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Mar 12, 2012

Tears and tantrums

Few of us like a Monday morning, but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

It just got Massey

It was thanks to assistant referee Sian that things didn't get even more Massey for the officials this weekend. When they were being pilloried left, right and centre, the lineswoman proved it does help having someone who isn't days away from drawing their pension running the line. But then, is it completely patronising to compliment a female, purely for doing her job correctly? Anyway, it's a big well done from me, love.

Massey's decision to rule out Micah Richards' goal was spot on, and proved the final indignity for Roberto Mancini's buckling side. Plenty of people, myself included, questioned if they had the kahunas to front up as the title race entered its final, squeaky passage, and at the Liberty Stadium the only fighting spirit they offered was a hissy fit from Gareth Barry and some pushing and shoving between Yaya Toure and Super Mario in the tunnel at the break.

They also displayed a hysterical nature in the stands as we were treated to the pathetic sight of a grown man physically crying when they conceded a goal. Manchester is a manly town - the clue is in the title - and I'd suggest that chap keep a pretty low profile in this next week. In contrast, the roar at Old Trafford when they heard about Swansea's goal was euphoric and their match proved how penalty-proof Fergie's mob are as Patrice Evra was allowed to kick Peter Odemwingie at will in the area and get away with it.

Joy for the red half, despair for the blue, but focus is needed from both this week if Manchester is to retain its title as the new home of the Europa League.

Bob's dropped a Pollock

In the opposite corner to Miss Massey is Bob, who dropped a right Pollock at Bolton on Saturday. Far be it from me to single out any official for criticism, but this chap is terrible at his chosen vocation (remember Adebayor's goal that he ruled out at Stoke?). But then, it is hardly Bob's fault that in March 2012 the most popular sport in the world still relies on the same mechanism for awarding goals as it did when the game started back in 1863 - namely his straining mince pies.

Clint Hill's goal that wasn't cost QPR at least a point, and gave rise to a mass of contradictions as both Mark Hughes and the FA pulled off the unique feat of being absolutely correct yet hideously wrong at exactly the same time. Of course, the edge was taken off the injustice by the realisation that its recipient was Mark Hughes, a fickle man who still thinks Carlos Tevez is just misunderstood and entrusts his personal affairs to Kia Joorabchian.

What added to Sparky's short fuse was a ridiculously opportunistic statement from the Football Association, released even before the game had ended, backing calls for goal-line technology. Hughes was right to call the FA "laughable" but wrong to blame them for the incompetence of the officials, who are provided by the Professional Game Match Officials Board. The FA, meanwhile, is correct in its stance but hopelessly out of touch in wanging out a briefing so soon after such an incendiary issue arose.

And sitting back, chuckling maniacally to himself and no doubt stroking a bald, menacing looking cat was Sepp Blatter, the man who has done more to block progress in the game than anyone. Sepp, you disgust me.

It never Reinas, it pours

When Jose Reina finally deserts the sinking ship that is Liverpool, I'll place a week's wages (about £45) on the fact that he never has any desire to return to Sunderland. The Spaniard has already been bamboozled by a beach ball at the Stadium of Light before his highly entertaining game of tiki-taka with the post consigned Liverpool to a third straight Premier League defeat - an ignominy even Roy Hodgson didn't inflict on the club.

For the second time in a matter of years, Reina looked like he'd been forced down his own personal Stadium of Light portal to a parallel universe in which he can't make sense of the simplest things, let alone the round object in front of him (the white one, not the multicoloured one). Reaping the benefit of this footballing version of Inception was Nicklas Bendtner, the striker in least need of an ego boost.

Discontent is rapidly spreading among Liverpool fans as they slowly align themselves with the rest of the planet, who knew within five minutes that their distasteful summer spending spree had secured them nothing more than a series of overpaid, undercooked imposters. With dissenting voices ever more audible, that most combustible of fixtures - the Merseyside derby - looms large on the horizon, the last thing the King needs.

If in doubt, blame Brucie

Wolves chairman Steve Morgan came up with a unique way to attribute the blame for the club's crippling mismanagement of their survival quest after a demoralising defeat by Steve Kean's Blackburn - he told angry fans who gathered to protest after a fifth straight home defeat that their inevitable plunge into the Championship was somehow Steve Bruce's fault.

Morgan, who also claimed he could have scored against Rovers, pointed the finger at Bruce for taking four days out of their selection process in the wake of Mick McCarthy's sacking, despite Sunderland's axed gaffer saying it was Wolves who turned him down. This is the kind of mud-slinging that ensues when your team has just been nilled by Blackburn Rovers, who grabbed their first clean sheet in almost a year. The oddness doesn't end there, as Kean found himself in the unusual position of having to console a manager more beleaguered than himself.

Never mind not looking up to the job - Terry Connor has the terrified air of a man who never wanted anything to do with it in the first place. There is no doubt in my mind Tel would much prefer to spend his Saturdays watching the latest Disney release at his local multiplex, or undertaking a leisurely few laps around Birmingham's international pool. And though Kean tried not to look smug when comforting his opposite number, the world and his wife knows he'll be sacked whether Blackburn beat the drop or not.

Wiemann's Fuller testosterone

In this, one of the most rage-fuelled weekends of recent months, it would be remiss not to mention two central pillars of the paroxysm - Ricardo Fuller and every single Aston Villa fan. The Stoke striker ensured a smooth afternoon for Chelsea's latest gaffer, or 'interim first team coach' to give RDM his full title, with a vitriolic, violent episode that enshrines his place alongside the likes of Joey Barton and Craig Bellamy in the Premier League's unhinged XI.

Fuller must feel Branislav Ivanovic shouldn't be allowed to procreate, judging by his vicious stamp towards the Serbian's meat and two veg. There had been previous between the two, including the odd shove here and the odd block there, but nothing that warranted such a furious attack on Ivanovic's genitals. Lucky for the defender that Fuller was starting his first game in over a year, and as such, his aim was a little off, or we could have had a major cock-up on our hands.

Fuller's rage was replicated in the stands at Villa as an irate crowd reacted to Charles N'Zogbia's removal against Fulham by serenading Alex McLeish with a chorus of that oft-used classic "You don't know what you're doing". Maybe their ire had to do with the fact that Insomnia's replacement was little known Austrian Andreas Weimann, whose previous longest spell on the pitch had been 11 minutes. Stone the crows then if he didn't go and bag the ugliest winner you've ever seen to snap Villa's winless streak and leave Big 'Eck with a big triumphant grin on his weather-beaten face.

Don't forget, you can follow The Fifth Official on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fifthofficial

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