“I don’t think Mr Attwell is quite ready to step up to the plate,” sneered Wigan manager Steve Bruce after referee Stuart Attwell (above) dismissed the opposition’s Carlton Cole and his own Lee Cattermole during Wednesday’s defeat to West Ham. Dubious decisions have followed Atwell throughout the Football League this season, but the Guardian’s Paul Wilson takes exception to the suggestion he’s the worst referee of all time.
This is bound to be a controversial and highly subjective argument, because plenty people want to remember Uriah Rennie as the Premier League’s worst ever ref. They don’t want some whippersnapper popping up with a mere half dozen cameo calamities and stealing all the glory. Attwell is still learning, after all. He has plenty of time on his side, and it may be the case that he has simply been over-promoted or pushed along too quickly. Eventually the experience he is currently accumulating will come to serve him well, even if managers such as Paul Jewell and Aidy Boothroyd have been traumatised – and seen their careers suffer – in the meantime.
It is important, too, to remember that there is more to being a monumentally bad ref than just getting a few important decisions wrong. Other character flaws come into play as well, and as yet Attwell is simply too undeveloped to have aquired any of those. Rennie did not gain notoriety merely on account of his inexplicable and inflexible decision making, his pre-match warms-ups were greatly admired as well, along with his apparent delusion that he was the 23rd athlete out on the pitch. At the opposite end of the scale, Andy D’Urso always looked far too timid to be a referee, and even if his decisions were correct body language borrowed from Mavis in Coronation Street usually meant he would get bossed around by both sets of players. Jeff Winter was not a bad referee but his obviously high opinion of himself undermined his authority, while Graham Poll wrote his own obituary, in addition to a somewhat tiresome book, when he capped a notable career by booking the same player three times in a World Cup match.
So let’s give the boy Attwell a break. He may be rubbish but he is young and inexperienced. He might get better. And the way things are going, he probably won’t write a book.