Howard Webb and Michael Owen must be given time, argues CHRIS SUTTON

Match Officials: Mic’d Up and Michael Owen need to be given time, argues CHRIS SUTTON on Mail Sport’s It’s All Coming Up podcast… after viewers slammed the former England star for the ‘easy ride’ he gave the PGMOL boss over VAR controversies

  • This week’s iteration of the programme was hotly anticipated after Diaz’s goal 
  • But the broadcast failed to answer a host of questions for the viewers 
  • Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’ 

Chris Sutton has urged patience when assessing Michael Owen and Howard Webb on Match Officials: Mic’d Up on Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Coming Up!’. 

This week’s iteration of the monthly programme, which is the brainchild of PGMOL head Webb, offered viewers a chance to gain further insights into refereeing decisions in the month’s Premier League fixtures – with focus squarely on Luis Diaz’s disallowed goal for Liverpool against Tottenham. 

The strike was initially ruled for offside after the flag belatedly went up at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but whilst replays confirmed that Diaz was actually onside, VAR Darren England wrongly thought the goal had been given, and confirmed referee Simon Hooper’s initial decision. 

The roiling controversy around the disallowed goal – and Liverpool’s ensuing 2-1 defeat – saw the PGMOL publicly release audio from Stockley Park ahead of discussing the issue on Tuesday’s programme. 

Viewers were unsatisfied with host Owen’s line of questioning with Webb over the incident, with many taking to social media to vent their frustration that the former England star had failed to ‘push’ Webb. 

Howard Webb (left) responded to Michael Owen’s VAR questions on Match Officials: Mic’d Up

But many argued that the former England international wasn’t scrutinising the referees’ decision-making as much as they would like

But Sutton believes the show, which was launched for the first time this season, will grow in stature with time, and called upon viewers not to hastily write off the former Liverpool striker. 

‘They are being transparent,’ Sutton shared on the podcast. ‘They are trying to deal with things. What I would say in fairness to Michael Owen, and the whole show – this show is in its infancy, isn’t it? 

‘We wanted warts and all, but the show has only just started. Let’s give it a bit of time, and see how we go on.

‘The big questions were asked and some of those (answers) didn’t materialise. But I do think, let’s just wait and see. I do think Howard Webb is trying to do the right thing. 

‘With the nature of the game, and the way VAR has been this season, there’s always going to be heavy scrutiny in shows like this, and we can always pick holes in virtually anything. 

Chris Sutton urged viewers to be patient with the format as the show evolves

‘This is one where you have to wait and see how things go on’. 

The programme also spent time discussing the red card handed to Chelsea’s Malo Gusto during the Blues’ 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa, as well as the roiling debate around whether Manchester City’s Mateo Kovacic should have been handed a second yellow card for his challenge on Declan Rice during Pep Guardiola’s side’s trip to the Emirates on Sunday. 

Webb explained on the programme that Kovacic had been fortunate to escape a straight red for his initial foul on captain Martin Odegaard. 

On the Croatian’s follow-up foul on Rice, Webb added: ‘Second yellows are something the VAR is not able to get involved in. But he was extremely fortunate to stay on the field. 

‘(Referee Michael Oliver) doesn’t want to have a negative impact on the game by overreacting to something – but it is also true that if you under-react you have a negative impact.’

Sutton’s co-host, Mail Sport’s Football Editor Ian Ladyman, took a blunter view on Owen’s capabilities grilling Webb over the incident, stating that he didn’t know why the former footballer was chosen over a ‘seasoned and trained interviewer’. 

‘(Webb) got an easy ride at the end and he got an easy ride on the Kovacic question,  because he tried to claim that Kovacic wasn’t sent off because his contact on Odegaard’s ankle was slightly lower than the contact that Malo Gusto made on his opponent’s ankle when he was sent off after a VAR review. 

‘But it made no reference to the fact that Malo Gusto cleanly took the ball and followed through to make contact.

Mail Sport Football Editor Ian Ladyman shared his views on Webb’s commentary about Mateo Kovacic’s performance (right) for Man City against Arsenal

‘Whereas Kovacic was nowhere near the ball on Sunday, he should have been sent off and Howard Webb should just have stood in front of the camera and said this was a mistake.

‘He didn’t say that, and he felt a little bit like he was trying to protect his colleagues and his staff, and I was a little bit uncomfortable with that.’

But, Ladyman added: ‘I feel for the referees. They should be accountable for their mistakes. 

But I don’t know if every time they make mistakes, – I don’t know if we need to be treated to the level of detail that we are. I think that should be left to Howard Webb and his team to deal with and to improve things.’ 


It’s All Kicking Off is an exciting new podcast from Mail Sport that promises a different take on Premier League football, launching with a preview show today and every week this season.

It is available on MailOnline, Mail+, YouTube , Apple Music and Spotify

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