'Wire referees up to electrodes,' Gregory suggests

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The Independent Online

On Monday night, the Aston Villa manager, John Gregory was somewhat intemperate in his criticisms of David Elleray following his side's 2-1 defeat to Sunderland, during which the referee awarded a controversial penalty against Villa.

On Monday night, the Aston Villa manager, John Gregory was somewhat intemperate in his criticisms of David Elleray following his side's 2-1 defeat to Sunderland, during which the referee awarded a controversial penalty against Villa.

Yesterday morning, the League Managers' Association urged members to compose themselves before attending post-match press conferences. Yesterday evening, it became clear that even the benefit of a cooling-down period had not tempered Gregory's anger.

"I personally think referees should be wired up to a couple of electrodes and they should be allowed to make three mistakes before you run 50,000 volts through their genitals," he said. "We've got one of the best leagues in the whole world. We've got some of the best players and grounds in the world. Unfortunately we've also got some of the worst referees in the world."

Asked if he feared Football Association sanctions, Gregory said: "I feel I'm making my comments from an educated position. I feel I'm not alone and I'm not prepared to stand by and let the beautiful game be ruined."

The LMA deputy chief executive, Frank Clark, had called for his members to be wary of the media spotlight immediately after matches. "It would be nice if managers were given a little more time to compose themselves after a game but that is possibly a Utopian dream," Clark said.

"We accept the immediacy of deadlines for television, radio and newspapers. But it makes it more difficult for a manager at the end of a game, when you're in a highly emotional state, to have to go out and face interviews. We would love the media to leave managers alone for half an hour after the game but that is not the way of the world."

Clark is calling for LMA members to hold fire with comments after a match. "We do understand managers' frustrations but we would rather our members didn't criticise referees publicly," Clark said.

"There are channels open to them to make constructive criticisms about referees to the relevant authorities. Referees have been making mistakes since the first game of football ever played. The only difference now is the intense media spotlight. Refereeing is a much more difficult job now."

The Premier League referees' assessor, Gerald Ashby, however, wanted players to take more responsibility for the recent spate of red cards. "Over the last few weeks I've seen footballers spitting at opponents, kick, punch, elbow, a reckless two-footed lunge - where's the responsibility?" he asked. "Is it with the referee or the players?

"I think the problem is that referees are guided by Fifa. Fifa some years ago directed referees to eliminate foul play and when we eliminated foul play the players actually had to find other means and other mechanisms to prevent their opponents from playing - kicking the ball away for example, holding the player's shirt, grabbing, holding him. What it results in is retaliation and if you don't stamp it out early I'm afraid you're going to have more red cards."

Villa have fined Stan Collymore two weeks' wages after he missed training. The striker returned at the end of last week after a three-month loan at Fulham. Gregory hopes that a permanent deal can still be agreed.

Gregory is also trying to sign Sheffield Wednesday striker Benito Carbone on a short-term deal until the end of the season.

Villa's interest looked to have ended last week due to the Italian's personal demands, but Gregory said yesterday: "We are still talking. Something might happen in the next few days and we certainly have not closed the door on that one."

Southampton announced yesterday that they are to allow their striker Mark Hughes to continue as Wales's caretaker-manager until the end of the season before taking the post on a permanent basis in June.

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