Saying goodbye or good riddance: English Premier League referee Howard Webb retires

WebbstoryIt just won’t be the same without you on the case Howie. Love him or hate him former Yorkshire policeman Howard Webb has hung up his whistle and has walked away from the pitch.
On Wednesday the English Premier League referee announced his retirement as a match official after 25 years. Webb is moving on to take up a position as technical director of Professional Game Match Officials Limited.

“I am very excited to start this new chapter in my career. Refereeing has given me so much and I think it’s important that match officials who have had the rewards remain in the game to pass on their knowledge,” ~former English Premier League referee Howard Webb

Webb will work alongside former referee Dermot Gallagher to monitor EPL match video streams and provide analysis and understanding concerning controversial decisions for the broadcast media. We will miss his stern facial expressions, his always closely cropped trademarked shiny head and his penchant for punishing the sport’s divers and actors, even when they were legitimately fouled.
Webb of course is the two-time and only winner of our poll for worst referee in the EPL and to be honest our blog just won’t be the same without him.
Sure there will always be Mark Clattenburg, Phil Dowd and Andre Marriner for us to write about but Webb stood head and shoulders above them all and was clearly a man football fans loved to hate.
The 43-year-old began officiating matches in 1989 in England’s Northern Counties. In the end he officiated in nine major international tournaments, 500 EPL matches and one World Cup final in 2010.
It should have been his finest hour but Webb nearly lost complete control of the brutish championship match between Spain and Netherlands. In the match he issued 14 yellow cards, easily eclipsing the previous World Cup record of six. La Roja fans won’t soon forget Nigel De Jong’s karate kick to Xabi Alonso which resulted in only a yellow card for Holland.
While adored by football officials and governing bodies for his reputation as a stern disciplinarian, in many cases he never lived up to this consistently and thus became reviled by so many fans across the globe.
Not surprisingly, his departure resulted in a storm of tweets and social media activity.
Manchester City fans won’t miss Webb and still bitterly remember his controversial sending off of Sun Jihai in the 2006 FA Cup quarter-final against West Ham which saw the Hammers advance to play Liverpool.

“Nobody reached for their back pocket quite as gracefully as you did, and few managed to nonchalantly wave away a penalty protest as effortlessly as you..But Howard Webb you did get things wrong occasionally,” ~ English newspaper The Daily Mirror.

Liverpool fans won’t be saddened by Webb’s departure either. His sending off of Steven Gerrard and controversial first minute penalty kick in a 2011 game against Manchester United precipitated a now famous Tweet of Webb in a Manchester United jersey.
WebbunitedstripOther incidents included a controversial 2013 match between Sunderland and Newcastle officiated by Webb who ignored a number of horrendous fouls and penalty kick appeals.
His performance was so poor that it touched off riots in the street after the match and Webb was demoted to a match between Colchester United and Shrewsbury Town the following weekend.
Several bloggers and websites have put together refereeing blooper tributes to Webb but among the best was one constructed by PurelyFootball.com
They rightly attribute Webb’s lowest career moment to his near-comical performance in a 2009 FA Cup third round match between Birmingham and Wolves. In the match Webb accidentally assisted on the winning goal for Wolves when he deflected a ball straight into the path of Sam Vokes.
The referee correctly called this gaffe the worst of his career.
The writing on the wall may already have been there for Webb’s departure as his form took an even worse dip in the 2013-2014 season.
He was kept out of officiating any high profile elimination round matches in the UEFA Champions League and only managed to see action in two World Cup games.
Webb’s last official career match was at this year’s World Cup in Brazil. He took charge of Brazil’s penalty kicks victory over Chile and his performance here was far from flawless. He and his assistants clearly failed to spot Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar moving early when he stopped Mauricio Panilla, a decision which changed the outcome of the match.
It will be interesting to see if there will be yearning for Webb to come out of retirement and return to the game.
Maybe Webb could continue his career in Major League Soccer? We are certain he could live up to their standards.