With Manchester City’s match against Tottenham Hotspur finely poised at 3-3 in the dying minutes, referee Simon Hooper indicated that an advantage would be played – but just seconds later when Jack Grealish found himself bearing down on goal, the official called play back for a free-kick.
The decision sparked outrage on social media and among the Sky Sports punditry team, and now ex-referees have chipped in with their thoughts. Speaking to OLBG, Jeff Winter offered professional analysis of the situation – taking into account almost a decade of experience at the height of the English game.
‘There’s a tackle on Haaland that nine times out of 10, he’s going to be on the ground in absolute agony, screaming for a yellow card with his teammates,’ explained Winter. ‘The referee has a decision to make. Is it a foul? Can he play on? Advantage is not possession, in that split second, many referees, myself included, have seen the foul.’Embed from Getty Images
‘They don’t want an escalation of reaction to the foul, they hit the whistle but the play goes on and you see the ref holding their hands up, saying they’re sorry, I got that one wrong. The best referee in the world isn’t going to get that one right every time.’
But on Sunday, Winter acknowledges that ‘Hooper recognises the foul and decides to play advantage a couple of seconds later. I don’t know what went through his mind. I don’t know why he blew the whistle. You can’t defend it, he’s made a mistake, just like Haaland did when he missed an open goal.’
‘It’s human error, it’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s not referees being useless. Hooper had a very good game, he let the game flow, he hadn’t overreacted but then in the 94th minute of the game, he got something wrong. Unfortunately, he made a genuine mistake and he will be hurting more than anyone this morning.’
‘As a referee, people think that referee’s don’t care. You’ve got pride in your own performance and he will realise why the hell did I blow my whistle, why didn’t I give it a couple more seconds. We’ve gone into mass hysteria mode and it’s the only thing to talk about this weekend. All you can ever do as a player or referee, is to hopefully learn from it.’Embed from Getty Images
But Winter was also keen to emphasise that even if play had been allowed to continue, Grealish scoring wasn’t guaranteed. ‘I don’t know if they looked at the possibility of Grealish being offside,’ he added, going on to say that ‘it looked like a tight one but as good a player as Grealish is, can we hand on heart say that Grealish would have scored? Let’s get that into context.’