Early Doors

Howard Webb jokes aren’t funny


On Sunday, Manchester United play Liverpool at Old Trafford with Howard Webb refereeing.

Good ref gets big game - seems like a sensible decision, no?

Not if you consult the internet, which could barely contain its disbelief that a man who once sent Steven Gerrard off should be allowed to officiate.

As ED types, Twitter chimes to hackneyed jokes from people with handles like @MarioBaLOLtelLAD

A quick search of 'Webb' and 'Howard Webb' reveals the following gems:

Howard Webb has been announced as the referee during next sundays Manchester United victory over Liverpool. (@FootballFunnys - 874 retweets)

With Van Persie & Webb up front, Skrtel & Agger are going to have their hands full. (@empireofthekop - 711 retweets)

BREAKING: Liverpool have appealed against the 2 red cards that Howard Webb will show to their players at Old Trafford this weekend. (@SkySporfsNews - 69 retweets)

To save time, Howard Webb has sent Luis Suarez a red card in the post. There is no option of appealing it. (@Luis16saurez - 98 retweets)

It is two years to the day since the FA charged Ryan Babel for posting that Photoshopped picture of Webb in a United shirt.

Even then it wasn't exactly new but it was fairly amusing, especially coming from a Liverpool player.

That should have ended the joke. We get it - you think Howard Webb favours Manchester United - there's no need to labour the point.

But labouring the point is what the internet does best (as ED well knows), hence the continued glut of gags - no new variations, just the same lines endlessly, tediously recycled (with Webb's name occasionally substituted for Mike Dean or Mark Clattenburg).

And it isn't funny.

Now, don't get Early Doors wrong, it doesn't mean that in a moralistic way, like: "You shouldn't cast aspersions over an official's impartiality," or: "How dare you belittle Manchester United's achievements?"

Early Doors means it in the most straightforward way possible.

It isn't funny.

It should not make anyone laugh.

Even John Bishop would reject such obvious, ancient material. Michael McIntyre would turn his nose up. Peter Kay would run a mile.

It isn't funny.

That's a scientific fact. And anyone who thinks otherwise is quite simply an idiot.

What's more, if it is intended to get a rise out of United fans, it isn't working.

Even if the evidence that refs favour United is actually quite thin on the ground when you take the trouble to do some research (like this or this), many actually revel in the accusations.

They play up to the notion that there is indeed a grand conspiracy, claiming the English game is run by a mysterious group known as the 'Gilluminati'.

After all, it conveys on their club a special status (real or imagined) and gives the team a crucial psychological edge.

ED has long thought Fergie's touchline antics were designed as to put pressure on the opposition as the officials.

What side doesn't experience a mass sphincter-tightening when they enter stoppage time at Old Trafford?

The more you believe United are going to score an iffy late goal, the more likely it becomes that they will.

And the stronger Liverpool's conviction that Luis Suarez cannot win a penalty, the more desperate and histrionic his falls get.

If Suarez simply fell over when fouled, he would get penalties all the time - but he doesn't. He arches his back, throws his arms in the air and yelps, as though he knows he has to really 'sell' the fall to convince the ref.

Only it looks like he's diving. And as his reputation for simulation grows, so referees become more sceptical whenever he hits the deck.

It's a vicious cycle borne out of Suarez's believes the world is against him.

All of which increases the likelihood of United winning in controversial fashion - ED is thinking a late Javier Hernandez handball, followed by Suarez's dismissal for protesting.

And you can expect to see a lot more of this on Twitter come Sunday night:

QUOTE OF THE DAY

The Sun: 'JOHN TERRY declared himself fit and ready to return for Chelsea’s trip to Stoke tomorrow.'

John Terry: "Maybe it is too soon to get a start and the lads have been playing well anyway. I know I have to be patient and wait for my chance to get back into the squad. The knee feels totally fine, it’s just the lungs that are feeling it a bit."

FOREIGN VIEW: Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos has been handed a five-match ban by the Spanish football federation after being sent off and insulting the referee in their Copa del Rey victory over Celta Vigo.

Spain defender Ramos, who was selected in FIFA's team of the year on Monday, picked up a second yellow card when he brought down Augusto Fernandez in the 73rd minute in Wednesday's 4-0 last-16 second leg victory at the Bernabeu.

The 26-year-old directed insults at the referee and his assistant when leaving the pitch, according to the referee's report, and was punished with one game for the red card and four for his comments to the match officials.

"Independently of whether I think it is fair or not, I want to apologise to the coaching staff, my colleagues and the fans," Ramos tweeted.

"I hope they will be as equally 'strict and fair' with the referees that make mistakes game after game."

COMING UP: We roll out our usual cavalcade of Friday features - full Premier League match previews, Weekend Warm-up video, Fantasy chat at 3pm and Jim White's latest column.