Titanic doublethink and why vigilante referee Mike Jones missed the boat at Southampton

 

The scourge of simulation and diving in soccer is constantly poised to destroy the game. But often times we find that a referee’s cure for the illness can be worse than the disease.

Not only do the cheap attempts to draw penalty kicks, cautions and ejections sicken regular BPL followers; The constant presence of this and other unsavoury unsportsmanlike behaviour continue to drive potential fans away from the professional game in droves.

Thankfully this hasn’t created a society of vigilante referees, hell-bent on dishing out punishment for anything perceived as overemphasizing fouls.

Or has it?

Referee Mike Jones clearly missed the plot in Sunday’s anticipated clash between upstart Southampton and defending champions Manchester City at St. Mary’s Stadium.

Thankfully for Jones, the aggrieved visitors in blue went on to win the match 3-0, but not before two perplexing calls by the referee threatened to change the course of the match.

In the 9th minute the much-maligned official from Chester denied the visitors what seemed to most a clear-cut penalty kick. Southampton defender Jose Fonte had tripped up Sergio Aguero in the Saints’ penalty area.

But instead of pointing to the spot the Jones issued a yellow card to Aguero for diving.

AgueroHow can this be?

A shocking decision since Fonte clearly went to ground on the play, missed the ball and then chopped the ankles of his opponent.

The only thing that could have led the referee to his decisions is that Aguero already appeared on his way to ground a split second before the contact occurred.

This wasn’t an attempt to deceive Jones, but more likely an effort to avoid the impact of his opponent’s shin-bruising tackle.

Then another howler from Jones in the 32nd minute as Aguero cut across the top of the Southampton penalty area and was brought down from behind by Toby Alderweireld.

An automatic yellow card for Alderweireld and a free kick for City… right?

Nope. Sound the alarm, referee overboard! Jones instead waved play on and decided not to call the obvious bookable offense.

As Aguero picked himself up from the turf, the expression on his face clearly said: “Where’s the call ref?”

It isn’t the first time we have heard about Jones. In a 2013 clash between Cardiff City and Norwich, Jones famously allowed a goal that wasn’t.

Then in 2012 many will remember him as the man who allowed a Sunderland goal by Darren Bent to stand versus Liverpool despite the fact the ball had was helped into the goal when it deflected off a beachball thrown by a fan.

“Jones’ confidence has always been fragile which perhaps offers evidence as to why so many people question his ability to perform at this level. I question those who appoint him to such a high profile game, second versus third in the Premier League” ~ Former Premier League referee Graham Poll

To be fair to Jones, despite his two glaring errors, the majority of the referee’s decisions throughout the match couldn’t be faulted.

Jones did get it right when he showed City centre back Eliaquim Mangala his second yellow card, after Mangala took Saints’ Shane Long down from behind, resulting in the defender’s ejection from the match in the 74th minute.

He also correctly turn down Citizens’ appeals for a 30th minute penalty kick when a goalward shot by Stevan Jovetic appeared to strike the outstretched arm of Saints’ defender Alderweireld on his own goal line. But Jones was vindicated this time as television replays clearly showed the ball had struck the midsection of Alderwireld and not his arm.

Enough praise of the correct calls…back to the problem at hand.

While some analysts could use Jones’ two glaring first-half mistakes as ammunition for their video-replay arguments, incidents like these clearly do not bolster this argument.

Not only would the time outs have brought the flow and pace of the match to a halt, there really shouldn’t have been a need to review the call.

It wasn’t a case where technology could solve the problem but a case where common sense could.

According to former Premier League referee Graham Poll Jones, who is “often considered as the weakest member of the select group of [premiership] referees, made one of the worst decisions so far this season by not awarding a spot kick and booking Aguero instead of Fonte.

Jones may have been the only one in the stadium – including any black cat and the most ardent of Saints’ supporters – not to concede that both offenses were fouls.

Another big question is why was there no input from Jones’ assistants on the two plays and why didn’t either one of them raise a flag.

Jones isn’t the only one to have clearly missed the boat in his overzealous effort to clean up the Premiership. Two-time winner of RedCardTheRef’s worst BPL referee, Howard Webb, was also one to employ his own brand of six-gun justice, vigilante-justice refereeing during matches.

Due to the final result of the match Jones will escape the full wrath of the masses – this time but the reasons behind his decisions seem disturbing.

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