Who would be a referee?

Martin O’Neill said it was a clear penalty, Alex McLeish said it was definately not a penalty, even Andy Gray said on Sky Sports that he could understand why the referee got it wrong.

They are the differing biased opinions of the same incident that make refereeing in the Premier League an almost impossible job.

The decision to give a penalty for Roger Johnson’s challenge on Gabriel Agbonlahor was the incident that decided the midlands derby in Villa’s favour.

Yes, Alex McLeish has a point, you can’t assume that something is a penalty, or at least you shouldn’t assume. But what are the alternatives?

If referees stop making decisions because they are maybe not 100% sure, you could end up with situations where no penalties are given unless someone is kicked up in the air 10 yards away from the ball.

Look at Howard Webb lately, the poor bloke is too scared to give a penalty these days such is his loss in confidence. Is that where we want to take refereeing too?

The likes of McLeish, O’Neill, the other managers and players all have a responsibility to cut the officials a bit of slack when a decision is as tight as this one was.

I accept that when a ref or his assistant gets an absolute stick on one wrong, he is fair game for criticism. The two penalty decisions at Wembley involving O’Neill and his Villa team, or the off-side Drogba goal at Old Trafford spring to mind. They were all indefensible.

For the record I thought it was a good tackle, but can fully understand why the referee gave it, and attach no blame to the ref.

Is Joe Hart playing his way to South Africa?

The form of Joe Hart in goal for Birmingham is giving Fabio Capello some good goalkeeping news at long last.

The trials and tribulations of England goalkeepers this season would have been worrying Capello with just six months to go to the start of the world cup.

Of the three goalkeepers that would seem to be in pole position for the world cup squad places, David James, Rob Green and Ben Foster, none of them are having anything approaching a good season to date.

David James has had injuries all season and has been in and out of the Portsmouth team with them. He has had no decent run of games and with that no chance to get himself in good form.

Even when he is in the team with the way Portsmouth are performing his confidence can’t be too high. Perhaps the best thing for James would be a move away from Pompey when the transfer window opens shortly.

Rob Green, has, like his club side West Ham, been struggling this season. Recent high profile blunders against Bolton in a high pressured relegation six pointer, along with recent mistakes for England, dosen’t inspire you with confidence in his ability to cope with big game pressure.

If he can’t handle the pressure of a relegation fight, why should we believe he will handle the pressure of the world cup any better.

Apart from that I’ve always had my doubts about him anyway. Like Paul Robinson before him, he has always been a good shot stopper, but I’m not too keen on his allround game.

Ben Foster is the one who’s place is probably most under pressure from Capello. If Capello sticks to his mantra that you have to be playing regular first team football then how could he justify picking Foster?

He is not only, not playing in the first team, he is as low as third choice at Old Trafford. And this after being given the chance to claim the number one spot with a run of games at the start of the season while Edwin van der Sar was out injured.

In all honesty Foster blew his chance to become the new Manchester United number one with a series of spectacular mistakes in big high profile games, such as against Arsenal at Old Trafford, the Manchester derby, the Community Shield and then in the ill fated 2-2 draw with Sunderland, his last appearance before Ferguson replaced him with the barely fit again Van der Sar.

The case for Joe Hart is helped by the fact he is playing with a lot of confidence and in a very confident Birmingham side who are flying high at the moment.

A good prospect while at Manchester City, he was only replaced because a keeper of the quality of Shay Given became available, that should be no slight on Hart’s ability.

He has been outstanding for Birmingham lately and has played a big part in their remarkable 11 game unbeaten run in the Premier League, keeping clean sheets in 5 of those games and he is now earning great reviews from his manager Alex McLeish.

McLeish has spoke about how he made a couple of errors early in the season but has bounced back strongly and speaks highly of him as an intelligent lad who listens and always wants to learn.

If he continues in this manner I would imagine Capello will have to pick him. I’m not saying to make him number one as David James is by far England’s most experienced goalkeeper and this is no time to throw a young keeper into that position.

A couple of positive outings in the upcoming friendlys for Hart though could give Capello a headache in a positive manner, rather than worrying about who is going to be the best of a bad bunch, Capello could well have an in form keeper in his squad at last.