Jan Molby

Referees have an impossible job

I sympathise with Sam Allardyce over the penalty incidents in last night's game between Manchester United and West Ham at Old Trafford.

There were two handballs that fell into the same category; United got a penalty and West Ham didn't.

However, I'm not sure he should be accusing referees of favouring United - it's unwise to make such a claim publicly unless you have conclusive evidence it's going on.

Generally speaking, United win more penalties because they are in more positions where the ref has to make a decision - if they spend more time in the final third and the box, it's no surprise that they get the penalties.

When I was at Liverpool it was the same thing. We won more penalties than the opposition, but that's because we used to attack more.

That's not to say referees are infallible. The pressure and noise of a big occasion can weigh on them, just as it does on players. They're human.

When I played, we used to question everything. We made sure there was always someone chipping away in the referee's ear: "Are you sure, ref? Looked like a foul to me."

We didn't rant and rave, or chase the ref around the pitch, but we just kept on at him, hoping to apply some pressure on him and tip the balance our way.

It wasn't ever part of the manager's team talk, but members of the backroom staff would mention it. It was something we even did in training, so it became natural.

We certainly weren't the only ones. Every team did something similar and it's the same today.

And although you have to admire what Alex Ferguson has done in the game, I find his constant criticism of referees pretty distasteful.

I admire refs, who work under enormous pressure. They have 10 or 12 big decisions to make in every game and know they are only ever one mistake away from being a national laughing stock.

It must be particularly difficult not knowing whether you have got the decisions right until after the game. Nobody will ever tell you if you make a good call - but if you get it wrong you'll certainly hear about it.

Those who manage to keep a clear head when they've got 75,000 screaming at them at Old Trafford deserve nothing but praise.

What's more, they know a decision against a big team will be more controversial than one in their favour.

There are examples where Chris Foy and Mark Clattenburg officiated in United losses and weren't assigned to them again for a year. That can't be right.

This sort of thing gives the conspiracy theorists a field day - a clear explanation of how refs are appointed, or even a strict rotation, would certainly help.

It would also be beneficial for referees to do a short interview after the game, as they do in Germany.

A strict protocol would be needed for the questions so as not to embarrass the referee - but it should give him a chance to explain his thinking.

I think it would calm people down. A lot of fans don't actually understand the laws properly, so to hear it directly from the referee's mouth would help to educate them.