When Stuart Attwell hangs up his whistle in years to come, the complexion of his autobiography will no doubt be very different to Graham Poll’s ‘Seeing Red’. Attwell’s book will be of the horror genre, and a working title could be, ‘The Tale of Vicarage Road: The Phantom Goal’. Attwell could of course have prequels and sequels, and could call on a whole host of terrible decision he has made for inspiration. After all, Attwell’s decisions will haunt the young referee for the rest of his career, so he may as well make some money off them.
Attwell, of Nuneaton, Warwickshire, was promoted to the Football League at the beginning of the 2007/08, and made his league debut on 11 August 2007 in a League Two fixture between Hereford and Rotherham United. On 25 June 2008, he was promoted to the list of top flight officials in the Premier League, after just one season in the Football League. At just 25 years old, Attwell became the youngest ever Premier League. However, despite a meteoric rise that saw Attwell fast tracked to the top, it wasn’t long before the youngster was wreaking havoc up and down the country.
Swansea V Gillingham
Attwell got the ball rolling after in a League One fixture on 2 November 2007. Attwell made one sending off, followed by a debatable series of decisions including a disallowed goal, a dismissed penalty appeal and a corner he gave as a goal kick.
Sheffield United v Blackpool
With six minutes gone on 26 December 2007, Attwell sent off Blackpool’s Ian Evatt for a professional foul on United’s Billy Sharp, even though there was no contact. Another good’n by Stu!
Watford V Reading
Ah good old life! Especially if you’re a Reading fan. If Stuart Attwell is refereeing then you don’t even necessarily have to put the ball between the posts to get a goal anymore. Just vaguely direct the ball in the general direction of the goal, and even if it goes a four yards wide, Attwell might award a goal. Attwell is a true pioneer.
Derby County v Nottingham Forest
This was arguably Attwell’s piece de la resistance. On 2 November 2008, just a month after awarding the ‘ghost goal’ at Vicarge Road, Attwell had tightened his belt, and decided against awarding legitimate goals. With the game 1-1, Attwell disallowed two late, perfectly legal goals by Derby. Attwell ruled the first out for Derby by insisting he’d already blown for a penalty (Attwell is above the advantage rule), and after Derby missed the resulting penalty, Attwell ruled out another perfectly viable goal for a phantom push. Must have been the ghost of Vicarage Road haunting him.
The match wasn’t a particularly dirty affair, yet Attwell still found time to book eight players, and issue a straight red to Forest midfielder Lewis McGugan. Wow.
Hitler wasn’t happy about the decisions either.
Wigan v West Ham
6 March 2009,Attwell issued two red cards and seven bookings. Carlton Cole was sent off for two of the softest bookings you’re likely to see, whilst Lucas Neill nearly broke Lee Catermole in half and yet somehow escaped a red.
After Attwell sent Cattermole off for an awful challenge on Scott Parker, after Parker had performed a similarly dangerous studs up challenge himself. Attwell failed to control the resulting fracas. You know it’s bad when rather than criticising, a manager like Steve Bruce comes out and tells the media that he ‘feels sorry’ for Attwell.
Don’t worry though football fans. Attwell’s still going strong. Last week, he appeared to play advantage to Bolton Wanderers, before calling play back and giving a free kick in the build up to Taylor’s equaliser. Danny Higginbotham told media afterwards that Attwell responded to whoever shouted the loudest…
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