Referees will never be perfectly consistent. In some respects it’s unfair to demand that. The rules in football leave room for interpretation and interpretation leaves room for inconsistency.
For example, a bad tackle in real time might look like a red card to one ref and a yellow card to another. The game moves so quickly that unless you get a good sight of the foul you’ll only know how severe it was when you watch the video back.
But in other situations, officials are undoubtedly guilty of failing to apply the rules in the same way. That was the case with the penalty given against Leeds United during Tuesday night’s draw with Charlton.
I didn’t see the foul myself but a few people I spoke to after the match reckoned Giuseppe Bellusci brought down Charlton’s player. Fair enough. If that’s the case then fair play to the referee for spotting it and applying the letter of the law. But it leaves a bad taste in the mouth because it feels like we’ve been singled out.
Fouls by defenders inside the box go on all the time with no consequence. Usually, referees stare right at them and do nothing about it. We’re not talking about incidents which get overlooked or go unnoticed. We’re talking about infringements that officials see and choose not to punish.
So quite rightly we all felt aggrieved by the penalty. It cost Leeds two points. I think we’d all say that the habit of pushing and shoving in the box is something we’d like to do away with but I promise you now, you’ll see the same thing happen against Blackpool on Saturday.
You’ll see it happen on numerous occasions during the rest of the season.
But it’ll probably be months if not years before a penalty like that is awarded against us again.
It turned a potentially good result into a pretty frustrating one. Charlton have been hard to beat so I wouldn’t have turned my nose up at a draw before kick-off, but to be 2-1 up with nine minutes left and get pegged back by a dodgy penalty is pretty annoying. We really need a victory and Saturday’s game is absolutely must-win. Blackpool are bottom of the league and struggling badly. We must get into them.
The highlight of Tuesday’s match was Alex Mowatt’s performance and his two goals. He’s a super talent and with the ability to finish opportunities like he did, he’s someone we can look to for inspiration throughout the season.
That said, the young age of our team does concern me – not because the players are young (I believe in the idea of good enough is old enough) but because I don’t feel there’s anyone in the squad who can provide the experience and the grit to carry them.
On Tuesday afternoon, I went to the unveiling of Bobby Collins Way near Elland Road. Bobby was one of the earliest Revie boys, a terrific signing when Don bought him and a first-class player.
All of the younger lads who thrived in that period would tell you that his influence made a massive difference to them. To put it plainly, he’s one of the best players Leeds United have ever had.
Fast-forward 20-odd years and we had Gordon Strachan here – another big personality with all the courage and confidence you wanted.
You might think we’re punching above our weight by looking for another Collins or Strachan but to be fair, they both signed while the club were in the second division. They were both willing to come down to this level.
The young lads in our team will improve with every game but there’s no doubt that they’d improve at a faster rate with a big-shouldered old head in the team.
I like Jason Pearce, he gives you everything he’s got, but I don’t think he’s quite the captain we need. What you look for in a captain is inspiration and direction; someone who can keep the show together even when they’re having an off-day.
If you look at our history, our best periods have always involved great captains. Bobby was fantastic and so was wee Billy Bremner. Later on we had Strachan and Gary McAllister. These guys were nerveless and calm, able to give others around them the assurance and encouragement they wanted.
My opinion of our squad is that it’s got a good amount of talent in it.
But I agree with Massimo Cellino when he says that it’s not finished yet.
We’re going to have to take some medicine at stages of this season but I do think a number of the players have plenty of scope to grow.
At the moment, however, we need results – starting with a win against Blackpool.