What 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.