The great Forestieri debate: a Sheffield Wednesday fan's eloquent rant

Football fans get used to the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune at the hands of referees.

Sunday, 28th February 2016, 12:59 pm
Updated Sunday, 28th February 2016, 13:21 pm
Owls controversy

Mostly we shrug them off over a post-match pint and move on, writes veteran Owls follower Alan Hurndall.

Like nearly all clichés, it’s probably true that over the course of a season these things even themselves out.

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But not this time. Wednesdayites won’t forget this in a hurry. Not with the anger and sheer injustice of the Fernando Forestieri sendings off. And I believe that football needs to act fast to stop this festering sore from infecting and poisoning the integrity of the game.

For those just back from the Space Station, this is what happened over six days that shook Wednesday’s World and stained the club’s history.

At Preston, Forestieri collided with a player on the edge of the box. It looked a foul, the defender deliberately obstructing his route to goal.

Being charitable you could argue that it was an accidental collision. But the Ref ruled that it was simulation, that the striker wasn’t interested in going on and trying to score, but was more intent on winning a foul. Conning the Ref.

Alan the fan is not best pleased with what's happening to the game

In other words, cheating. A yellow card offence.

The Owls striker later stupidly, and justifiably, received another booking for deliberate handball and was off.

After serving a one-match ban, on Friday our man was back in action. The table-toppers taking on promotion hungry Yorkshire rivals. An encounter to savour. Live on TV.

In the build up, displaying crystal-ball prescience, Sky focused on the clash between FF and Dawson, the Hull centre-half and captain. The big burly policeman out to stop the artful dodger from picking his colleagues’ pockets.

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The clash came in injury time. Forestieri, who’d already gone in the book for tugging an opponent’s shirt, picked the ball up on the left. A promising 10 yards or so from the penalty area, Dawson came in like a bullet – a lunging desperate horizontal tackle designed to stop his opponent by fair means or foul.

In that fraction of a second, to avoid serious injury, the forward had no choice but to take evasive action. He instinctively darted to his left which resulted in him falling to the ground clutching his leg.

Dawson held his hands up. His face was a picture of apology. He feared a yellow card, and surely it was worth it to stave off the threat on goal so late in the game.

Dawson was right. The referee Tim Robinson was on the scene in seconds and reached for his notebook. But to the astonishment of everyone, the brandished his card not at the perpetrator of the crime, but at the victim.

Alan the fan is not best pleased with what's happening to the game

With Forestieri pleading to heaven, this was followed by a red.

The post-match verdict was unanimous. Sky pundits – all ex Pros, both managers, fans forums, even, to his credit, Dawson himself. The Ref had got it wrong. Robbie Fowler, who’s had to ride a few reckless challenges of his own over the years, called it the worst decision he’d seen.

Keith Hackett, a former World Cup ref and ex-boss of all match officials in the British game, wrote that both the Preston and Hull cautions were wrong.

But astonishingly, under current rules, nothing can be done. Whilst you can appeal against a straight red card, apparently there is no mechanism available to reverse a palpable miscarriage of justice in relation to two yellows.

By all standards of fairness, whether in sport or in life, this is quite simply wrong.

My opinion, backed up by far more knowledgeable and neutral observers, is that Fossie is a marked man – and not just by defenders. He’s being singled out by referees. Being judged on reputation rather than the evidence before their eyes.

It’s like a policeman going into a pub after a shooting, ignoring the bloke with a smoking gun and instead arresting the bloke in the corner because he’s just come out of jail.

So what are the implications? The club will lose their leading scorer at a vital stage of the season. Its promotion hopes could well hinge on a gross error and cost them literally millions of pounds.

The fans will miss out on seeing an exciting talent.

The player himself is shell shocked, his reputation in tatters. The man from the same city as Lionel Messi must be wondering about his future in the English game faced with such hostility from officials.

But football itself is tarnished. There’s clearly a loophole that needs And what about the officials themselves, and in particular Tim Robinson, the referee at the Hull match?

He should do the decent thing, show some moral courage, hold his hands up like Michael Dawson and say I WAS WRONG. The second yellow should be rescinded immediately, the suspensions cancelled and faith restored.

Over to you Mr. Robinson.