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Things must be bad when Poll can learn something from rugby

Graham Poll has been the only referee in the news all week, and that is possibly the way he likes it, yet amid the ceremonial stand-offs between the Tring official and his latest losing manager the most ludicrous decision of the past few days went unnoticed.

Darryl Flahavan, goalkeeping hero of Southend’s League Cup victory over Manchester United, received a booking from Uriah Rennie to go with his man-of-the-match award. Flahavan lost a stud from one of his boots during the game and was having it hurriedly replaced by a trainer when Rennie asked him to stop holding up play and step off the pitch for treatment. Flahavan pointed out that he couldn’t really do that, being a goalkeeper, at which point Rennie booked him for time-wasting.

The reason for mentioning this is to establish that not all refereeing decisions are good ones, and the reason for establishing that is because The Daily Telegraph, for what seems Authentic Prada Gauffre like the umpteenth time, is running a debate on why football referees do not adopt the rugby-union practice Agatha Ruiz Dela Prada Shop Online of marching players back 10 yards every time they open their mouths until Baby Prada Shoes Uk a penalty is conceded and all dissent quelled.

Actually, debate overstates the case. Telegraph readers overwhelmingly agree with the proposal, forming an orderly queue to applaud the suggestion that footballers are uncouth, gobby individuals who badly need to be taught some manners.

Perhaps they are, but tearing ourselves away from the Telegraph’s blog before someone demands the return of National Service, let Authentic Prada Bags For Sale Philippines us consider whether football’s disciplinary problems are really so serious that the game needs to look to rugby Authentic Prada Handbags For Cheap union for help.

There are two basic tenets underpinning the referee’s authority in that most arcane of sports. The first is that the referee is always right, even when he is wrong, and the players must accept everything he says and call him ‘sir’ while they are about it. The second is that the referee is the only person in the stadium who knows all the rules and when, as quite often happens, he blows up for an offence no one else has seen or understands, everyone has to shrug and defer Authentic Prada Bags Outlet Online to his authority. In case this seems harsh, cast your mind back to Sydney three years ago, when England were in danger of losing the World Cup final not to Australia but to Andre Watson’s ‘interpretation’ of the rules.

Football crowds would not stand for that sort of nonsense and nor should they have to. Flying headbutts in response to surreptitious insults yes, but if a referee is going to decide a World Cup final he needs the audience nodding in assent, not shaking their heads in bewilderment. The Zinedine Zidane sending-off was a rare exception to this rule, in that most present in Berlin did not know what had happened until they saw replays, but all agreed afterwards that the officials had no choice.

In most spectator sports the spectators (and players) understand the rules and know when they are being applied incorrectly. Hence the frequent chant to erring referees: ‘You don’t know what you’re doing.’ Perhaps significantly, there is no such chant in rugby union.

That is the pressure football referees are working under. Not only do you have to keep 22 stroppy millionaires and Black Prada Chain Bag two egocentric managers in check, you have to be on top of your game or else 50,000 irate spectators will rumble you, not to mention the millions who see the television replays.

And football referees definitely make mistakes. It did not look as if Poll had no choice but to send off John Terry against Spurs, and, while no referee should have to put up with players questioning his integrity, peremptorily sending off James McFadden three days later merely gave rise to the suspicion that Poll was demonstrating his evenhandedness at Everton’s expense.

Mere swearing does not automatically constitute foul and abusive language and while McFadden would be well advised to keep his mouth shut in future, one feels a single use of the word ‘cheat’ or ‘shite’ is more of a molehill than the mountain Poll is making out. In the 19th minute of a cup tie that 31,000 have turned up to watch, Poll could have more sensibly issued a booking or a warning, or asked the player to repeat what he had said, for the avoidance of doubt. There never is any doubt with Poll, though, and that is part of the trouble. He’s a one-man zero-tolerance campaign and it is not just Chelsea who have noticed. Every club has a Poll story.

That does Authentic Prada Outlet Online Usa not let Jose Mourinho off the hook, however. Chelsea deserve to be punished, and punished severely, for having the nerve to suggest, after Anders Frisk, Didier Drogba’s and Arjen Robben’s dives, three fines for failing to Best Prada Outlet In Florence control their players, and Ashley Cole promising not to moan again then coming out with a whinge as big as Roman Abramovich’s boat, that referees should not be allowed to mention their disciplinary record.

Chelsea have all manner of disciplinary problems, it is up to Mourinho to sort his players out just as Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger did when their teams’ behaviour became unacceptable and if Poll wishes to drop that into conversation with Frank Lampard why on earth should anyone be incensed? It is not Poll’s job to teach them a lesson, if that is what he really said, but if referees cannot bring up disciplinary matters who can? If Chelsea still think that makes Poll a bad referee, their punishment should be his mate Rennie for the rest of the season.

As for Poll, what he deserves is a break. He needs to go somewhere where he will feel valued and wanted, where people will applaud him and no one will disagree with his decisions. He could be a real star in rugby union.

Newcastle have something to play for at last…beyond credibility and survival

Want to know how bad Newcastle United are? Never mind the league position, the empty seats, injured players, sacked managers and tactless directors, consider this statistic instead. Newcastle have not made it to the League Cup final since 1976, when it still was the League Cup final. It was their only visit, and they were beaten 2-1 by Manchester City.

Now it is true that not everyone takes the League Cup seriously, yet all the other big, well attended clubs with European aspirations have dirtied their hands with it in recent seasons. Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham have all been there, as have mid-size clubs such as Bolton, Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Aston Villa. Yet what really damns Newcastle – who face Chelsea in the quarter-final after yesterday’s draw – is Are Prada Nylon Bags Worth The Money that this century alone teams as unlikely as Tranmere, Leicester, Birmingham and Wigan have reached the final and, largely by dint of playing Tranmere it must be admitted, Leicester even managed to win.

Surely what Newcastle need, now their title-chasing days are over and their back-to-back non-performances in FA Cup finals in the late 1990s are mercifully fading into memory, is a run to the Carling Cup final to cheer up their long-suffering and wholly blameless supporters. Indeed, Newcastle are the sort of club who ought to be able to make the Carling Cup their own, because no one else really wants it. Of 14 finalists so far this century replica prada nylon handbags, only Bolton, in 2004-05, and Blackburn, in 2002-03, made convincing attempts to return to Cardiff, both reaching the semi-finals the next time round.

Elsewhere, one could easily form the conclusion that League Cup finalists award themselves and their fans a rest the following season. Manchester United almost went out to Crewe last month, which after beating Wigan in the second round would have given Dario Gradi’s players the distinction of removing both of last season’s finalists. United went out to Southend in the next round instead. Both Chelsea and Liverpool fell at the first hurdle a year earlier, to Charlton and Crystal Palace respectively, Spurs were beaten by Burnley four years ago while Birmingham contrived to lose 6-0 to Manchester City in the third round in 2001. That was the year a new standard in unconvincing defences was set by Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool, who were so intoxicated by their minor treble of the season before they went out of the following season’s League Cup at the first attempt at home to Grimsby.

What the sponsors make of this pattern is unclear, although with six different ones in the last two decades not even its corporate backers can claim to be any better at hanging on to the trophy. But there is an opportunity here and Newcastle should do their best to take it. No set of supporters, with the possible exception of Wycombe or Southend’s, who are much less numerous, would tackle a night out in Cardiff with more relish.