Bridge of sighs for blue brigade as Clattenburg takes centre stage


TV VIEW: ‘HE HASN’T too many friends around here,” said Niall Quinn as he listened to Stamford Bridge collectively and cacophonously question Mark Clattenburg’s personal habits during yesterday afternoon’s rather contentious contest.

“There’s one of them,” said Martin Tyler, as the camera picked out Alex Ferguson, manically mangling his gum, much like the home support would have liked to manically mangle the referee.

It was a bit harsh. Clattenburg, after all, had only been slightly off with three big decisions: not red-carding Fernando ‘can you hear the drums?’ Torres when he nigh on dissected Tom ‘so far only intermittently’ Cleverley; red-carding Fernando for diving when Jonny ‘look behind you’ Evans had facilitated his tumble (so they cancelled each other out, really); and allowing Javier ‘he may be little, but he’s a perfect pea’ Hernandez’s winner when there was, as they say in the trade, a hint of offside about it.

Other than that it was textbook officiating from Clattenburg.

An epic encounter, then, United winning 11-9 in the end, or 12-9 as the curmudgeons, who suggested the referee might as well have worn red, intimated.

Niall was slightly aghast by it all, but no more so than the United faithful when he declared early doors that “he’s doing really well, Jonny Evans, maturing all the time, a fabulous player with a fabulous future” – only to see the fella hit his own post and then earn, if not receive, a red card by upscuttling the goalbound Fernando who performed a sterling forward somersault with a half twist when clipped by Mr Fabulous.

“I think Jonny may have caught him a little bit,” a gracious Alex Ferguson conceded when he chatted with Geoff Shreeves after the game. “But he went down! He’d already been booked! It’s his own fault!” Back in the studio, Gary Neville couldn’t disagree, on that or Branislav Ivanovic’s dismissal.

“Have you ever had a man coming towards you at six foot one – you might think, ‘I tell you what, I’ve got to jump out of the way here’?” Graeme Souness bristled. The last six foot one man to come towards him is still undergoing reconstructive surgery.

Roberto Di Matteo was less gracious towards the referee, but as Ferguson pointed out, not unreasonably: “It’s very difficult to come here and get all the decisions, I must say that.” (“But we were flippin’ chuffed to get all of them today,” he didn’t add, but he was thinking it.)

It was the climax to quite a week, some of the images unforgettable, not least Marty Morrissey’s lapels at the GAA All-Star awards, so shiny they left viewers scampering for their shades, and the sight of Jimmy White playing in the Wyldecrest Parks World Seniors Championship at the Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth.

While the former image was literally dazzling, the latter was a little melancholia-inducing, especially for those of us who will forever regard Jimmy as a baby who will, inevitably, win the proper World Championships when he grows up. And here he was, now a senior on Sky Sports.

It was pure chance, really, that the Seniors event was stumbled upon on Sky Sports 36, or whatever it was, a channel-flip prompted by the fear Luis ‘you know what you are’ Suarez would complete a hat-trick in the Merseyside derby. He did, as it proved, but the officials expunged it. Bless them.

Back at the Mountbatten Centre there was a loud beep, which prompted the referee to announce “30 second shot clock in operation”, meaning players would have just the half minute between potty-efforts, so to speak.

We noted the schedule said Steve Davis was to play Cliff Thorburn, but missed the tussle because of happenings at Stamford Bridge. A half minute between shots? Even on x30 fast forward Steve and Cliff would have struggled – in their youth – to complete the task, never mind x0 at the Wyldecrest Parks Seniors at the Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth.

(Incidentally, Tony Knowles was in the Seniors’ line-up too, the Daniel Craig of snooker in his day – cripes, where’s the time going?)

Meanwhile, Sligo Rovers: Champions. Johnny McDonnell, though, found a downside to their success. “The worst part of winning the league for Sligo is the Champagne when it goes in to your eyes,” he said after Gary Twigg’s double failed to spoil the party – even if it did give Shamrock Rovers a 2-0 at the home of the shiny new champions on Friday night. Champagne in your eyes? We’d all cope with the ordeal. (Like Mark Clattenburg in the United dressing room yesterday. Chelsea? Shhhhh.)

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