Anorak News | Poll Axed

Poll Axed

by | 23rd, June 2006

Old Mr Anorak can remember a time when England regularly failed to qualify for international tournaments, and in the absence of a national team to support we had make our own entertainment. One of the most popular methods among the commentating community was to follow the progress of the English referee, who was always “in with a chance of being awarded the final”.

Last night, old Mr Anorak tuned in to watch Australia v Croatia, and was surprised to hear the commentator boast before the kick-off that match referee Graham Poll of England was indeed in with a shout of the final. He even suggested that Poll might be the only Englishman who actually wanted the national team to be knocked out, in order that he should be granted the honour of adjudicating in Berlin on the 9th of July.

Perhaps Poll overheard him. Perhaps, overcome with anger at having his patriotism impugned, he vowed to rule himself out of the running by turning in a performance that took the concept of the “English eccentric” to new heights. Whatever his motive, last night’s performance not only put paid to any fanciful notions of getting the final, but might well have achieved the rare feat of being kicked out of the tournament before his own national side.

The warning signs were there early on, when Poll failed to notice Croatian captain Josip Simunic dragging down Mark Viduka in the penalty area. At this point old Mr Anorak turned to his Australian wife, who was shearing a sheep by the fireside. “He’s is a lucky chap to get away with that one,” he remarked. “Should have been a yellow card and a penalty.”

Later, after Poll had awarded a penalty against Sjepan Tomas for handball, the same defender handled in the area again, but got away with it. “He’s another lucky one,” said old Mr Anorak, whose conversation tends to be rather limited these days.

Then Simunic finally got a yellow. “He’s a lucky chap,” said old Mr Anorak. “He should have had one before, and this one should be red.”

Then Simonic got another yellow. “He’s off!” cried old Mr Anorak. But Mr Poll had other ideas. He booked Simunic again but failed to spot that this was his second booking. Then Simunic got a third yellow. “He’s off!” cried Mr Anorak again, and this time he was right.

In the meantime, Poll had sent off two other players and awarded Australia an offside goal. When Australia scored a winner, Mrs Anorak hurled her sheep at the wall in delight. But no – Poll had blown for full-time, Clive Thomas-style, as the ball was crossing the line, and the goal was disallowed.

Old Mr Anorak recalls that Mr Poll recently appeared on Match of the Day 2 to comment on the “top five” worst refereeing decisions of all time, one of which was Clive Thomas’s infamous decision to blow for time as a Brazilian shot was headed goalwards. Poll declared he would never do such a thing, but he proved last night that anything is possible in the heat of the moment.

At full time, old Mr Anorak threw his plate of Chocolate Olivers in the air, clapped his hands and declared it the best entertainment since the Millwall riot at Luton in 1984.

The papers, however, are less amused. “POLL’S THREE CARD THICK,” scoffs the Sun. “He loses plot in World Cup farce.” The Times points out that Poll is facing “the humiliating prospect of being sent home from the World Cup for a second time”. This refers to Poll’s dismissal from the 2002 World Cup after just one match, during which he disallowed two perfectly good Italian goals. Their opponents that day happened to be Croatia, so maybe Poll was indulging in a bit of subconscious “evening up”.

The paper recalls that Poll tried to make light of the situation at the time, saying that he wouldn’t have been able to officiate beyond the last 16 because England had progressed to the quarter-finals. Let’s hope for his sake that they do so again, and his sacrifice is not in vain.

Meanwhile, the FA is already looking ahead to the post-Eriksson era, which could be upon us any time from Sunday onwards. The Mirror reports that Terry Venables will be back on board, as part of a “Three Lions Dream team”. No word yet from Keegan and Thomas, but fingers crossed…

Posted: 23rd, June 2006 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink