Q&A With Graham Poll
The referee talks derbies & the goal that wasn't.
What is it like to referee a Merseyside derby and how do you cope with the extra attention as a referee?
There is a lot of intensity at Goodison and it comes down on to the pitch. There is a particular feeling inside the ground of how important it is to win that match.
And if there is a decision that goes against Everton early in the match then the crowd can really get on your case and I find referees tend to react in one of two ways.
They either are, not overly, but slightly influenced by the crowd and Everton get one or two decisions. The other kind probably dig in and think ‘I’ll show you – you can’t put pressure on me’. Nobody would deliberately go against a team, but subliminally you might.
People always ask ‘how did you deal with the pressure?’ You kind of just shrug it off and think it doesn’t affect you – but it does.
Do you alter your approach because of the intensity of the match?
I think because it is the Merseyside derby you tend to let a bit more go in the early stages of the game to give it a chance.
It makes the games much more entertaining, much more exciting – a little bit feisty but you want that and referees want it as well. It builds that tension and atmosphere and fans crave that. Referees understand and respect that as it helps contribute to those great games we all remember.
Obviously Everton fans will remember you for the ‘goal that wasn’t’ in the derby of April 2000. What is your recollection of the incident?
I go all over the country doing after-dinner speaking and attending events and if I ever meet an Everton fan then the first thing I say is ‘sorry’.
I am sorry about that goal because I know now I was wrong.
Once you think time is up you generally choose to blow the whistle when the keeper has kicked the ball – either from a goal kick or from hand.
It is rarely exactly on 90 minutes plus stoppages – it is not that – it is when the ball is in a neutral area.
That day I thought time was up. Sander Westerveld had the ball, I looked at my watch and he was about to kick it up the pitch. I checked my watch again, he thumped it and I go to blow.
Of course it hits Don Hutchison on the backside and goes into the net. What we said was that the whistle had gone before it went in which I think it actually had, but it was just a crazy way to end the football match so I apologise to Everton fans.
Have you ever come across a situation like that again in your career?
No. What the hell was the keeper doing kicking the ball against an opponent like that? When have you ever sent that before? It doesn’t happen. It was a crazy situation.
People always associate you with certain games and incidents and at least talking about that stops people talking about three yellow cards for a bit.
There was another occasion when you probably didn’t endear yourself to Everton fans, and that was when you sent James McFadden off for dissent against Arsenal in the Carling Cup…
People always say to you ‘why don’t you stand up to these players?’, and then when you do, you ruin the game!
He swore at me and called me a cheat. You then get accused of wanting to be centre stage and making it all about you. If referees stood up to players all the time – which the fans want them to I believe – even if they went yellow card, which isn’t really law, but just went yellow card and ‘do it again and I will send you off’ then I think the public would go with it.
Did you get to know any Everton players and did you enjoy seeing anyone on the teamsheet at Goodison?
David Unsworth was always a good guy on the field and I felt bad when I had to send him off in a match against Man United – he went for two cautions in a 3-2 game, a really good game, I remember.
Also there are current players like Phil Jagielka who is a good guy – as is Phil Neville. They enjoy their football and it comes across.
To find the latest derby ticketing criteria, click here.