Feature by Dan Buxton
Updated Friday, 26th March 2010
Will Garrett latest column looks at the terrible decisions that have gone against Stoke recently
Being a Stoke fan at the moment is like having a great job, but at the expense of having to watch your boss give your wife one week in, week out. At the moment you can't follow Stoke City Football Club without feeling that we are being royally shafted game after game by the utter plethora of offal that The FA is sending us to 'officiate' our games.
Saturday was no exception. Another game, another clown of a referee. Except, that it wasn't just another clown, but the same one. The same clown who had already pulled our pants down twice this season. Step forward Mr Mike Dean. Now let me tell you something about Mike Dean. Mike Dean is the reason you pay so much money to attend football games. He is the biggest 'pull' on the planet, and bigger than any player to have stepped onto a football field. In football stadiums, wherever he travels, billboards outside announce that 'This Coming Saturday, Mike Dean will be here' with the actual 2 teams competing scrawled in tiny letters underneath. In actual fact though, for the aspirations of Mike Dean to be a celebrity, he is simply an incredulous joke of a man. Mike Dean is the kind of man who writes off to appear on 'Celebrity Love Island', 'Celebrity Big Brother', and 'Dancing on Ice', but never hears back off them. He always blames the mail for never receiving a reply, when in actual fact he should be blaming his own lack of a personality, and sheer incompetence. This man's inability is so great and widely known though that his name has actually entered Collins' Dictionary. Pulling a 'Mike Dean' denotes, pulling cards out before a tackle has been made, doing everything that is possible to stop Stoke City from taking anything from a game and generally just being a boring, jumped up, putrid, little sweat stain. Alan Wiley constantly pulls a 'Mike Dean' most weekends, but that's a rumour for the tabloids.
The awful refereeing decisions we've witnessed this season have been as annoying as a bout of diarrhoea before a trip to the swimming pool, but imagine how bad refereeing must be in the lower leagues. We're getting these absolute jokes of referees making such ridiculous decisions, amazingly whilst being in the most watched league in the world. Just imagine how poor the officiating must be at little old Port Vale in the 4th tier of English football, or in their not so distant destination (god willing) of none league?!
There's no getting away from the fact against Tottenham, that Stoke were poor in a lot of areas, and even the most ardent supporter would find it difficult to argue that we deserved anything more than a point at the very most. The defending for the first goal by the usually solid Abdoulaye Faye was nothing short of shameful, and the misses by Fuller and Sidibe will no doubt end up on various DVD's this Christmas. (One hosted no doubt by Mike Dean) However, that's not to say that our job wasn't made a hundred times harder by having a player sent off, for what in a million years was never a booking. I have no idea where Mike Dean expected Dean Whitehead to go, once he'd been beaten. Maybe Mike Dean has brought it upon himself to invent a new law in that if you can't teleport out of the way of a man who is half a yard in front of you and closing, then you simply deserve to be sent off. More likely, the truth is that Mike Dean's book of rules indicate that if you are a Stoke player and commit 2 fouls, he'll take great glee in removing you from the pitch.
It speaks absolute volumes that our normally mild mannered and honest manager pleaded with the FA to not allow Mike Dean to referee another one of our games. If the same manager constantly holds his hands up when his players have done wrong, (like with Robert Huth earlier in the season) and says nothing when decisions go against us, thinks that someone is a cheat, then he must be onto something. Tony Pulis has worked hard to instil discipline into his players, and this is shown on the field of play. If someone gets kicked, they get straight up, and run it off. If a decision goes against us, we take it on the chin, and carry on.
Trevor Francis said on saturday that maybe our players were guilty of not surrounding the referee for certain decisions. At face value, it's a horrible thing to suggest, that we intimidate the referee, in order to make his mind up for him. In the same way that the knuckle draggers from North London did at The Britannia Stadium a few weeks ago, or how the scouse granny botherer seems to do every game without caution. I'm genuinely proud of the way our team conducts itself on the pitch, and plays the game in the right spirit. We often get criticised for not playing football the right way, when in fact we do. We play like men. Yet how is it that such a disciplined team have received 5 red cards so far this season? Mike Dean's actions as he acted out a 'yawn' at the home crowd as he was being abused probably gives away the answer. We're constantly having to compete against 12 men. How can a referee officiate a game with no hint of bias when he's making gestures like that at the home support? And more importantly, what will be done about it? The answer, absolutely nothing! We still have in the top flight, refereeing at the highest rung of their career a certain Alan Wiley, who disallowed a goal by dreaming up an offence, and Stuart Atwell who awarded a goal that never even went between the posts, to accompany Mike 'Look at Me' Dean. Until referees are monitored and evaluated properly, maybe we need to change our stance? At present, because we play the game properly, we're pushovers to spineless referees who don't mind putting one over on us to please a more outspoken manager, because they know they don't have to put up with any sort of backlash. The current crop of referees in The Premiership are the kind of people who work every weekend at Pizza Hut because their colleagues threaten them and slag them off if they won't swap shifts with them.
So the next time a referee gives yet another abysmal decision to our opponents (within the first 5 minutes at Upton Park on Saturday will be my guess), maybe we should swarm around the referee like a crowd of Nottingham Forest fans around a sale at TK Maxx? Of course that isn't what any Stoke fan wants to see. But it's scandalous that people in positions of supposed power such as Mike Dean, make us even have these kinds of thoughts. And the fact that the FA are still doing nothing about it, is even more of a travesty.