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Opinion Piece: What are some of the worst referee decisions in Premier League history?

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You don’t know what you’re doing!

Being a referee, at any level in the English game, is undoubtedly a thankless task. Much maligned by players, pundits, and fans alike, the inconsistency, lack of transparency, and perceived arrogance (*cough cough* Mike Dean) of referees within the English game makes them very easy to dislike.

Therefore, to add fuel to the, already out of control, fire, I’ll be running through some of the worst refereeing decisions in Premier League history. Decisions that would make even BT Sport’s resident refereeing yes-man, Peter Walton, cry corruption.

Seeing Double

It’s Arsene Wenger’s 1000th game in charge of the Gunners in what should’ve have been a celebratory day for the legendary manager, however with his side 2-0 down to London rivals Chelsea, I doubt he was in the party mood.

Things then got worse for the Gunners when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain blocked an Eden Hazard shot off the goal line using his hand.

But, in a case of mistaken identity, referee Andre Marriner inexplicably showed his red card to Kieran Gibbs instead. Despite protests from the Ox himself, pride stood in the way for Marriner and he stuck to his guns, sending the Arsenal full-back for an early shower.

Arsenal would go on to lose the game 6-0, with Marriner apologising for his mistake, presumably on his way for an eye test.

Ben ‘The Butcher’ Thatcher

Ben Thatcher did his reputation as an uncompromising, full-blooded defender no harm in this 2003 clash between Manchester City and Portsmouth. Although, the incident did lead to police involvement, so you win some, you lose some, I guess.

In a drab 0-0 draw the ball is trickling out of play with Pompey’s Portuguese maestro Pedro Mendes chasing it down, when City left-back Ben Thatcher appears from thin air to catch Mendes with a flying elbow to the jaw.

With Mendes, unsurprisingly, out cold, referee Dermott Gallagher reaches into his pocket and brandishes a yellow card for, the still-seething, Thatcher, in one of the most bizarre refereeing decisions in Premier League history.

"How can that not be a sending-off? What do you have to do, kill someone?" Portsmouth midfielder Matt Taylor echoing the thoughts of pretty much everyone.

Thatcher received a six-game suspension and was heavily fined, but was fortunate enough to avoid criminal charges, after Mendes’ mercy..

What has Pedro Mendes done to Premier League referees?

Up next we have a moment that will live long in the memory. Cast your mind back to 2005. Manchester United are hosting Tottenham in the Premier League.

With the game still goalless and entering the 89th minute, out of nowhere, Spurs midfielder Pedro Mendes, who features for the second time in this list, unleashes a shot from the halfway line after spotting Roy Carroll off his line.

Carroll, a man who in all honesty should never have made 49 appearances for the biggest club in England, comically fumbles the ball into his own net, with the ball rolling so far beyond the goal line even Stevie Wonder could see it.

Unfortunately for Mendes and Spurs, neither referee Mark Clattenburg nor his assistant Rob Lewis saw the incident. In defence of his decision, linesman Rob Lewis said "There was nothing I could have done differently apart from run faster than Linford Christie". Fair enough.

Nyland crosses the line…

The final entry on this list doesn’t necessarily have much to do with the on-pitch officials, but is more a comment on the general incompetency of the refereeing union.

In one of the first games back since Premier League football halted for 100 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the events in this clash between Aston Villa and Sheffield United certainly made up for the lack of fan presence..

After claiming a floated free-kick, Villa ‘keeper Orjan Nyland seemed to back peddle the ball into his own net. With Nyland clinging to the side netting for support and indignant protests from Sheffield United players, referee Michael Olivers looks to his watch. But nothing.

This, I believe, is where VAR should have stepped in and used some common sense, which admittedly does seem to be in short supply among VAR officials. But again, nothing. According to reports, the watch did eventually go off in the changing rooms at half-time, but unfortunately it was too little too late.

The game would end 0-0, with Villa avoiding relegation by one point and Bournemouth just falling short. You’ve got to feel for Bournemouth.

Want to join in on the discussion? Ben Hunt is a new Contributor at The Hype Train in 2023, and you can have your take on our latest opinion piece by finding the Train on Twitter at @HypeTrainHQ, and Ben at @BenHunt1238

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The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in general football and Fantasy sports reporting, starting with Fantasy Premier League (FPL), before expanding to MLS Fantasy coverage in 2018.

We pride ourselves in providing beautiful graphics, statistics, in-depth analytical reporting and free weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb rankings tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review games, live sport, and professional wrestling.

In 2019, Hype Train Football Club was formed, becoming the first Fantasy Football website to take to the field. HTFC is a socially active team across social and web channels, providing regular match highlights, match reports, comprehensive player statistics and unique player profiles. We won both Goal of the Season Awards in the Berkshire and County FA regions, with Callum Parr-Jones winning the Berks & Bucks FA award, whilst Martin King won the PlaySport UK award.

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The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog' in 2016 by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), and were again shortlisted as a finalist in 2019 in the 'Best Fantasy Football Blog' category.

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