Dave Kitson’s a cheeky monkey isn’t he? His attack on Saturday’s referee has seen him hit the headlines in places Oxford United are rarely seen these days. But, is he right? Or is he just another big time Charlie looking for a convenient excuse?
Increasingly it seems that football is about the familiarity of the routine rather than the prospect of seeing something genuinely different, breathtaking or exciting. Just like the pre-match ritual and the game itself, post-match is largely formulaic; people text statements that are little more than self-evident facts (“that’s another 3 points dropped.”) or hysterical schizophrenia (“Wilder out” or “Wilder is god”). In response others vent their frustration until day’s events eventually fade to history. Seven days later, the cycle starts again.
Everything seemed normal on Saturday. The phone-in trolls were salivating at the prospect of ridding themselves of Chris Wilder, the cancer that currently riddles the club’s carcass. This roundly ignores that he is, by the undeniable fact of the league table, currently the second best manager in the division.
Then, unexpectedly, Professor Kitson steps up and blows the roof off the gaff by tearing the ref to pieces. This was not only a ‘horrendous’ refereeing display, said he, it was also possibly the worst he’s ever experienced. The question is; is he right?
Kitson needed no second invitation to bounce his way into the kangaroo court of the FA’s disciplinary panel. Not that he got a first invitation as Selfy, who for the first time in living memory didn’t use the phrase ‘Young man’ in an interview, tried to protect his man from trouble.
We can’t say whether this is the worst Kitson has experienced. Only Kitson knows that, and you might reasonably question what grounds the FA have to deny a player the right to an opinion. Football is heavily reliant on the media and we only engage with the media to find out what people think. Denying that right seems almost as though it’s a stage managed PR exercise. Heaven forefend.
But, is Kitson justified? Certainly as his verbal volley reigned down, the fans encircled him shouting ‘FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT’ so there was strong, though inevitable support from that direction.
But rationality is not a fan’s strong suit. If it were then we wouldn’t be fans, we would be doing something productive and rewarding. On a micro-level, the evidence is fairly damning. There was some confusion as to whether Kitson said the ref was swearing at Alfie Potter or vice versa when the wizard boy took a ferocious boot deep into injury time. The transcript seems unequivocal; Kitson was saying that it was the referee who was swearing at Potter.
If true it does point to a man who had lost control of the game. He certainly got the penalty wrong, which seemed the catalyst for the problems. The foul was outside the box and his decision was signalled with the kind of flurry of vague arm movements that you might see from a blind air traffic controller. He compounded the fudge by awarding penalty and taking no action against Jake Wright. There’s little to support the view that the decision was taken with a clear head.
The decision did cost us two points, maybe three. It was a tight game, they weren’t great, we were destabilised with Jake Wright at left back. Wright’s jittery heavy footed performance was reminiscent of the long forgotten early days of his arrival to replace Luke Foster in 2010. This lopsidedness meant we lacked shape and structure. The squally wind wrecked any chance of decent passing. This levelled the teams, something that is not hard to do in the League of the Damned and Perpetual Misfiring. We had chances, as did they, it was a game that a bad refereeing performance could influence, and evidently did.
However, in the greater scheme, it means nothing and Kitson’s rant puffs into a great vacuum of meaningless. No team’s season has ever been unduly influenced by refereeing; good or bad. The best teams always win the league, the worst teams get relegated. If we’re reliant on the judgement of one man, then we’re probably not good enough anyway.
Kitson will is now to find himself held to account by the FA. It’s difficult to know whether this will be enough to rouse them from their dusty slumbers. Quite brilliantly, the Oxford Mail claimed they had the FA’s response revealing in a story that, in fact, the response was that they currently had no response.
In the end Kitson is probably right, but the act is ultimately petulant and wasteful. He encouraged Selfy to draw him into trouble, which was all very macho. But, so what? He reminds me of a friend’s teenage daughter who spent the equivalent of an extra week at the school she hated through the detentions she racked defending her right to wear a short skirt. The right to protest against a referee, is really no right at all.