As we reach the business end of the Premier League season, each match is becoming more and more important. This means that the choice of referee for a particular game and the way the game is refereed could have a massive bearing on where each team will finish come May.
With ten matches remaining for the majority of teams, there is still thirty points up for grabs. A wrong penalty decision or a harsh red card could determine whether teams get no points, one point or three and with only five points separating the bottom eight teams and four points separating the top two, referees must be on top of their games to ensure that all 20 teams receive equality and fairness with the decisions they make.
The biggest game of the weekend in terms of their realistic aspirations this season is the Midlands derby between Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion at St Andrews in the early lunchtime kick off on Saturday.
Both teams are locked in an eight team relegation battle this season after both started the season well. One has changed their manager recently and the other has just won their first major trophy in over thirty years.
However after poor runs of form for both teams means that only two points separate Birmingham in 16th position and West Brom in 19th so a win for either side would see them push towards Premier League survival.
This is a local derby and because of this it will be a tough test for any referee. I would expect a disciplinarian or in other words a mechanical referee to take charge of this one. By mechanical I mean someone who knows the rules inside out but doesn’t necessarily have a feel for the game and how it should be played.
I would think someone like Mike Dean or Phil Dowd would be the obvious choice for this encounter however Dean was ruled out having refereed Birmingham only last week in the Carling Cup final victory over Arsenal, so in my opinion Dowd would be the only choice so I was very surprised to hear that the appointment had gone to Mike Jones.
Jones is a referee who hasn’t had the most successful of starts to his Premier League career until this season. Mike has impressed me vastly with some quality and impeccable performances this season including Arsenal vs. Manchester City and Tottenham vs. Wolves in the Premier League and Cardiff vs. Swansea in the Championship. These were three tough games to officiate but he never looked out of his depth and was able to make the big decisions.