It was Feb 24 1998 when I first came across the referee Rob Styles and he certainly left an imprint in my mind. Two red cards and 10 yellows were handed out in an English League Two game between Leyton Orient and Hartlepool. It was a typical lower league affair with bundles of courage but not enough class. It never warranted such heavy-handed disciplinary action from the official.
Mick Tait, the Hartlepool boss at the time, had been a midfielder at Portsmouth and had been brought up in an era when tackling was tough and cards were minimal. He felt Styles - who booked eight and sent off two in his first league game six months earlier at Orient - was out of his depth with football at that level. According to Tait, he was just too card-happy. Fast forward 10 years and little seems to have changed, except Styles is now taking charge of Premier League games and is part of a refereeing brigade that is constantly being ridiculed for errors that are shaping how the season unfolds for many clubs.
Mr Styles has upset Bolton this season for giving a penalty to Cristiano Ronaldo when Jlloyd Samuel had clearly won the ball. He upset them even more on Saturday when he ruled out a Gary Cahill header in their 2-0 defeat at home to Liverpool because of a foul by Bolton's Kevin Nolan on keeper Pepe Reina. The Spaniard had actually pushed Nolan a couple of times so was it right? Had it been allowed, it would have been 1-1 and Liverpool could well have had a stiffer test in their bid to stay joint top of the table. Later that day, Andre Marriner made an even worse blunder when he showed a second yellow card to Wigan's Emmerson Boyce for a perfectly legal challenge on the Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi. A 2-2 draw ensued when Steve Bruce's side had been in control and heading for a victory.
With both sides hovering near the relegation zone, how much difference will those two extra points make come the end of the season? Apologies may follow, or maybe not, but in this day and age - with technology and far greater public awareness than in 1998- it seems ridiculous to keep bleating on about awful refereeing decisions. Yes they are human and mistakes do happen, but surely it is time to give referees extra help to avoid such errors.
The pleas to have a video referee like in rugby seem to be continually ignored, but would it have taken that long to replay such crucial moments? And what is the point of the fourth official when he can't help out? Results can change on such decisions, so action has to be taken now. There is no excuse. @Email:email@example.com