane

READERS of a certain age will remember the Phantom Zone, an other-dimension prison used on Krypton, the home planet of Superman.

Perpetrators of unspeakable crimes were dIspatched into the Zone, which was deemed the only means of ensuring that these evil geniuses could not threaten the well-being of civilised society.

After the events of this week, Rob Styles must know how they felt.

Not even a heartfelt personal apology to the club and manager he affronted, a virtually unprecedented action, could save him from the opprobrium heaped upon him this week from every quarter and ultimate banishment from planet Premiership.

‘Trial by television’ was never more aptly coined, as interminable replays exposed him to public ridicule, firstly for imagining a penalty that never was, and then for a display of semaphore signalling with his yellow card that any Jack Tarr would have been proud of.

Now I try to keep a balanced view of such refereeing errors, belonging firmly to the ‘these things even themselves out’ school of thought.

You don’t need a long memory to find an instance where an official’s benevolence was bestowed in our favour, and swings and roundabouts are as much a part of the football milieu as goalposts and nets.

What annoyed me most about Styles’ display was that the two instances inexorably highlighted by the media were but part of a performance that was rotten from start to finish, the inexplicable followed by the unnecessary at almost every turn.

Styles is firmly in the Graham Poll mould of the self-styled ‘celebrity ref’, full of idiosyncratic gestures and eccentric decisions.

This aspect of his character was never better illustrated in the imaginary penalty incident, when he ignored one of the basic principles of park pitch refereeing: if no-one appeals, it hasn’t happened.

Perhaps the most perceptive observation on Styles’ performance was made by Steven Gerrard, who suggested that he ‘cracked’ under the constant pressure applied by the Chelsea players.

Although Liverpool are hardly innocent in this respect, I think this was exactly what happened.

John Terry in particular abused his position as captain to berate Styles at every turn, usually accompanied by Ashley Cole, Drogba and co.

Mourinho’s description of his team as ‘pure and naïve’ must surely have been delivered with tongue screwed firmly to cheek and then nailed down for good measure.

The longer-term damage inflicted on the game by this behaviour is experienced by every amateur referee every weekend; if left unchecked in the short-term we’ll get increasingly bizarre decisions given by vulnerable human beings being subjected to intolerable levels of pressure they should not have to deal with.

Some positives

IF ONE good thing has come out of the Gabriel Heinze saga, it's the sight of he-who-must-not-be-named and his boss scuttling down to Premiership HQ to prevent the full-back joining the true Reds.

You'd have thought that they'd have preferred to make capital out of the prospect of us signing one of their reserves rather than reveal their panic over a player preferring Liverpool to them, a sure sign that they think we might just be getting near enough to mount a credible challenge to their title aspirations.

As for us, you'd have thought we'd learned our lesson in 1964 - Phil Chisnall was rubbish.


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