REFEREES have been the centre of attention in Sunderland’s last two games.
But whereas man-in-black Mike Dean came in for withering sarcasm from Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Gus Poyet’s praise for Phil Dowd was genuine and fulsome after the Staffordshire official awarded a crucial penalty in Sunderland’s 4-0 win over Cardiff City yesterday.
Dowd had a big call to make on the stroke of half-time as Juan Cala pulled back Connor Wickham as the striker burst into the area.
Cala was last man and Dowd could have instantly blown for a penalty and sending off at that moment but decided to play the advantage and let the striker get his shot off.
Wickham was unbalanced by Cala then obstructed by City keeper David Marshall before his shot was blocked.
But, having played the advantage, Dowd called play back, red-carded Cala and pointed to the spot.
As far as Poyet was concerned, it was the perfect way to handle the situation – an approach which will encourage players not to go down in the area under the slightest of challenges.
The Black Cats boss said: “If you ask me, I would have to say that I think it is the best decision I have ever seen by a referee; the bravest I have ever seen.”
Pens paused in the Press room for an instant as reporters checked whether Poyet was “doing a Mourinho”.
But the Uruguayan’s praise was heartfelt as he referenced the controversy surrounding West Ham’s Matt Jarvis, who did not go down in the penalty area under a heavy challenge in a 3-1 victory for Arsenal and earned himself the withering scorn of Hammers boss Sam Allardyce as a result.
Poyet said: “It has been a big talking point in football recently since the Jarvis incident – should a player go down immediately in those circumstances or not?
“My plan at the referees’ meeting next season was to ask them how do we convince players to stay on their feet?
“Because of Jarvis’s actions a player doesn’t get sent off – but does that mean if that happens I should go into the dressing room afterwards and tell the player he was wrong for staying on his feet?
“That can’t be right.
“So how do you encourage a player to stay on his feet? By doing what Phil Dowd did.
“He noticed what had happened, but he played the advantage so that Connor Wickham could get his shot away.
“And then, when that did not happen, he gives us the penalty and the sending off.
“That is the way to stop players going down too easily.
“If the attackers know that they are protected by the referees – that the referees are seeing what happens but playing the advantage – they will keep on going.
“It was a big call by the referee and the right one.”