Vagaries of officials leave Gregory in a black mood again

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The Independent Football

OUTRAGE; IT'S as synonymous with John Gregory as it is with Peter Tatchell. If the Aston Villa manager was not affronted bysome aspect of a referee's or an errant player's performance, you would wonder whether his critical faculties were seriouslyfailing.

OUTRAGE; IT'S as synonymous with John Gregory as it is with Peter Tatchell. If the Aston Villa manager was not affronted bysome aspect of a referee's or an errant player's performance, you would wonder whether his critical faculties were seriouslyfailing.

Hence, a diatribe on the deficiencies of Rob Harris was not entirely unexpected from the character who may consider purchasinga pied-a-terre near Lancaster Gate given his attendance there, except for the fact that the official's failings here were strictly ofbenefit to his own team. On this occasion, few who departed a desultory contest would dispute his analysis.

If, as Gregory reported, Philip Don, the Premiership referees' officer, genuinely believes that Mr Harris had a decent game, then itis worrying indeed. Officials, encumbered by "directives", are certainly fitter and their judgement is generally more sound than themen in black of former years who were not subject to intense television scrutiny; however, consistency of judgement andperformances overall are becoming a concern that the FA must address.

Why, for instance has Leicester's Matt Elliott been charged by the FA but not Michael Owen for his Merseyside derby assault onDavid Weir? The authorities might also review the ruling that a dismissal following two yellow cards cannot be reversed. Thepresent situation means there is no mechanism under which Steve Staunton - dispatched here on his 100th Liverpoolappearance after one card was issued correctly for a foul, the other wrongly for alleged encroachment - can appeal. They mightalso contemplate the point of those ludicrous ear pieces, making officials appear like something out of Star Trek, when refereescontinue to stride over to confer with their assistants on the touchline, and still commit aberrations.

Hopefully, Mr Don was present at Stamford Bridge six days ago for Chelsea's Champions' League fixture. Few of the spectatorsthat night will recall the name of the referee. Other than dismissing the Galatasaray goalkeeper for an obvious handball, the Dutchofficial Dick Jol controlled a fiercely- contested game with a good sense that made him anonymous. The same could not be saidof Mr Harris, who issued 11 cautions, including two to Staunton.

Gregory's parting shot was: "Line them all up against the wall and shoot them." Said in jest, he was apparently alluding to allPremiership officials. But there again, he could well have been referring to his insipid team.

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Enckelman; Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry; Delaney, Boateng (Merson, 67), Taylor, Hendrie (Stone, 81),Thompson; Dublin, Joachim. Substitutes not used: Watson, Calderwood, Oakes (gk).

Liverpool (4-4-2): Westerveld; Song, Henchoz, Hyypia, Staunton; Smicer (Gerard, 30), Redknapp, Hamann (Carragher, 76);Berger, Meijer, Owen (Camara, 82). Substitutes not used: Heggem, Nielsen (gk).

Referee: R Harris (Oxford).

Sending-off: Liverpool: Staunton. Bookings: Villa: Boateng, Thompson, Barry. Liverpool: Hyypia, Redknapp, Henchoz, Hamann,Meijer, Camara.

Man of the match: Hyypia.

Attendance: 39,217.

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