Football: `Pushed' Dicks defends referee

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The Independent Online
JULIAN DICKS yesterday leaped to the defence of the referee Uriah Rennie after criticism of the official's performance at Upton Park on Monday night.

The Southampton manager, David Jones, accused Rennie of "missing a lot of things" in his side's 1-0 defeat at West Ham which left them rooted to the bottom of the table. He also accused the Sheffield official of not giving a free-kick when Mark Hughes was fouled in the build-up which led to Ian Wright's goal after an hour. He was then mystified by the referee's decision to disallow Ken Monkou's 81st-minute volley which cost the Premiership's bottom club their second point of the season.

Jones said: "I don't know why he's disallowed it. He said there was a foul in the area but I've seen it three times and I can't see it. It looked like Julian Dicks slipped over."

But Dicks insisted he was pushed as Matt Le Tissier's corner came over and praised Rennie for spotting the infringement. "Somebody pushed me and the referee blew up before he volleyed it into the net," said Dicks, who was playing his first League match in 18 months after a career-threatening knee injury.

"It was definitely a free-kick. Somebody did push me but I was surprised the referee saw it. Not many people would have but he was only five yards away. "Ken Monkou wasn't my man but I was pushed and that's a free-kick even though I wasn't marking him. A lot of decisions have gone against us and that one went for us."

Dicks, who won the man of the match award for the second game running, also hit out at critics of Wright's celebration after his fourth goal of the season. Wright and Neil Ruddock played out a parody of Paolo Di Canio's clash with referee Paul Alcock at the weekend, the former Arsenal striker showing his team-mate an imaginary red card before falling to the ground after being pushed.

Wright insisted it was only a "bit of fun" and Dicks said: "Whatever Wrighty does always gets stick but it's a bit of fun. If they charge him on that there's something wrong. The game is supposed to be fun."

The Football Association confirmed yesterday that it would not be taking any action against Wright or Ruddock for the celebration.

European leagues escalated their confrontation with Fifa yesterday, saying they would refuse to release players for the Confederation Cup tournament in January. Representatives of the English and Scottish leagues said they had joined those from Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece and the Netherlands in defying the sport's international governing body.

Meeting in Brussels, the delegates said their clubs would not release any players for the 8 to 20 January tournament in Mexico because of conflicts with domestic league play.

Fifa has offered to reduce the time clubs are required to make their players available for the Confederation Cup, but that was not enough to head off a mass revolt. The US, Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the winner of the current Oceania contest in Brisbane, Australia, will participate. In England, Arsenal would lose French players Emmanuel Petit and Patrick Vieira, while Chelsea would lose Marcel Desailly and Franck Leboeuf.