Writer: Barry Worthington
Date:Monday April 4 2011
Saturdays Premier League clash between Chelsea and Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge will be officiated by Englands number one whistle blower and World Cup final referee, Howard Webb.
The 38 year old official has been refereeing since 1995 when he was the man in the middle in the Northern Counties East League; he progressed through to the Football League in 2000 and he had made it all the way to the Premier League by 2003.
Webb had the ultimate refereeing honour when he took charge of this summer`s World Cup Final between Spain and Holland, being only the second English referee to be in charge of a World Cup final. Webb was assisted by Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey in Johannesburg, as he had been two months earlier when in charge of the Champions League Final as Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich at the Bernabeu Stadium, Madrid.
The likeable Yorkshireman is quick to show his gift of the gab he learned as a police officer with South Yorkshire Constabulary and when asked a question it is hard to shut him up!
To prove the point, here is a sample of questions that Webb answered during a recent interview:
How did you get introduced into refereeing?
I have always been football mad, playing and watching from a very young age. My father was a Referee at semi-professional level but I never really had any desire to become a referee - I always wanted to play. However, despite having trials at my local professional club as lots of youngsters do, I realised that I wasn't going to make the grade at that level and therefore began playing football at a lower level. My father kept telling me that there was a desperate shortage of Referees at the local level and that I ought to give it a go. I wasn't interested at first as I was happy playing and watching but eventually, after some persuasion, I decided to give it a go. I was still only 18 and continued playing and refereeing for several years until I decided to fully focus on refereeing.
Should diving or simulating be punished retrospectively if the referee misses it?
That's a difficult one because even afterwards, with the benefit of replays and slow motion, it's not always obvious if it was a dive or not; if a player is going full pelt even the slightest of touches can send them flying. Also a lot of referees rely on a mixture of gut instinct and experience when judging these types of incidents and the temptation to think, 'Oh well that will get sorted later' could prevent critical decisions being made in a match when, let's face it, it could really make a difference for the team that has been sinned against.
Do you think technology - 'a third referee' - should be used to assist the man in the middle?
I think the place most referees would like to get some help from technology is on goal-line incidents. The Spurs goal against Manchester United the other season [when Pedro Mendes' long-range volley clearly crossed the goal-line but play continued] was a case in point. Most of the ground, and certainly everyone watching on television, could see it was clearly a goal but because of the position of the match officials it was impossible for them to give a goal with any certainty. Some help there, either with video replays or some form of chip in the ball, in my view would certainly improve the game.
Who was/is the best player you have been lucky enough to watch from the middle?
At the moment it has to be Wayne Rooney - his pace, power and uninhibited style of play make him an extremely exciting player to watch. He must be a nightmare to play against because you're never sure what he's going to do next. For that reason he's not always the easiest of players to referee!
Have you ever sworn at a player?
Not so that he can hear me.
How do you wind down on a Saturday night after a game?
It's difficult because you're really hyped up after the game and you tend to replay certain incidents in your mind, plus there's the admin of getting your referee's report done and submitted. But I've got a great wife and kids and there's nothing better than spending time with them to put things in perspective.
What do you have on your iPod?
An electric mix which is too embarrassing to go into any detail about.
Howard Webb Card Watch 2010/11
Games - 37, yellows - 115, reds - 6
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Date:Monday April 4 2011
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