Andy KayWhat was the worst aspect of the ‘phantom goal’ awarded to Reading against Watford at the weekend?

Well, first off you have to say it was a gaffe of major proportions.

Assistant referee Nigel Bannister was adamant that the ball had crossed the line even though it was 4 yards wide of the sticks at the time.

Referee Stuart Atwell, a young, ambitious and highly thought of official, allowed himself to be swayed by his assistant, even though he was in a far better position to see, and awarded the goal to the Royals.

Total cock up, total farce.

But, wasn’t what happened after this even worse? Let’s look at the reactions of the parties involved.

First off, every single Reading player knew that they hadn’t scored. Yet all 11 of them happily trotted back to their own half when Atwell made his mistake. No-one was big enough, man enough or brave enough to buck the trend of the modern day player (and some would say modern day Britain) and approach the officials in an attempt to make them change their minds.

Stephen Hunt said afterwards: “It was a screamer! No, it was probably the worst decision I have ever witnessed.”

“We can’t do anything about it. It’s not our mistake, but what can you do? You can’t say, no ref, it wasn’t in.”

Really? Why not? It might make you unpopular with your team-mates and the fans but that’s exactly what you can do.

Steve Coppell’s performance wasn’t much better either.

He said that his team would happily replay the game if the Football League so ordered it, which they’ve confirmed they won’t do. But a replay was never necessary.

Coppell should have instructed his side to allow Watford to score an uncontested goal from the resulting kick off.

Remember, Reading went ahead through a truly atrocious error. This wasn’t a goal scored from a tight, offside position or from a spot kick won by a player diving and conning the ref – the ball didn’t go in at all.

Coppell’s view was this: “The responsibility is not with the opposition to right a wrong. It is up to the officials to get it as right as they can,”

So that’s clear then. And I’m sure he would have said exactly the same if the boot had been on the other foot.

Talking of which, you could argue that Aidy Boothroyd’s reaction to all of this is the worst of the lot.

As the wronged manager he had a go at the officials and no-one would deny him the right to do that. But then he went on to defend Reading’s actions by saying: “I don’t expect players to take things into their own hands. It’s not up to them.

“If someone stops you in a car park and gives you a present you don’t say no do you?”

Well hang on Aidy, you can’t have it both ways mate. It sounds just plain wrong to criticize the officials for getting it wrong in one breath then with the other, admit you’d have done the same thing as Reading, ie happily profit from the error by doing nothing.

Let’s be clear. This debacle isn’t about replays, goal line technology or uncontested goals. It’s about one thing and one thing only. Sportsmanship.

Sadly for the game there was little sportsmanship in evidence either on or off the pitch at Vicarage Road at the weekend.

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  1. says: Sion

    If players start correcting decisions for the officials, that then open another can of worms. For example, how far should the player’s sportsmanship go? Should he pass the ball back to the opposition if the referee incorrectly awards a foul? We’d then be contesting every dubious decision and blaming the player for getting it wrong instead of the referee.

    Let’s face it, the ref’s make mistakes, and yes this was a monumental one, but most of the time they get it right and unless video evidence is used there will always be mistakes.

    1. says: Fenboy

      Sion, yes, refs will always make mistakes that will affect one side or the other and no, the opposing team shouldn’t have to correct them.

      But I think the thrust of this piece is that the officials error was so huge, so obvious and so wrong, that putting it right was the correct thing to do.

      Strangely, I wonder if the fact that players are always trying to con the ref, claiming throw ins and goal kicks that patently aren’t theirs, diving, shirt pulling etc, was the reason that Stuart Atwell didn’t listen to the Watford protests on saturday.

      And lets think of it like this…if it had been England v Argentina in the world cup finals and the ref had given the ‘phantom goal’ to the Argies, I doubt anyone would be of the opinion that ‘it’s all part of the game’ and that ‘ref’s make mistakes’. There’d be uproar.

  2. says: Sion

    So where does a player draw the line and say, “No, I will not correct this decision, its not big enough”?

    Players are on the field to play football and win a game, not to play God and take it upon themselves to ensure decisions are correctly made.

    Of course we can squeeze other arguments in and debate professional fouls etc. but that should be another debate.

    I can’t resist the England Argentina bait. Of course as an England fan I would be devastated. I remember the Hand of God incident and I would have been delighted if the goal had been discounted, but not by the Argentinian side scoring an own goal, but by FIFA using video evidence to not only disallow the goal but also to have sent off the culprit.

    Justice would have been done, England would have been playing against ten men, the scoreline would be genuine (not adding another goal to make amends) and an Argentinian player would not have been responsible to his country for having to make an even bigger decision – scoring an own goal to even matters out.

    1. says: Fenboy

      But the thing is, you are talking about events which HAVE happened and on that I agree with you.

      On saturday, a team prospered because of something that DIDN’T happen.

      It’s a tough one to call and of course, we don’t want endless debate over whether a team should be gifting a goal back (to be honest, I think it’s getting to a ridiculous stage now when they kick the ball out of play as one of the opposition looks like he’s about to pass away after getting a scratch on his leg) but in this case, it was so extreme that it would have been, for me anyway, the right thing to do.

      Funnily enough, if Reading had done so, fans would probably discussed it for a day and then it would have been forgotten.

      As they didn’t, here we are 5 days on still on about it.

      Mind you, that’s probably because we are both BillyNoMates!!

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