Consistency ruined

Anthony Taylor did his best to ruin my Christmas... Carlton Cole's too... and the FA compounded the problem with their long-winded reaction to big Sam's appeal against that shocking red card that probably cost us victory against Everton last weekend.

The Cheshire referee confounded everyone with his trigger-happy red card against Cole, and then again for a similar - if probably worse - offence by Darron Gibson in the final minutes.

The FA normally handle such appeals with a speed of light these days, but they clearly don't have a Christmas duty team set-up. It meant Gibson could play against Wigan on Boxing Day, and that can't be right.

Maybe I'm sounding a bit mean about the dear old FA administrators. But when I was working, in effect in the football industry, I had to work all over the holidays. No complaint, that was what the job was.

The FA are in charge of a multi-billion pound industry, but can shutdown over Christmas, leaving all appeals pending until the Thursday. The appeals paperwork had to be in by 1pm on Monday, why couldn't the panel sit that afternoon so everyone could be put out of their misery?

Taylor's decision was slammed by virtually every pundit/ former player there is. Chris Kamara, Steve Claridge, Alan Shearer, Roberto Martinez and Malky McKay all ridiculed the decision.

They were on about there being 'no intent', and he touched the ball first. Whatever. Such universal condemnation will surely mean the FA will find a way to back their man.

Most papers condemned the decision too. Although the Times' Alyson Rudd produced a pedantic piece suggesting that managers want consistency from referees, and that's what they got. And it should be left to referees to decide how dangerous the challenge was.

All I can say to that is that having watched the Aston Villa vs Spurs game on Boxing Day, there was a challenge from Emmanuel Adebayo's jump and neck-high lunge that caught Villa's Ciaran Clark in the face, and referee Mark Clattenburg just awarded a free-kick. No yellow or red card there. So much for consistency.

The problem is that the ruling that had trapped Cole is virtually the same one that governs studs-up challenges and two footed tackles with both feet off the ground, which the rule makers now consider a 'danger to opponents.'

There is no mention of intent or touching the ball first, it's only about whether the referee considers the incident a danger to an opponent. So the FA tend to find some high-morale ground support for their official in such circumstances.

It still means that Big Sam has had to wait until two days before a crucial match at Reading to know who is available for selection.

I must admit to being as angry as I can remember after Cole's red card. Two sympathetic Everton fans on the tube back to Euston were well-meaning, but then they had the three points.

It wasn't really for a couple of days did my reactions become more rational. And what I was really angry about was the loss of six crucial points from winnable positions in successive home games. And the fact that how our team reacted to such adversity that really bothered me.

This is an unforgiving, cruel division. Unforgiving because those six points are lost forever, and we could have won both games. Cruel, because Liverpool and Everton were savagely quick to punish us.

When Mo Diame was carried off with us leading against Liverpool, our team froze. Substitute James Tomkins was way out of position for the equaliser, and maybe Gary O'Neil, a tackling scuffling midfielder, would have been better in the circumstances.

Then when Cole departed, again our side were seriously effected, and again our reaction to a problem was poor. Everton were full of sympathy and John Heitinga even escorted Cole to the line with his arm around the shoulder of our distraught striker.

Then Everton kept the ball for much of the closing minutes, although Kevin Nolan missed a great chance to snatch an equaliser right in front of a stunned Bobby Moore lower.

Those six extra points would have given our club a very different perspective going into the January transfer window. We would have been on 29 points and heading for safety. Players are more happy to join clubs in such a situation than if they are in the relegation zone.

Only big wages and opt-out clauses should relegation follow get players to even consider moving to strugglers.

About the only good thing about the week is that so many other results went for us. While we were losing to Everton, all the bottom five lost, which meant the gap between us and the relegation zone stayed at eight points.

Then on Boxing Day almost the same thing happened, with just Southampton and Reading picking up points from the bottom group, so we still stayed eight points above safety.

But we must stop thinking we are outside the relegation battle. We have won two of our last ten and collected nine points from what we all knew was a very tough run on games.

We also knew the opening bunch of matches were a comfortable re-introduction to the top flight, and we took advantage of that. The second batch were much more difficult.

Now we have Reading, Norwich, QPR and Sunderland as our next four league games, and people always say you survive on your results against teams around you in the table. Well, this is that moment.

Sam is making noises about needing money and re-enforcements, and talking of the ?65m clubs will get next season. That differs slightly from Karen Brady's comment that the increase will be about ?15m on what clubs currently get.

The point though is that everything depends on staying up. Signings, new stadiums, paying off Sheffield United, our whole future. I doubt the Davids could handle another relegation.

So they have to gamble now, find the money and let Sam make sure we have the resources to stay up. And Sam knows, this, he is in a strong position because we dare not waste what has been a decent start to our campaign.

But we still need 17 points minimum from 20 matches. That's not really much different from our current haul of 23 from 18 games. So although the Chelsea victory gave us all so much belief, we are not safe yet.

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