Thursday, 21 February 2013

Mark Clattenburg: The Premier League’s egotistic chump

All hail the Clattenburg
A keen collector of spare media spotlight, Mr Controversy, the celebrity official, the Premier League’s right-hand man, the ruler of the refereeing roost, or even megalomaniac Mark, brand the fame-hungry narcissist whatever you like – but please, NEVER call Mark Clattenburg a competent referee.

Then again, he might well just enjoy it - at least it will give his ego a massage and grab a few lines in the corner of the Sunday Sport. You see, being a man always at the centre of every footballing storm (many of which he himself fashions), Mark enjoys being spread across the mass media more than Sepp Blatter enjoys ‘special handshakes’.

President of FIFA Sepp Blatter shows the BBC's Ore Oduba his 'special handshake'.

And if you don’t believe me, go and watch Mr Battenberg flex his marzipan yourself. Keep your eyes peeled in the build-up to the game he is officiating. Watch those measured pauses as he stops by the touchline during laps around the pitch with fellow officials in his pre-match ‘warm-up’ – there’s always time for a playful smile to the cameras.

Even before he was all over the newspapers and on the TV following the Clattenburg-gate/John Mikel Obi saga, the 37-year had long been settled into his certified role of apple-polishing the Premier League’s elite players. If he’s lucky, his favourite stars even offer compliments back – but, of course, Mark fails to hear them over the sound of his own awesomeness.

"Do you fancy a game of kerby later?"
Unlike the run-of-the-mill referee, Mark is not content to finish a game without spending a large part of it having a giggle with Wayne Rooney or chucking a witless anecdote in the way of Frank Lampard. In fact, I'm beginning to feel sorry for Mr Clattenburg, he seems to forget that he can’t have his FIFA-blessed cake AND eat it.

Maybe it is time for Clattenburg to concentrate on doing exactly what he is paid to do – and effectively referee. However, he seems to struggle with that. Let us walk through the destruction left in the wake of Mark’s years of refereeing blunders so far and recall how his rise from zero to zero began.

Back in 2005 it was our very own Mark who failed to spot Manchester United keeper Roy Carroll fumbling Pedro Mendes’ lob well over the line, much to Sir Alex Ferguson’s delight. The Portuguese midfielder’s ‘goal’ provoked widespread outrage as many made a mockery of Clattenburg and his cronies for their lack of, well, eyes.

The ' ghost goal' that never stood at Old Trafford
And in 2007, Mark appeared to take the view of his good mate Steven Gerrard into consideration when taking charge of the Merseyside derby. Clattenburg was initially reaching for a yellow card for Everton defender Tony Hibbert, but after the Liverpool midfielder had stern words with him, keeping his friends close, Mark immediately upgraded the card to a red.

The County Durham-born referee hit the headlines again in December 2009. The press reported Clattenburg had allegedly asked the Manchester City bench: "How do you work with Craig Bellamy all week?" before then booking the Welsh frontman twice, the second for diving, although replays suggested he was actually fouled.

At Old Trafford in 2010 Mark was also in the middle, allowing United winger Nani to take advantage of a peculiar mistake by Spurs goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes, who thought his side were awarded a free-kick. Nani tapped the ball into the empty net and Clattenburg refused to rule out the goal.

More recently, the referee was cleared of racial abuse by the FA after accusations made by Chelsea midfielder Mikel following the clash between Manchester United and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last October.

The whole incident developed after Javier Hernandez was allowed to score for United from a clearly offside position and Clattenburg failed to rule out the goal. Earlier in the match the referee had also incorrectly dismissed Chelsea striker Fernando Torres for simulating contact.

Despite his faults, as long as the world of high-class football continues to be associated with glistening Bentleys and diamond-clad watches, one thing is for sure, our favourite referee will be somewhere to be found - batting his eyelashes amidst the glitz and glamour of football’s greatest league.

Let’s just hope that one day, he can start being as fruitful in officiating as he is in tomfoolery.

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