Zola tries the blame game
HOWEVER tough the decisions against his team have gone and however unjust he thinks they are; the one thing you have never heard Gianfranco Zola do is criticise the referee, writes DAVE EVANS. But the West Ham boss broke that principle after Saturday s 1-
HOWEVER tough the decisions against his team have gone and however unjust he thinks they are; the one thing you have never heard Gianfranco Zola do is criticise the referee, writes DAVE EVANS.
But the West Ham boss broke that principle after Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Birmingham City, which saw Mark Noble end up with an early bath after two yellow cards, first for dissent and then for a tackle on Christian Benitez that looked like he had won the ball.
That was not the only thing that upset Zola about the performance of Lee Mason from Lancashire on Saturday either, it seemed to go much deeper than that.
"I think the referee had a day off today," slammed Zola. "I'm not in the mood to speak about the referee, but I don't think he helped the game today."
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The players didn't seem to warm to Mason either. Noble seemed to get the short end of the stick, while captain Scott Parker had a running verbal battle with the referee for much of the game.
Afterwards, Parker complained about the referee's attitude and could not recall ever having Mason in a game before, but he did officiate in West Ham's 2-0 FA Cup victory at Hartlepool last season when Parker was captain for the first time.
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West Ham even won a penalty that day, but they did have three players booked to Hartlepool's none.
Parker was keen to get his point across to Mason on Saturday, but Zola felt that the official did not show the respect the players deserved.
"I didn't like his reaction at the end and the way he reacted to the players, I didn't like that at all," said the disgruntled manager. "I'm sorry to say that because referees are human beings and they make mistakes.
"Today, there were too many mistakes and some of them were really easy not to make - I'm not satisfied about it."
Zola was certainly not happy with the dismissal of Noble, the third sending off for a West Ham player this season, all of whom have come via two yellow cards that cannot be appealed against.
"He said that Mark Noble's second booking was for a bad tackle. Come on, please, he just took the ball!" stormed Zola.
"For the first one, referees have to be above everything and understand that players are under pressure. Some-times, they have to say something, but I haven't asked Mark if he said anything to offend the referee."
Zola was also keen to make a more general point about refereeing in the Premier League these days.
"Before, in this country, certain free kicks were never given, but now they give them for everything, I really don't understand it," he moaned.
"I think that he was bored of our complaining, but we had every right to complain and he had to take it.
"I make mistakes and I take the stick, and he has to take the stick as well."
Maybe in that last line we see the real reason for Zola's change of policy towards criticising referees.
Alex Ferguson is a master of trying to deflect away criticism of his team after a bad performance, by vilifying the opposite manager, an opposition player, the state of the pitch, or his favourite - castigating the referee.
When you look at Saturday's match, it would be difficult to back-up the claim that West Ham lost at St Andrew's because of the referee and Zola must surely know that.
They lost because they didn't take one of their numerous chances and because, once again, they could not keep a clean sheet.
Perhaps it is understandable that Zola is looking for someone else to blame for West Ham's current dismal league position.
But when the final whistle goes and another three points has gone down the pan, it is simply down to the players and the manager to take the blame and try and sort it out.