MARTIN SAMUEL: David Coote upsets fans again but who cares? It’s only West Brom

    MARTIN SAMUEL: David Coote upsets fans again with controversial calls at Old Trafford following his Merseyside derby debacle but who cares? It’s only West Brom

    • Man United saw off the Baggies with a Bruno Fernandes spot kick the difference
    • Fernandes conceded a penalty before VAR intervened to rule out the spot kick
    • Referee David Coote has been criticised for overturning his original decision  

    Never mind, it’s only West Brom. David Coote may have been at the centre of more controversy this weekend, but at least he didn’t upset the supporters of any big clubs.

    Indeed, how relieved must he have been that every one of his significant calls on Saturday favoured Manchester United.

    The penalty that he turned down; the one he gave; the one he ordered to be retaken. All went United’s way. So no big social media storm there.

    David Coote for overturning his decision to award West Brom a penalty against Man United

    Nothing that would cause the PGMOL administrators to start fiddling with their appointments list again. And if the rule of the mob is the way forward for football, then this was a positive weekend for the Premier League.

    Coote was initially supposed to be VAR at Liverpool’s match against Leicester on Sunday night. But that was the role he had performed for the Merseyside derby last month, when he missed Jordan Pickford’s foul tackle on Virgil van Dijk. 

    So a social media backlash from angry Liverpool fans followed — at which point the PGMOL announced a switch, with Coote made referee of United’s game against West Brom instead. And some of us wondered what message that sent, if the large fan base of a club could influence the selection of senior officials.

    And we will never know for sure, but if a referee was looking for a quiet life he would have called the Old Trafford game exactly as Coote did.

    He would have reversed his decision to give a penalty to West Brom, even though what Bruno Fernandes got of the ball when tripping Conor Gallagher was negligible enough to be of no consequence. 

    Fernandes conceded a penalty before VAR intervened to rule out the spot-kick

    Fernandes conceded a penalty before VAR intervened to rule out the spot-kick

    He would have given a penalty against Darnell Furlong for handball, even though it looked very unfortunate, and he would have ordered a retake because goalkeeper Sam Johnstone had advanced from his line to make the first save. 

    And while the Furlong judgment, and certainly that against Johnstone, involved the application of modern rules, few neutrals agreed with ruling out West Brom’s penalty. It was a foul. A foul committed by a big player for a big club, with a very big need for a home win. What good fortune that problem went away, then.

    This is not to doubt Coote’s integrity. His VAR, Peter Bankes, alerted him to the possibility Fernandes may have got a slight touch on the ball. Yet given that escape route, who knows what pressure he felt subconsciously, the PGMOL having made it clear that upsetting large fan bases was to be avoided. 

    Some may suspect the PGMOL’s clumsy handling of this case is just another example of elite club advantage. But who cares about them anyway? It’s only West Brom.


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