Sorry to all the fans of my articles, if there are any. This week’s Meet the Ref is a shortened version as I’ve been ill in bed for a few days and haven’t got enough time to do a full run down of the weekend, but we will be back to normal next week.
Aston Villa vs. West Brom (3.00pm GMT)
Referee: Mark Halsey
The first of the two Midlands derbies to take place this weekend and this one has the potential to be a tough fixture for the man in the middle. Mark Halsey has been appointed and this will be his biggest Premier League game since returning to action after successfully seeing off throat cancer.
He is a referee that goes about his business without really being noticed. This is because he isn’t controversial, he doesn’t go looking for the limelight and he would rather take a back seat and let the players get on with the game rather than interfering.
This is a good appointment and it should go quite smoothly for him, where perhaps it wouldn’t be such an easy game to control for a more disciplinarian referee or a less experienced referee but I think Halsey should do a good job.
It isn’t the biggest derby in the Midlands but there will be tackles flying in like any derby, but I expect Halsey will keep all 22 players on the pitch and will show a minimal amount of cards. He has refereed Villa twice already this season, 1-0 to Sunderland and 2-1 win over Wolves.
Aston Villa 1-1 West Brom
Yellow Cards: 3 Red Cards: 0 Penalties: 0
Everton vs. Wigan (3.00pm GMT)
Referee: Michael Oliver
Michael Oliver takes charge of this match, only his seventh in the Premier League. None of those seven involved either of these two teams so this will be his first Everton and first Wigan matches in the Premier League, however he did referee The Toffees defeat on penalties to Brentford in the Carling Cup.
I always rated Oliver highly when he was a youngster working his way through Conference level and then Football League and I was thrilled when he got the promotion to Select Group and all was going swimmingly for him until one Monday night in Blackpool when he had to send off two West Brom players. Since then he hasn’t really had the chance to re-establish himself in the Premiership, however it’s nice to see him given a chance to prove how good he is.
Lee Probert refereed both fixtures last season and had no major decisions to make, one penalty decision that went in Everton’s favour at Goodison Park but from what I can remember it was a good decision.
Wigan lost their discipline in that game aswell with six of their players being booked, but they have a relatively good record thus far this season when it comes to cards and Oliver should have an easy game. I can see him giving a penalty in this match but don’t really know why, just call it a gut instinct but he should do a good job.
Hopefully won’t let the newbies down as it appears that Saturday’s games have gone to the new, less experienced officials and Oliver will be hoping that he, along with Anthony Taylor can prove that they deserve their place on the Select list.
Everton 3-1 Wigan
Yellow Cards: 2 Red Cards: 0 Penalties: 1
Fulham vs. Sunderland (3.00pm GMT)
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Well, Well, Well? What a fantastic appointment very much deserved. Neil Swarbrick, a Football League referee has been given his chance to prove himself at Premier League level. Arguably the best referee in the lower leagues but definitely has the ability to be a top level official.
I remember the PGMOL doing something very similar with Lee Mason a few seasons ago and obviously Anthony Taylor last season. Both at the time were Football League referees but were given Premier League matches. Lee Mason did Middlesbrough vs. Aston Villa in 2006 and Anthony Taylor did Fulham vs. Portsmouth in February and both of these were promoted to the Select Group the following seasons.
Hopefully history will repeat itself and Swarbrick gets his chance to be a Select Group referee as I think the standard of his officiating is better than that of some of our current top flight referees.
Fulham vs. Sunderland should be a nice easy game for him, small stadium and small crowd but two good established Premier League teams doing battle. I hope for his sake that his game at Craven Cottage isn’t called off like Michael Oliver’s potential first Premier League game was there last season.
Fulham 1-0 Sunderland
Yellow Cards: 2 Red Cards: 0 Penalties: 0
Stoke vs. Blackpool (3.00pm GMT)
Referee: Anthony Taylor
This season’s other new kid on the block, Anthony Taylor, unlike Michael Oliver went completely under the radar to me and even when he was promoted to the Premiership I still had very little idea as to who he was and what sort of referee he was.
But I remember watching Match of the Day on the night of the opening day of the season and I waited in anticipation for Sunderland vs. Birmingham to come on and the only reason was because I wanted to see how Taylor had done.
I remember seeing him get the big decisions right, a penalty to Sunderland and a red card for Cattermole both I felt were correct and at the time I thought this guy has something special. I still can’t put my finger on exactly what that thing is but I believe he has the potential to be one of the best.
Unfortunately for him, like Oliver, he hasn’t had a lot of chances to impress with this being only his sixth Premiership game of the season and he hasn’t refereed a game of any kind since his controversial showing in front of the SKY cameras in the Sheffield United vs. Crystal Palace match where he awarded three penalties and sent off two players in what really was a horror show for him.
He’s had a couple of 4th official appointments to get over that and he comes back to referee at a very difficult ground. It’s loud and it’s a good atmosphere. I live in Stoke and I can hear the crowds on a Saturday afternoon when I’m walking down the street or going to the pub so I don’t think there could be a tougher ground to go to on your comeback.
However these two haven’t met in the league since the 2007/2008 season which was in the Championship. Only four yellow cards were shown in those two matches and I don’t expect that card tally to increase by too much after this one.
Stoke have had some rotten luck with referees this season which may put added pressure on the shoulders of Taylor but I think he’ll do a fine job in what will be a big decision free game in my opinion.
Stoke 2-0 Blackpool
Yellow Cards: 1 Red Cards: 0 Penalties: 0
West Ham vs. Manchester City (3.00pm GMT)
Referee: Phil Dowd
This season’s best performing official takes charge of this match at Upton Park and in my opinion any match that gets the best referees appointed his a good appointment. Phil Dowd has taken charge of more Premier League games than any other referee this season which just shows how highly he is rated this season.
I do think that a lesser experienced official someone like Kevin Friend could have done this game instead as it would have been a good challenge for him but I’m happy Dowd has a game this weekend and it’s one that I think will have a Manchester City red card.
City had Aleksandar Kolorov sent off last weekend and they have also had Dedryk Boyata and Mario Balotelli sent off this season and I can see them being reduced to ten men here by a referee who has already shown four red cards this season.
Dowd hasn’t refereed West Ham yet this season but has officiated two Manchester City matches their 3-0 win over Liverpool and 3-2 win over Blackpool and this match should be the third City win he’s officiated this season.
West Ham 0-3 Man City
Yellow Cards: 2 Red Cards: 1 Penalties: 0
Newcastle vs. Liverpool (5.30pm GMT)
Referee: Lee Mason
The live TV game on Saturday goes to Lee Mason, one of the referees who have disappointed me thus far this season with some very questionable performances none more so than his last match Everton vs. West Brom where he missed so many incidents.
This will be his first match since then and personally I don’t think on performances, he deserves to have a live TV game. I think this should have gone to someone like Lee Probert or Mike Jones who have both had really good seasons but yet neither have a Premier League match this weekend.
Lee hasn’t referred a Newcastle game since a 1-1 draw with Stoke in January, nearly a year ago and he does have some history with the Anfield club. He came under criticism from then manager Rafael Benitez for sending off two of his players in a match against Fulham.
Mason refereed Newcastle’s 2-0 home defeat to Blackpool in September and since then has only refereed five Premier League matches, mostly because of injury, however I believe another reason is because his assessors, like me, have not been impressed with his performances this season.
He has shown three red cards in his last three matches and I think he will show one in this match. The last meeting between the two produced a red card when Joey Barton was sent off in Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Anfield two seasons ago.
However neither of these two teams are dirty so I think if there is a red card it is likely to be for a second yellow card rather than a bad tackle or violent conduct.
Newcastle 1-1 Liverpool
Yellow Cards: 4 Red Cards: 1 Penalties: 0
Bolton vs. Blackburn (1.30pm GMT)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
A Lancashire hotpot to wet your appetite for an exciting day of derby football on Sky Sports. Bolton take on Blackburn in a match that sees Sam Allardyce return to the club in which he began is Premier League managerial career.
Bolton haven’t beaten Blackburn since a 1-0 win in 2006 a match that had three missed penalties and a red card to then Bolton captain Kevin Nolan. Chris Foy refereed the last match between these two but he had to be replaced by fourth official Lee Probert after picking up an injury.
Mark Clattenburg referees this match which is a good appointment, however with this not being a huge derby it would have been nice for one of the newer guys to gain some experience at refereeing Premier League derbies, however Clattenburg is one of the best we have, but has come under some criticism this season especially after the Nani goal incident at Old Trafford.
The last game he refereed was Manchester United’s capitulation against West Ham and he controversially chalked off a West Ham goal, correctly in my opinion, after a consultation with an assistant referee.
His last Premier League game was the exciting encounter between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park. He hasn’t refereed Bolton yet in the league this season but he did officiate their League Cup defeat at the hands of Burnley.
He has however refereed Blackburn and that was their 1-1 draw with Manchester City. Although this is a derby it isn’t the most competitive and is nowhere near in the league of Merseyside, Manchester or North London derbies but both teams will want to win and I can see Bolton piping Blackburn to this one.
Bolton 2-1 Blackburn
Yellow Cards: 4 Red Cards: 0 Penalties: 1
Wolves vs. Birmingham (1.30pm GMT)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
The second of the Merseyside derbies and arguably the bigger of the two this weekend so because of this England’s number two Martin Atkinson has been put in charge. A good appointment if you ask me for someone who started the season making some very poor decisions but he has improved greatly over recent weeks.
I have attended this fixture in the past and it provided a really good game full of incident and cards. Atkinson is the strictest of all the Premier League referees showing 62 yellow cards in his seventeen matches so far this season. He has also shown seven red cards which is more than any other referee.
Martin is yet to referee Wolves this season, but he has refereed Birmingham, their 2-1 defeat at Arsenal where he sent of Jack Wilshere. Of the seven red cards Atkinson has shown this season three have been to the home team and four have been to the away team. If there was to be a red card in this one, even though I don’t think there will be, it will probably go to a home player to make Atkinson’s record 4-4.
There were twelve yellow cards in the two meetings last season and there will be a large number today aswell I think even though Wolves have turned their reputation of being a dirty team around.
Wolves 1-0 Birmingham
Yellow Cards: 7 Red Cards: 0 Penalties: 0
Tottenham vs. Chelsea (4.00pm GMT)
Referee: Mike Dean
Can be a controversial fixture, but it is one that has seen Tottenham lose only one of the last five meetings. Last season’s fixture saw a red card issued to John Terry, his second in this fixture after being sent off by Graham Poll in 2006.
Good appointment for this game I think. Mike Dean is a strong referee and one in which you always know what you’re going to get from him. This fixture needs someone who isn’t afraid to make big decisions and Mike Dean is the ideal man for the job. Without doubt this is the best appointment of the weekend by the PGMOL.
Mike Dean refereed this fixture two seasons ago when Tottenham beat Chelsea 1-0 and on that day he had very little to do. I think this match will be different because Chelsea are on a bad run of form and I believe they will do anything to get back to winning ways.
Because of this I think that if things aren’t going their way, then Chelsea could lose their heads and with that their discipline. Tottenham won’t expect to get anything out of this game so their player’s should just get on with the game and play.
There will be cards but I think the majority will go to Chelsea, however I don’t think there will be a red card in this encounter, however if there is it’ll more than likely go to John Terry as his discipline against Spurs is poor.
Dean refereed Tottenham’s 2-1 win over Fulham a victory he had a hand in after overruling an assistant referee’s flag for offside for Tottenham’s 2nd goal, a decision that replays showed was a bad one but he gained Tottenham the three points.
He has refereed Chelsea twice this season their 2-0 win over Arsenal and 6-0 win over Wigan. I think this will be a tight match but I can see Tottenham getting something and Chelsea’s wait for a win continue.
Tottenham 1-1 Chelsea
Yellow Cards: 4 Red Cards: 0 Penalties: 0
Manchester United vs. Arsenal (8.00pm GMT)
Referee: Howard Webb
Well this match, the biggest of the season so far was always going to go to Howard Webb and I’m not going to say that it shouldn’t have been given to our best referee, but I would like to see some of the other officials get a crack at the big games.
Although Howard Webb hasn’t refereed this fixture since 2008, he is still always first in the queue for matches that pit the top four against each other. Mike Dean and Chris Foy, both good strong referees refereed the two meetings last season and I would have liked Phil Dowd to have gotten a look in this season as this is the biggest game of the season and Dowd has been the best referee, even better than Webb.
However Howard knows how to referee the big matches and I think he will help contribute to a good game. There were ten bookings in the two games last season, but gone are the fantastic encounters when Keane took on Vieira and Keown took on Van Nistelrooy now those were tasty games. Now matches between these two are still exciting but not as challenging to referee.
United are strong at Old Trafford and do get a lot of penalties when playing at home, however I do remember Arsenal getting a spot kick at Old Trafford a few seasons ago and with one being given in this fixture last season, I can see one here on Monday evening.
Howard has refereed both of them on one occasion United’s 3-2 win over Liverpool and Arsenal’s 2-1 victory over Everton. This game will be feisty due to what is at stake, a place at the top of the table but I think this will be a 0-0 draw I’m afraid. Sorry to those of you who were expecting a classic.
Manchester United 0-0 Arsenal
Yellow Cards: 5 Red Cards: 0 Penalties: 1
Finally I would just like to say good luck to Sian Massey who is running the line on the Barnsley vs Sheffield United match along with Premier League officials in Mike Jones and Darren Cann. This is a fantastic appointment for the young lady and it could mean promotion is in order for her next season.