Howard Webb: What's The Fuss About?

Philip BrownContributor IApril 29, 2009

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - APRIL 12:  Referee Howard Webb points during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Everton at Villa Park on April 12, 2009 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

It's Wednesday morning, Champions League semifinal day between the two best footballing teams in the Premier League, yet despite it being the middle of the week, the crescendo of expletives towards Howard Webb has barely subsided. 

I sit back in my armchair and put emotions aside. What has Howard Webb done that was so different to any other referee in the country? He's given a penalty that could very easily be argued he was right about, taking the ball and the man after all is a free kick nine times out of 10 anywhere else on the pitch. 

What is this public lynching really about?  For me it's the despair that only hope can bring. 

At half time at Old Trafford you felt the giddiness of a nation, a nation that is fed up with Manchester United dominating both home and abroad. Everyone held their collective breath, hoping that Tottenham would hold out and beat Manchester United so the party could begin. 

That was until Howard Webb, with a peep of his whistle, deflated the ABU nation and ignited the kind of hyperbolic vitriol that would suggest the guy had committed a heinous capital murder. He had to issue a public apology for goodness sake, when did that new regulation come in? 

Liverpool fans crammed the phone lines with cries of "fix," their suicidal monotones exclaiming the league is corrupt and the FA is petrified of Sir Alex Ferguson. 

These are the same fans that cried wolf when Manchester United were given five minutes of injury time against Aston Villa, yet airbrushed out the fact they where given the same against Arsenal just two weeks later—minutes they so dearly needed for their equaliser. 

They also want you to forget that two of their three goals against Hull should not have counted. Lucas quite clearly handled the ball for Kuyt's third, which followed an outrageous dive by Mascherano to con the referee into giving the free kick that led to Liverpool's opener.

This brings me to the very crux of my rant.

People complain all day long about the standard of refereeing diminishing, but have we ever given a thought to the standard of the human beings that play the game?

If dubious penalties are given or not given, don't blame the referee, blame the players like Gerrard, Ronaldo, and Robinho, to name a few, who perpetually throw themselves to the ground at the mere touch of a television.

This despicable play acting, cheating, and diving has made a referee's job damn near impossible. 

Jermaine Jenas sums up the intelligence of the average footballer quite well when he says: "The thing that struck me was Webb didn't even think about it, he made his mind up right away." Yeah Jermaine, as opposed to sitting on his arse, having a cup of tea and a smoke, and then deciding it wasn't a penalty. 

Anyhow, complaining about utter ineptness is something JJ would know an awful lot about.  The game hasn't changed, the people that watch it and the people that play it have. 

It is what it is because we made it that way.  The transition from a sport to a business has brought a win at all costs mentality which unfortunately extends to the field. 

Manchester United were denied an FA Cup final place by a penalty that wasn't given, exactly the same way they where eliminated last season. Wilson Palacios should have been sent off in the first five minutes at Old Trafford. 

Why don't we hear of such things?  Because jealousy is a terrible thing.