OWEN Coyle has called for a let-up on referee-bashing in the Premier League, even though he admits he will struggle to follow his own advice.
Officials are coming under increased scrutiny after a series of high-profile decisions have been called into question after analysis of television replays.
Martin Atkinson found himself apologising to Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp for allowing Juan Mata’s “ghost goal” for Chelsea in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final. Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish has branded decisions that have come his side’s way over the last three weeks as “inexcusable,” while Fulham owner Mohammed Al Fayed went as far as to accuse referees of being “all too easily influenced” by the top clubs after Michael Oliver had failed to award a penalty to his side during a recent game against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
The ongoing debate over simulation has also brought the referee's role to the fore, and once again raised the debate over the use of video technology to judge situations retrospectively.
Coyle is certainly no stranger to confronting officials, and did so as recently as Easter Monday when he was angered over Papiss Cisse’s second goal for Newcastle United, believing it to be offside.
But the Wanderers boss – speaking at a lecture for coaches at the Scottish Football Association – believes it is wrong to question the integrity and motives of officials.
“I’ve moaned about referees like everyone else and I’ve taken the opportunity to speak to them to get explanations 20 or 30 minutes after the final whistle,” he said. “But I don’t envy them their jobs because refereeing is the toughest gig in football. Players are athletes and they’ve become quicker every year, therefore the game has become quicker.
“Unfortunately, the referee still has that same millisecond to make his decisions, and that’s why, with play speeding up and the pitches also becoming better and faster – in England, anyway – that also makes it harder. You and I could watch six replays of an incident and not come to the same decision, so refs have a very difficult task.
“People say decisions even themselves out over a season but I’m not a great believer in that. However, you just have to accept that sometimes these things will go your way and sometimes they won’t. But I don’t believe that any referee or official goes out in any game to do anything other than their absolute best. Yes, there’s human error but managers and players are guilty of that as well.”
Coyle has not shied away from voicing his opinions about refereeing calls that have gone against his team and sent two DVDs to referee’s chief Mike Riley last season to highlight what he felt was a growing trend.
His clashes have been less frequent over the course of this campaign, but the Whites boss does feel managers should have a right to voice their opinion in the right manner.
“Last Monday I went on the park at St James’, shook the referee’s hand and asked him a question,” he said. “I think there is a point when it has to be shown that you are going to stick up for yourself and your club.
“Like anything else, if you feel a decision has gone against you then passion can take over. We can all do things in the heat of the moment. I’ve been there myself.
“You work hard all week to prepare your team but then it can be an uncontrollable factor that takes it away from you.”