Paul Heckingbottom let rip at the “appalling” level of Premier League referees after Sheffield United’s loss at Tottenham, saying officials “do not know the game” in a stunning rant.
The beaten Blades manager did not hold back in his comments about the state of officiating in the top flight, and insisted it was unrelated to his side’s 100th-minute defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Saturday.
Much of his ire was directed towards the manner of the PGMOL’s public campaign to crack down on time-wasting this season, and how he felt referees were over-reaching with their demands about the restart of play.
“The officiating is appalling,” he told Sky Sports. “It’s not about the football decisions, just game management. My worry is that all the focus is on the yellow cards, time-wasting, the new guidelines.
“The focus all of a sudden comes onto time-wasting, so they’re dictating how we play. If you play to take goal kicks from the back, you set up one way, and if Spurs go against that, that dictates the decision you make.
“We’re getting told to just play long – you can’t do it. Wes [Foderingham] got booked for handling outside the box and then you’re threatening him with another yellow [for dissent], you just can’t do it.
“When I speak to the referees, they haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about. They’re officiating our games at the top level, and they simply do not know the game. We need to sort that, and sort it quick. It ruined the spectacle.”
Heckingbottom was barely happier that Micky van de Ven did not receive a harsher punishment for what appeared to be a first-half elbow on Foderingham, which left the goalkeeper requiring treatment and the Spurs defender on a yellow card.
A red card was shown later in the game to Sheffield United striker Ollie McBurnie, who was sent off in the final seconds for dissent against referee Peter Bankes.
Heckingbottom said: “You see all the frustration. Both teams, both sides, both teams taking the mickey out of the ref and to sum it all up, we get Ollie McBurnie sent off for telling the referee someone’s pulling his shirt.
“We’ve just seen someone turning their back, jumping into our goalkeeper, leading with an elbow, he needs stitches – and that’s deemed the same offence. What’s going on with our game?
“This is irrespective of our performance, of our game. I would’ve said the same things at 0-0 or when we were 1-0 up.
“My worry is where we’re taking our game, and I say this when I speak to Howard [Webb]. The people who don’t know anything about football are directing which way the game goes, and it’s sad. That was sad today.”