The Men In Black

Last updated : 17 April 2007 By Jim Bonner
Referees, they're the scorn of every football fan and take more abuse than a school prefect took when they used to send you to the headmaster for swearing. The men put in charge of games at Fratton Park are usually in for more abuse that most other grounds, with the Fratton End being the main conductors.

It's hard to resist joining in with them, especially when reffing performances are as bad as Chris Foy's was on Saturday. Despite missing blatant fouls on our players all game whilst giving Newcastle free kicks for fair challenges, his was not the worst reffing performance seen at Fratton Park.

Who remembers the FA Cup Replay with Liverpool at Fratton Park three seasons ago? Matt Messias was the man "in charge" and it didn't take him long to endear himself to the Fratton Faithful. Liverpool put the ball in the box and Milan Baros handles it in the area so Messias blows as we all assume it's a goal kick.

"What!? PENALTY!?"

It turns out that Matthew somehow managed to mistake Baros for Primus, not that's its difficult. I mean there's no difference between them apart from the colour of their skin, their hair, their build etc. Thankfully the linesman saw sense and forced the "Scummer in the black" to change his mind.

Nothing was going to stop Messias however and he did give a penalty after Matt Taylor produced one of the finest saving tackles in the box you'll ever see. Justice was done when Michael Owen hit his penalty straight at Hislop and Hughes scored his only Pompey goal to date as we won 1-0. Messias was soon demoted to the lower leagues for a while after such a woeful performance.

Then we come to perhaps my favourite referee of all time: Uriah Rennie.

We're playing Everton at home in our debut season in the Premiership. Wayne Rooney shoves Steve Stone to the floor, blatant red card, he knows it as he walks toward the tunnel, the crowd know it, but Rennie calls him back, issues him a yellow card and Everton win 2-1 with Rooney scoring the winner.

That wasn't a one-off either as last season he took charge of Tottenham vs Pompey at White Hart Lane and we look to be heading to a well earned 1-1 draw until Rennie gives Spurs a penalty after a free kick struck Gary O'Neil's arm and was deemed to be deliberate. Mido converts and we end up losing.

Rennie doesn't just attract attention in the Premiership either. Preston's tannoy announcer infamously blurted out "and welcome to the second half of the Uriah Rennie show!" due to Rennie's knack of hogging the spotlight. Don't just take my word for it, there's a fair few managers of Championship clubs that can't stand him!

I can't ever remember Pompey winning a game with Uriah Rennie in charge, if someone can recall one, please let me know!

Next we have Phil Dowd; probably the most petulant referee in the Premiership. He seems to blow up for every little niggle, tug or hint of the physical side of the game. He also managed to wind up the Fratton Park crowd if you recall Liverpool's penalty in the FA Cup last season. The ball bounced off the ground in the box and onto Dejan Stefanovic's arm, which was somehow ruled deliberate and thus a penalty was "awarded" to Liverpool. He doesn't just screw up in Pompey matches either, just ask Paul Jewell...

Other inept refereeing performances at Fratton Park in recent memory come from the Blackburn game of two seasons ago when Andy D'Urso sent off both Lomana LuaLua and Amdy Faye yet failed to send off any Rovers player despite Aaron "The Axe" Mokoena scything down the last man and Andy Todd for his part in the LuaLua headbutt fiasco. "1-0 to the referee" chanted the Fratton End and they weren't far off the truth. D'Urso had been demoted after brandishing 3 yellow cards to Brett Emerton in Blackburn's match with Southampton earlier that season and it wasn't hard to see why after that game.

Later that season and Newcastle visited Fratton Park in a game where 9 yellow cards were shown in a game where there wasn't a single bad challenge. The referee that game? A certain Matt Messias...

But perhaps the biggest miscarriage of justice came this season in our first away game at the City Of Manchester Stadium. Dermot Gallagher was the referee that day and only gave Ben Thatcher a yellow card for his assault on Pedro Mendes. He then failed to spot a blatant handball by Micah Richards in the box that same game, giving more reason for Pompey fans to hold him in contempt.

I don't want to keep on a negative tone and there are some games where the referee deserves a lot more credit than they get. Mark Clattenburg; in my opinion, is the best referee in the Premiership. He came in for a bit of stick during the Man United game last week but he made two very correct calls when Primus tackled Rooney in the box when a lot of refs would have pointed straight to the spot. Whenever I've seen Clattenburg referee he's usually consistent, fair and gets the big decisions right.

Steve Dunn and Howard Webb are also referees who you don't hear much about and in their profession the less heard about them, the better they seem to be. That would mean Graham Poll would be right at the bottom of the list. Ever since his gaffe during the World Cup he's just not looked up to the job and has been on the receiving end of plenty of abuse from the Fratton Faithful.

Thank God Rob Styles comes from Hampshire and can't referee our games!

On a side note our reserves got humiliated once again! This time they were on the wrong end of a 6-0 mauling by Charlton Reserves. Maybe they should ask the FA for special dispensation so Styles can give them a hand.