Mark Clattenburg and Nottingham Forest – the end of an error

He lasted 77 days. Eleven games, in total. And unfortunately for the supporters of Nottingham Forest, more refereeing controversies than they would probably care to remember. Not quite the end of an era, but maybe the end of an error.

And so, the Big Mark Clattenburg Experiment seems destined to be remembered as a failure, just as many people predicted when his appointment was announced on February 17 and the rest of the football world started rubbernecking in Forest’s direction.

He was the first “referee analyst” to be appointed in English football and, without wishing to be cruel, he might also be the last. And now he has gone, he’ll be added to the long list of people — Adama Diakhaby, Djamel Abdoun, Gary Megson, Lars Veldwijk, Jim Price and many others — who have pitched up beside the River Trent at one point or another since the turn of the century and, all things considered, are probably best forgotten.

Clattenburg did at least stay longer than Alex McLeish, a manager who lasted a mere 40 days during the era of tragicomedy when Fawaz Al Hasawi’s ownership of the club became known as Carry On Kuwait.

Yet the strangest part of Clattenburg’s involvement is that it was obvious from the start that, as he now acknowledges, it was going to mean more trouble than it was worth.

Nobody should be surprised, either. It was always misguided to believe, like a conjuror swishing his wand, that Clattenburg’s presence might somehow mean Forest got a better deal from referees.

Did anyone really think Clattenburg was the right man to soothe relations bearing in mind he brought out an autobiography in 2021 that read like a score-settling exercise and, among many gems, described the members of his profession as “snakes, climbers and backstabbers”.

Did the people who employed him carry out any real due diligence to establish what kind of influence the former Premier League referee might have with the relevant people at PGMOL? Because it really wouldn’t have been hard to find out that Clattenburg’s relationship with referees’ chief Howard Webb had been strained, to say the least, since a fallout at Euro 2012. Again, it was all in his book.

GettyImages 674789430

Clattenburg overseeing a Premier League game in 2017 (Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Clattenburg’s statement to announce his departure from the City Ground made it sound like he, and possibly others at the club, suspected the team had been getting a harsher deal from PGMOL since his appointment rather than before.

Who else, after all, could he have meant when he talked about his appointment having “caused unintended friction between NFFC and other participants, to the extent that it has become more of a hindrance than help”?

Clattenburg was brought in by the club’s owner, Evangelos Marinakis, and duly took his place in the directors’ box for each match. It felt like the kind of move that would typically happen at Olympiacos, Marinakis’ Greek club, rather than Forest. But perhaps the two clubs are gradually morphing into one, attitude-wise.

As for what he did to earn his money, that was never entirely clear. He was there, he said, to help the club “understand how decisions in relation to key match incidents are made amid the workings of VAR.”

But was that really necessary? After Forest’s experiences this season against Everton, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Liverpool, West Ham and a few more besides, did they really need someone to watch the footage and report back, “So, the referee has had an absolute horror show there, lads. Now, here’s my invoice, Evangelos, and thank you very much …”?

GettyImages 2150570975 scaled

Evangelos Marinakis watches his side take on Manchester City last weekend (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Unfortunately for Forest, Clattenburg’s appointment came in a season when, month after month, the club has suffered the kind of refereeing calamities that might have persuaded even the great Brian Clough to abandon his policy, whatever the circumstances, of treating match officials with good manners.

Actually, scratch that. Forest supporters of a certain generation will remember their club being the victim of a genuine scandal in 1984 when a Spanish referee by the name of Emilio Guruceta Muro took an £18,000 bung to fix their UEFA Cup semi-final against Anderlecht in favour of the Belgians.

The 40th anniversary passed last week and, flicking through Clough’s various books, the most remarkable detail is that the two-time European Cup-winning manager does not mention it once. Even when he was swindled out of another potential trophy, Clough kept up his standards as a manager who never berated the refereeing profession and would substitute any player who back-chatted the officials. Different times, indeed.

As for today’s Forest, let’s be absolutely clear they are entitled to be angry, to say the least, when they tot up the number of points they have potentially lost because of some highly debatable and, at times, chronically bad decisions.

And yet, it was difficult not to cringe when Clattenburg was wheeled out to share the club’s grievances with the media rather than leaving it, the old-fashioned way, to the manager, Nuno Espirito Santo. Clattenburg’s other weekend gig is to appear as a referee on the BBC TV show Gladiators. Football, as a whole, seems conflicted about whether he ought to be taken seriously.

He started saying his goodbyes after the Everton match on April 21, a 2-0 defeat for Forest featuring various controversies and the now-infamous tweet from the club account, directed by Marinakis himself, to highlight the fact Stuart Attwell, the accident-prone VAR, was a fan of Luton Town (one of the clubs in the relegation scrap with Forest) and hint at taking legal action against PGMOL.



Mark Clattenburg: The celebrity referee turned PGMOL agitator… via Gladiators

That was the moment when Clattenburg should have intervened and had the strength of personality to make it clear there was no way a Premier League club could go public that way and expect to get away with it.

A sensible voice might have pointed out that it would make Forest a laughing stock and, while it might be accepted as the norm in Greek football, it would spectacularly backfire in England and do a lot of damage to the club’s reputation.

GettyImages 2149637911 scaled

Anthony Taylor and VAR came under Forest scrutiny following the match at Goodison Park (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

But Clattenburg did not have the wit or gumption to talk Marinakis out of it (nor is there any evidence that he ever tried). The tweet went out and was seen, at the last count, by 45million people. Forest can expect a whopping fine when the Football Association, and possibly the Premier League, issue disciplinary charges for bringing the game into disrepute. And Gary Neville, on reflection, was probably right: Clattenburg ought to have resigned. After that kind of statement, any hope of him forging a strong working relationship with PGMOL had disintegrated. It was impossible.



Nottingham Forest’s furious tweet: What happened and why did they post it?

As it is, he waited 12 days before announcing that he would be off and, notoriously thin-skinned, he must have been referring to Neville when he mentioned “the unmerited targeting of me, personally, by certain participants and pundits.”

At least he won’t have to worry about that any more. It has been a nice little earner presumably, and who can blame him for taking the role? Just don’t expect it to catch on when, ultimately, it is difficult to see what Forest got out of the last 77 days other than some regrettable publicity.

(Header photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top