'Red Didi' may feel official wrath over Villa farce

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The Independent Online

Dieter Schoch, the Swiss referee who presided over Aston Villa's exit from the Intertoto Cup on Wednesday, faces possible disciplinary action from Uefa, Europe's governing body, over his controversial handling of the Premier- ship side's semi-final second leg against Spain's Celta Vigo.

Dieter Schoch, the Swiss referee who presided over Aston Villa's exit from the Intertoto Cup on Wednesday, faces possible disciplinary action from Uefa, Europe's governing body, over his controversial handling of the Premier- ship side's semi-final second leg against Spain's Celta Vigo.

The 37-year-old official from Basle - known as "Red Didi" or "The Sheriff" in the Swiss League - issued 12 yellow cards and sent off Villa players Ian Taylor and Alan Thompson, as well as the Vigo defender Juan Velasco. He was labelled "unbelievably petty" by the Villa manager, John Gregory, who also described him as "an embarrassment to Uefa".

Herr Schoch, who ordered both sides to change strips before the start and had a dispute with Villa officials about socks, caused further consternation by blowing for full time when the stadium clock showed more than two minutes still to play. Amid protests he then allowed the match to continue a further five minutes. A spokesman for Uefa said the matter could be referred to the next meeting of their disciplinary committee on 31 August if the Uefa delegate at the match submits a critical report. "We expect to have the report within 24 hours," he added.

Although Villa have no complaints over the result - Vigo won the tie, played at The Hawthorns while Villa Park undergoes development work, 2-1 to progress on a 3-1 aggregate - the club plan to write to Uefa to outline their misgivings about Herr Schoch's future involvement in European matches.

"Uefa have got to get their act together," Gregory said. "I don't know where they got this guy from. They must have thrown him into the Intertoto from a local youth league. He was totally out of his depth."

In fact, Schoch, a headmaster, has handled 104 matches in the Swiss First Division and his reputation precedes him. Having shown 420 yellow cards and 34 reds, he has become Switzerland's most feared referee.

"He was unbelievably petty," Gregory added. "Both teams wore their normal kits in the first game, but we had to change for this guy because he said they clashed. Then he made us change socks because we had 'AVFC' printed on them twice - and you are only allowed to have that once. He even checked the keepers' gloves. Goodness knows why.

"He called the two captains together at half-time and told them that the next foul by either Paul Merson or their No 8, Valery Karpin, would result in a sending-off. I've never known that before."

The three red cards he did show were greeted with astonishment. Velasco, booked first for a trip, received his second yellow card for time-wasting at a throw-in while waiting for a team-mate to give him the ball.

Taylor, also cautioned initially for a foul, was given his marching orders for diving, even though television replays showed him jumping to evade a late tackle.

Thompson's threatening behaviour, retaliating against Vigo's Juanfran in stoppage time, was less contentious although actual contact was minimal.

"This was just the Inter-toto," Gregory said. "If it had been a high profile tie in the Nou Camp there would have been carnage."

The official also awarded two penalties in Villa's favour, although ironically he booked neither Gustavo Lopez for an elbow-led push on Gareth Southgate nor Juanfran, whose carelessly raised boot inflicted three facial wounds on Steve Stone, who was led from the field bleeding copiously from his injuries which needed 17 stitches.

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