It was only four minutes into Sunday’s soggy match St. Mary’s Stadium that Southampton fans commenced with the bitter chants of “You don’t know what you’re doing,” while venting their rage at English Premier League referee Kevin Friend.
But how could things go so wrong, so quickly for the often out-of-the-spotlight, mild-mannered, 43-year-old referee from Leicestershire? Was their anger justified? Yes. While the fans got soaked in a fierce south coast wind and rain storm, Friend denied the Saints two early penalty kick appeals in the opening four minutes coupled with two sure red cards in the opening half of a 2-0 loss to Liverpool. In the end Friend clearly sucked the life out of the match.
Southampton’s displeasure with Friend began just 18 seconds after the opening kickoff as Saints’ on-loan Benfica striker Filip Durici was felled in the penalty area by Emre Can then again by Joe Allen - in a more glaring incident – only three minutes later. The referee picked a bad time to blank out while his decisions were a cruel twist of fate for Southampton since it was Reds’ Filip Coutinho who opened the scoring in the third minute with an under-the-crossbar stinger which barely crossed the goal line. While the home supporters continued to pepper Friend with insults and taunts, team captain Jose Fonte protested the latest and more blatant infraction.
Southampton manager Ronald Koeman was understandably upset with Friend’s performance after the match and vented his frustration to SkySports:
“The second situation is a clear penalty. I’m very disappointed about the result but not about our performance. We deserved much more than we got,” ~ Southampton manager, Ronald Koeman
It would have been a surprise to see Friend, or any referee, award a spot kick only seconds after kickoff, since Can appeared to only subtly impede Duricic’ progress. However the second offense by Allen was all too obvious, even for non-partisan observers. Not only was Allen’s reckless from-behind tackle coupled with his failure to connect with the ball an automatic spot kick, it should have also warranted a straight red card.
But it was the victors from Merseyside who were themselves crying foul when in the 32nd minute Friend appeared to miss another spot kick and possible red card after Fonte’s dangerous two-footed slide tackle on Raheem Sterling went unpunished. Some Liverpool fans have argued that Fonte’s challenge was legal because he got the ball in the tackle however I don’t see it this way because Font went through his man to get the ball and did it from behind with his studs raised.
But then came the most glaring error of all In the 44th minute as Friend turned a blind eye to another red card for Reds goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. The incident became the straw that broke the camel’s back for most neutrals who tuned into the day’s late match. Mignolet clearly handled the ball outside of his penalty area to break up a rush by Saints’ Eljera Elia, and should have been sent off but neither Friend nor his linesman called the infraction.
Ahead of the match Friend wasn’t even close to being one of the most despised referees in the EPL and went largely unscathed from the wrath of the fans or this website. But that began to change in the hours following the match as fans began to vent their displeasure with Friend on social media and after seeing our Twitter post on Friend began to vote en masse. Friend has easily surpassed his closest competitor Anthony Taylor after Sunday’s display.
VOTE NOW IN OUR POLL FOR WORST PREMIER LEAGUE REFEREE AND SHARE THIS LINK:
Who is the worst referee in the English Premier League?
- Paul Tierney (0%, 3 Votes)
- Craig Pawson (1%, 8 Votes)
- Roger East (1%, 8 Votes)
- Robert Madley (1%, 10 Votes)
- Lee Probert (2%, 15 Votes)
- Jon Moss (2%, 22 Votes)
- Chris Foy (3%, 27 Votes)
- Lee Mason (3%, 28 Votes)
- Neil Swarbrick (3%, 30 Votes)
- Andre Marriner (3%, 30 Votes)
- Mike Dean (3%, 31 Votes)
- Phil Dowd (4%, 39 Votes)
- Michael Oliver (4%, 41 Votes)
- Mark Clattenburg (5%, 45 Votes)
- Mike Jones (6%, 54 Votes)
- Anthony Taylor (6%, 56 Votes)
- Martin Atkinson (17%, 162 Votes)
- Kevin Friend (34%, 318 Votes)
Total Voters: 927