Referees have been in the news this week, what with the strike in Scotland, the terrible decision Arsenal suffered in Portugal, and an investigation launched into suggestions that two of Jose Mourinho's players got themselves sent off deliberately so they could start the Champions League knockout stage with a clean slate.
To me that was a classic example of what is going wrong with refereeing these days. I'm not disputing they know the 17 laws back to front, but too many appeared to have forgotten the unwritten, 18th: common sense. Surely the ref had done his homework and knew which players were close to suspension. Even if he hadn't, it's on the team sheet at Champions League games, so he could hardly miss it.
So when Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos started wasting time he should have realised what was going on. After all, Real Madrid were 4-0 up with a few minutes left, no team in that position needs to waste time. He should have said to them, with a smile, "I know what you're doing, you can take all night but you're not going off. I'll just keep adding on time." Instead he does it by the book and the players achieve their aim, allegedly.
Of late there are quite a few referees who have got 98 per cent of their decisions right, but the major ones wrong. I believe the issue is that referees are coached by ex-referees who had the same problem, so they should think about bringing in someone who has played the game, because with those big decisions that experience can be so vital.
The ref in Braga is presumably a top official, he's doing Champions League matches. He was in a good position too, so how did he not realise Carlos Vela had been fouled. Instead he's booked for diving, Arsenal concede two late goals, and to top off a woeful night they lose Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Eboué to injury. Hopefully, they will beat Partizan to go through.
The most baffling refereeing performance of the week came much closer to home. When two of my old clubs met last weekend, Sheffield United and Crystal Palace, young Anthony Taylor gave decisions which I couldn't believe. He went from one bad decision to another. Unfortunately for Palace, they were on the receiving end of most. They did get a dubious penalty, but then had one given against that was just perplexing. It was too much for Owen Garvan, who was booked twice within a few seconds for dissent and therefore sent off. I imagine the red card was quite correct in law, but if the ref had done his job right there would not have been any dissent. Palace then went in front with 10 men, only for the linesman to compound Taylor's embarrassment by allowing Sheff U an 84th-minute equaliser that was well offside. No one could complain about Sheffield's winning penalty, but the damage was done by then.
I'm sure he didn't mean it, but when the officials walked off at the end I was so disappointed at the smugness Anthony showed, it was almost as if he enjoyed the abuse he was receiving. I do believe referees should become a little more humble on occasions like that. In fairness to Anthony, I thought he had done quite well this season prior to Saturday.
2. Day's training with QPR is worth its salt for Darryl
On Thursday I entertained Darryl Lee who won a day's training with me in The Independent's Christmas auction, and a friend of his Gary Louis. It's taken a while to fix up, but while I've moved clubs since last Christmas that wasn't a problem as Darryl wasn't a Palace fan, or a QPR one. He probably wished we had done it earlier when he arrived at our training ground, though. As anyone who has been there on a cold day will know, it can be absolutely perishing with the wind blowing across a load of open fields. As the picture shows, I was determined to get wrapped up. No shorts on this day.
It was interesting for Darryl to see how we plan the training, then watch Keith Curle and myself put it into practice. We finished off having a meal fit for a king – I have to say the training ground chef is unbelievable. He came into my press conference too. I'm sure they both enjoyed it and it was all for a good cause. Last year's charities were Action Aid, Computer Aid International, and Peace Direct, all of which do good work around the world. I'm hoping to make the same offer at this year's charity auction, so prepare your bids; it's a great present for anyone.
The one downside is that Darryl is a qualified ref and he tried to put me in my place on a couple of things. Not that I minded, and I'm sure he didn't notice the salt I tipped on his meal when he weren't looking.
3. Poor Sam: Venky's put style points above Rovers' return
I had to smile when I read a comment by the chairwoman of Venky's, the poultry company who have just taken over at Blackburn Rovers. Anuradha Desai said: "I need to speak to the manager soon and tell him the fans' opinions are very important. We should go up in the ranking, but playing well is not just about winning, the way we play is vital." I do so hope that Sam takes it on board.
4. Amy on fire at netball and Will really knows his history
Amy won two games of netball this week, but the big news is that William did brilliant at history and maths in his tests. I won't, though, be asking Will to read a map for me after his geography result.
Sharon and Will have been going out after school, getting a sausage roll and a drink and having a picnic in the car. They tell me they have been having a great time, so on Thursday I joined them. We had a sausage, cheese and bean slice, some juice and coffees. We sat outside with the car heater on having our snack. I thought: "If anyone sees us here now, what will they think? Soccer at the top, eh?"
I needed a coffee because the night before was the first night of the Ashes. I stopped watching at 1.30am with two wickets down. I knew it was time to turn off after I only saw one ball in four overs. Every time I woke up they were changing ends. William woke us up in the morning and we switched on. I heard the commentator say, "Three balls to go." I said, "Good, we're still batting." Then I realised it were Australia at the crease.
5. Cardiff strikers present stiff test but it may be tights game
Today sees a full house at Loftus Road as we entertain Cardiff City, who are right behind us in second. Everybody asks is the result a defining moment? I don't see it like that. I feel both teams can go out to try and win. Cardiff's attacking players – Chopra, Bothroyd, Bellamy, Whittingham, Koumas and Burke – are the envy of many a Premier League side but we've done well defensively so it will be a great test. I've a lot of time for Cardiff and I'm really looking forward to the game. My message to the players will be simple: go and enjoy it.
I'm not looking forward to the weather, though. The last forecast I saw predicted two inches of snow and freezing temperatures. As everyone seems to know, I am still wearing my lucky shorts on the touchline – I even had the binman in Cornwall ask me about them. It has got me thinking about wearing some matching tights, but Sharon's not got any blue ones.
It may – or may not – surprise you to hear I have worn tights in the past. I remember at Crewe we played Halifax at home one night and it was absolutely freezing. Jimmy Robertson, the old Spurs and Ipswich player, said to me: "I'm wearing tights tonight, why don't you? It'll mean you won't have any muscle injuries."
I think it was just after Keith Weller had done the same in a televised game so it was not completely outlandish and I thought, 'why not?' I scored a goal, but then pulled my hamstring. There were only 25 minutes gone. So I've had mixed luck in the past with tights, but they are warm. If you're going to Loftus Road you'll have to keep an eye out to see if I have found a pair to wear.Reuse content