The ‘dark truth’ about Ole at Man Utd, ‘irresponsible’ Klopp and…

Editor F365
Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer speaks to James Garner

Are decisions still going Liverpool’s way? Was it just a myth about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the Man Utd academy?

Keep your mails coming to…


Short and sweet on Liverpool’s woes
According to my commentary team, Robertson’s red card was Liverpool’s first in almost 2 years, and 79 premier league matches.

So unless Pool fans would like to claim that their team play like angels, I’d say decisions are still very much going your way, overall.
Ryan, Bermuda


Klopp’s ref criticisms are unfair
I’m a Liverpool fan but I have to agree with the mail from John Collins in the Monday afternoon mailbox. Klopp’s comments about the ref were extremely irresponsible and out of line and as John rightly said, amplifies the awful abuse referees face on a daily basis especially online. It’s clear that so many Liverpool fans took their cue from him and not only did we see so much abuse of the ref on social media, but we also saw endless boring discussions about every other bad decision that has gone against Liverpool this season. Aside from Ronaldo v Messi, it’s hard to think of a more tedious topic than ‘see these other instances where my club didn’t get the right call from the referee’. Obviously we aren’t the only club which engages in this, but since this is my club I feel I need to do my part and call it out.

The ref made some bad calls but everyone makes mistakes and most of us don’t have to do our jobs infront of thousands of people screaming abuse at you and expecting every big call to go in their favour. The fact that we live in a world in which such vile abuse of referees is considered normal (both on and off the pitch) is really quite something.
Turiyo Damascene, Kigali, Rwanda


Over the last few weeks many teams have seen some extremely poor refereeing decisions.

I watch quite a lot of bundesliga (I did say Sancho would take a season to settle) and Italian football and the level of officiating is much higher.

Some common things which I think hold English referees back are a few biases which they need to ditch.

1. English refs seem to be scared of making big decisions in the first 10-20 minutes of game. Red cards penalties etc. – if a decision needs to be made the time it happens should never be a factor. Rules are rules.

2. English refs favour certain players.  In both Gerrard and Beckham’s autobiographies, and also in comments from fergie too, they mention making an effort to be extra friendly with referees because it gets them favourable treatment.

3. Crowds – admittedly this plagues all refs everywhere. Refs should not be influenced by crowds but it’s no secret home teams get more decisions in their favour on average. Maybe take the ref off the field? We have enough tech these days that they can do their job from a special ref box. They’ll be less influenced by the crowd and they can’t be chased around by players either.

More women – yeah, I know for all you “purists” out there you might not like the idea of female linesman and referees but when I’ve seen Massey officiate (which isn’t that often I’ll admit) she’s done a far better job than her male counterparts, she also doesn’t seem to get bullied by players either.

That’s it.


VAR needs to change
I’ve always been fairly ambivalent about VAR. If they took it away tomorrow I wouldn’t care, but I’m also not spitting blood about the fact that it’s now a part of football. However, watching the Liverpool game on Sunday got me reflecting on the current state of VAR and how there is an element to it that makes absolutely no sense: the pitch side monitor.

Currently, VAR is only supposed to intervene when there is a clear and obvious error. The VAR ref calls his mate and says “wait a minute Jeff, you’ve made a blunder here, you better go and have a look”.

Consider that wording though. “Clear and obvious.” If the error is clear and obvious, why is there a need to check in on the pitch side monitor? The referee just literally just been told he’s made an “obvious” error. If he checks the screen and then doesn’t overturn his decision, one of two things is true: the VAR ref said there was an obvious error when there wasn’t or there was an obvious error but the referee ignores it. Either way one of them should lose their jobs.

The Kane tackle is a perfect example of where surely the referee should at least be looking. Even if you think it wasn’t a red, it was definitely worth a second look. But the way the implementation of VAR works at the moment is that “go to the screen” means “change your mind, you got it wrong”. It’s almost certainly why the Kane decision wasn’t looked it. The VAR ref knows that if he asked the ref to check it, the ref has to send him off.

There are two options here. 1) expand the number of decisions the ref can look at. Rather than “clear and obvious” it could be contentious decisions. The ref looks at the screen and maybe changes his mind, and maybe not. Rather than the near 100% of decisions that are currently changed when looking at the screen. 2) get rid of the screen. If it’s clear and obvious, just tell the ref he’s got it wrong and needs to change his mind, as they already do with offside. Speed up the game.

The next thing that VAR needs to change is the clarity. In every other sport I’m aware of, fans can listen in to the decision being made. In rugby for example, it’s crystal clear. Even if you disagree with the decision, you can at least understand the logic behind it, and why it was made. However, football is just too cowardly to be put under that scrutiny. I think if we did hear the thought process it would highlight the fact that these decisions are often made without rhyme or reason. The refs can’t even explain why they made that call and making them do it in real time would expose that.

When Liverpool played Man United this year I didn’t celebrate the first goal, because I thought it was offside and would be overturned. That’s the impact of VAR. It takes something away from football. If we’re going to sacrifice that, then it at least needs to get decisions right. At the moment it’s just a mess.
Mike, LFC,  London


Of course Liverpool fans are unhappy…
Dear Editor

Some predictable backlash from Spurs fans this morning in the mailbox- the usual whataboutery and accusations of lack of class that we all engage in (by the way, I’m not sure what is more indicative of a manager’s  ‘class’, being the most vocal proponent of a collectivist attitude towards vaccination or moaning about dreadful referee performances).

Of course Liverpool fans are unhappy about the fact that two game-changing decisions (Kane red and Jota penalty) went against them but while it’s us this week, next week it will some other set of fans who are complaining about poor decisions. The PL has the world’s best managers, the biggest collection of top players but a very mediocre set of officials. As fans we are much better off directing our dissatisfaction at the PGMOL rather than bitching at each other (as fun as that is!).

There is one foreign referee, Jared Gillet, who was appointed this year and has officiated in four games this season, the lowest of any referee who has taken more than one game. The PL has thrived by attracting the best talent from all over the world, surely it’s time that we did that for officials as well?

The PGMOL operates secretly both during and after games. In both cricket and rugby, the officials are miked up and when the TV official is involved we can hear the conversation between them. There are complications in doing this with football, in part because of the flow of the game leads to fewer breaks in play, but it is not beyond the wit of man or woman to resolve these. Being able to hear the real time rationale for decisions would a) keep refs honest and stop the pathetic post hoc rationalisation of bad decisions (Jota ‘stopping’ for instance when lining up a shot) that get leaked out and b) allow managers, players, pundits and fans to understand the process of decision making rather better and be more understanding that refs are humans who sometimes make mistakes.

It won’t take controversy out of the game but sunlight really is the best disinfectant and will help both to raise standards of referring (and by extension professional and amateur punditry) and to restore some authority to referees.
Andrew, Cambridge (LFC)


Just a quick one.

Can everyone let me know the name of your local MP and I’ll write to them to make sure “Should Harry Kane have been sent off v Liverpool?” Is asked in Parliament.



Enjoying the fallout from the Spurs – Liverpool game.

Just a question for Liverpool fans – did Paul Tierney’s vendetta against you start before he refused to give James Milner a second yellow in the City game or was that part of it? Or maybe it was a bluff – throw everybody off the scent by giving an absolutely horrendous decision in your favour?

Regards of the season,
J, London

Tottenham striker Harry Kane is shown a yellow card

Thank you mailbox, never change…
If the bookies offered odds on the contents of the mailbox, I would make an absolute killing. It follows the same pattern whenever there’s a controversial decision involving Liverpool, especially if it’s gone against them. The first mailbox of the morning is full of Liverpool fans bemoaning the decision(s), the afternoon mailbox is a mixture of Liverpool fans continuing their complaints but with a few added “yeah, buts…” from opposition fans before we launch into full on “whataboutery” mode the following day. Every. Single. Time.

You can guarantee whenever there is a bad tackle on a Liverpool player, some herbert will bring up the “VVD vs Napoli tackle” from 2018. Three years ago. For a challenge that was given as a free kick and VVD booked. Three years ago. And the Napoli player was able to play on (not stretchered off a la Elliot vs Leeds). Three frickin’ years ago! It’s as if, (in everyone else’s eyes at least), Liverpool fans are not allowed to complain because other incidents may have gone Liverpool’s way in the past, and woe betide anyone who has the temerity to question this.

Regarding the officiating at the weekend, the two big decisions went against Liverpool before halftime. The general, agreed consensus is that Spurs should have been down to ten men and Liverpool should have had a penalty to go 2-1 up before half time. All the fluff about Dele’s outrageous dive (but Salah and Mane are the real divers, OK?), Matip’s foul on Winks (which was a foul but just outside the area), and Salah’s handball (which was incidental, not deliberate, therefore not a free kick) is irrelevant as it would have been a completely different game if the officials had done their jobs properly. Liverpool had every right to feel aggrieved at those decisions and no amount of “whataboutery” can change that. Just accept that Liverpool were hard done to on this occasion, it can happen you know!

Duncan, Liverpool


Academic mistruths
It’s can make you feel angry when you discover you’ve been lied to. It can also make you sad.

Like when you find out <insert mythical seasonal character> doesn’t exist and your parents lied to you for 24 years. Complex and mixed emotions.

Cue today, and the feel-good story about Lingard and Bruno sending a message to Angel Gomes for scoring his first goal in France. It’s nice, shows how these guys – Lingard in particular – are nice and actual friends with squad mates. But it pointed to a dark truth.

It was Ole who failed to give Angel a decent chance, forcing him out. It was Ole who failed to support and play Lingard (even after showing what he could do at West Ham and this season) resulting in him probably leaving for free, Ole who continued to send Tuanzebe out on loan and will probably mean we lose him too and instead brought in Maguire, Ole who failed to give much development time to Hannibal, Mengi, Shoretire; who bought in extra back up keepers rather than use Henderson (who is now looking to go), who gave scant time to Elanga, Diallo and Pellestri. Who has kept sending players like Garner and Levitt out on pointless loans, instead playing aging players like Mata and Matic who are past it, or players who have rarely delivered like Pogba and Martial. Who bought and played AWB over Williams (who showed he could fill in for Shaw on the left too).

Yes some of them are in the squad, but barely used. Instead he brought in players to go ahead of them in the queue, and may have cost us keeping some of them.

Rashford and McTominay were already there, Greenwood a given. Angel should have been much the same, let alone Lingard.

So, is it actually a myth about Ole and the academy? Does he not actually give youth a chance after all?

I don’t know. There’s an argument can be made. But it’s a sad day if so.

(Sancho can play either wing though, that’s a fact. And Ronaldo still isn’t carrying anyone.)


Who are they kidding?
The announcement by FIFA that a biennial World Cup would bring FIFA and additional $3.5B as a good thing for football is…so disingenuous. The self same organization whose members are in jail, awaiting sentencing or have not yet been rounded up for fraud. An organization that cares more about five star hotels and restaurants and will pay delegates for votes.

At Euro 2020 players from the top 5 leagues played 71% of the minutes and 42% for the Copa America. So those clubs are bearing the burden of funding the players salaries and all the wrap around costs such as medical, physio and more. Clubs received some compensated but it would be spread across all the clubs providing players and is less than 10% of what FIFA brings in. Even the medical insurance should a player get injured has limits – it wouldn’t cover the costs of one of the top paid players.

At a salary level of £100,000 per week, a top player is being paid approximately £20,000 per game – assuming going far in Champion’s League and at least one other cup. National teams play about 12 games a year not including tournaments, of which only a few are friendlies these days and clubs are legally bound to release their players. They do not receive compensation at the level of £20,000+ per game played.

FIFA are slapping themselves on the back for coming up with this ‘great’ idea to fleece clubs by using their employees for a pittance while they rake in more money to be put into their own pockets. At least the Nations League idea pits similar level teams against each other creating more competitive games across the board. An expanded biennial World Cup is going to have far too many uncompetitive games, diluting it’s value, while attempting to skim off from a finite amount of sponsorship and broadcast funds.

At some point the leagues and clubs will have to band together and fight this legally – to prevent organizations that regulate the game from competing with the participating teams.
Paul McDevitt


Fixing AFCON
AFCON is broken, but I can fix it. Managers moaning, players having to pick between international and wider career success, some teams being disadvantaged unfairly, integrity of the league damaged, calling up a whole continent of players in the middle of the season is rubbish for all involved, but it can be made more fair, much more easily.

Call up every international player.

Take the season disrupting international breaks of September, October, November and January, and have a month of international football. With far more fixtures, sides should call up more players and use greater rotation. UEFA and COMNEBOL can use this as a great opportunity to run through a full group of nations league fixtures, which helps logistically with them all being Europe based, and stops the local South American players from flying half way round the world every other month.

Managers are on a more equal footing. Integrate the mid season break if we can get hold of one too, and stick it on the end, so teams can finish internationals and have a mini pre-season. It falls perfectly on 19/20 games played, so serves as a great half time refresher. Non-internationals can have more time off, whereas internationals would see greater rotation with a bigger squad.

If AFCON wants to continue every 2 years, they’d have to squeeze their qualifying into the same period every other year. Whilst we’re at it too, take the March window and move it to the end of the season, extend it by a week if necessary to fit in fixtures, and again have bigger squads.

These biannual training camps would give international managers more time to work with squads, to see them in training for their own teams, and would create a fairer playing field for the big money leagues.
KC (a rather rare win-win-win scenario)


Weak argument
Just got round to reading the mailbox and Marcel G outraged ‘Chelsea had 4 outfield players on the bench’ comment

For your info Wolves have regularly failed to have a full bench all season, and have two goalkeepers as part of that too. They’re going to be totally screwed when AFCON starts and also lost players to Covid testing but they didn’t bleat about getting the game postponed. Your argument is weak so stop whining. This is exactly the reason clubs block the 5 subs, it only benefits the big 6 or 7 (whoever they are), not the rest of the league

Bah I’m grumpy today


No controversy
Great match on Sunday between Spurs and Liverpool.

So good to see that the introduction of VAR has ensured there isn’t any controversy about refereeing decisions that distract from the actual, you know, football.

Not a problem in the Championship!
Brian (BRFC)


Harry Kane…
I know Kane is an easy target but even so, I thought the comparison you make with Robertson in your Winners and Losers column is unhelpful and disengous.

For one Kane is a striker, not a full back, and they’ve always been different. When was the last time a player getting angry at being subbed wasn’t a striker? He probably does believe he was near the ball, especially as he admitted he hadn’t seen it back on camera (something you omitted to mention). Secondly, he was going for the ball (even if he was nowhere near it and Robertson could have been seriously injured). I have a lot of time for Robertson the player and person but that wasn’t a challenge, just a hack, and even his manager couldn’t defend it. Thirdly, Robertson’s apology was notable but on the field just after he’s done it, he has the Martin Keown look of having nothing wrong and argues with the ref.

This isn’t to dig out Robertson. He’s one of the best full backs around, seems like a fun guy to go for a drink with and it was a classy apology. I wish he played for my club. I’ve just never been a big fan of pile ons, especially when specific information is left out. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind but just thought it was important to speak up.
Alexis London (wondering if you guys have an official number for highest and lowest emails in a day)