I like a good game of cards now and then. Poker, Solitaire, Gin Rummy. I even like the idea of Bridge: not for old ladies any more I've been told. Cards in a football match however, that's like peanut-butter on steak -- bound to cause anger and nausea. Man-child referee Mark Clattenburg was true to his name when United visited White Hart Lane, handing out a total of ten yellow cards for various dives, mangled tackes, and over-all obstructive football that official propaganda channels deem 'essential to the English Game.'
Being the good Canadian that I am, when the ref begins to resemble a Las Vegas croupier I tend to think it's the product on the pitch that's the problem and not the blind and deaf official. And when Manchester United come to town, if they're not allowed a pleasant stroll into the opposing area the game will usually descend into a series of whistles, whinging and wrangling including from Mr. Ferguson, who seems to maintain the vain belief that the more red his face, the more favourable the calls will eventually be.
Yesterday was a case study for this sort of match. Tottenham played well but they weren't afraid of the odd tackle now and then, many fair, some great, some as poorly timed as a breakup at Christmas. United were miserable, if not for the dives and tackles, some atrocious, then for the constant complaining and surrounding the referee after every whistle. Clattenburg is an easy guy to surround; if he were an actor, he'd land the role of the nervous rookie cop who's taken for a manic ride by a psychotic elder lieutenant. He does not instill certainty by any means, but he is the ref and his word goes.
Yet many in England seem to disagree. The swarthy fellow Setanta hired to patronize viewers at half-time took the angle that 'this isn't rugby. Surrounding the ref is all part of the drama of football.' Maybe he's forgotten but drama in football used to refer to something like this. Until Trevor Brooking gets on with serious on-pitch reforms concerning the treatment of referees, you'll have to get used to more Skippy on your sirloin.