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By ESPN Staff

Mowbray claims refs are in awe of top players

West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Mowbray has accused Premier League referees of being ''in awe'' of the top clubs' big-name players.

Mowbray saw a red card handed to full-back Paul Robinson by controversial official Rob Styles in Tuesday's 5-0 hammering by Manchester United overturned by the Football Association on Thursday.

But although he applauded the FA's actions, he claimed Robinson's experience was symptomatic of what Mowbray sees as a wider problem where the top flight's established players treated with kid gloves by referees.

''It's almost as if refs want to be friends of the stars,'' the Baggies boss claimed. ''We had Mr Styles at Chelsea. It was, 'Frank (Lampard) this and Frank that'. They know some players' names.

''I hope it doesn't come across as paranoia. I find myself sometimes feeling, when we play the likes of Peterborough (as they did in the FA Cup third round), a team lower down the pecking order currently than we are, that it's almost as if the referees try to help them along.

''Surely that should work in the same way. Surely, if we play Manchester United that would work in the same way. But I don't feel it. I feel as if they are in awe of their big stars.

''Maybe it's the fact that Manchester United are going to be in this league for the next 20 years and if they want to referee in it for the next 20, then they had better be all right with these big boys.''

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