|Black mark: Clattenburg and Mikel|
MARK CLATTENBURG will return to refereeing tomorrow night for the first time since his outrageous exhibition of wayward whistling at Stamford Bridge on October 28.
But while the 37-year-old from Newcastle goes back to work, Chelsea’s Nigeria international John Obi Mikel faces a charge of misconduct from the English Football Association, with the outcome expected later this week.
Though Chelsea have yet to recover from Clattenburg’s machinations nearly a month ago, the referee in question was the fourth official at White Hart Lane for Tottenham’s win over West Ham on Sunday.
And Clattenburg will be in possession of the whistle for the first time when Norwich travel to Southampton tomorrow night. It is unlikely he will use the word “monkey” at any point.
The FA’s official website says simply: "Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel has been charged by The FA for an alleged breach of FA Rule E3 in relation to his side’s game against Manchester United on 28 October 2012.
"It is alleged that in or around the Match Officials’ changing room at the end of the fixture, Mikel used threatening and/or abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour.”
Mikel has not denied the charge – in fact, he wants a personal hearing to explain the circumstances surrounding the matter. He has until Friday to do that. Why does he want a hearing? Because he feels aggrieved. He feels he was right. He heard the racist word “monkey” used by the referee.
I believe Mikel heard Clattenburg used the classic Geordie expression “cheeky monkey” though some suggest he said “I don’t give a monkey’s” during the match.
And several sources report Clattenburg calling Juan Mata “Spanish twat” when things became heated late in the game.
Those expressions sound worse in isolation than they do in print. “Cheeky monkey” is by no means a racist insult, it is generally used affectionately towards children in Britain, though few would dream of using those words where a Nigerian midfield enforcer is concerned.
As for “I don’t give a monkey’s”, that’s a post-war phrase meaning “I couldn’t care less” which has largely fallen into disuse south of the Tyne.
“Spanish twat” is probably the worst of the allegations, though it would be difficult to accuse Clattenburg of racism over that particular nationalistic outburst, all part of his chatty refereeing style.
So Clattenburg has been “cleared of any wrongdoing”. The FA say: "We have concluded the investigation into alleged misconduct by Mark Clattenburg during the match between Chelsea FC and Manchester United FC on Sunday 28 October 2012. No disciplinary action will follow against Mr Clattenburg.”
But how is it that Clattenburg, a referee who has a history of bad debt, bad tempered emails and bad decisions, escaped unpunished from what Chelsea clearly believe was a clear case of abuse against TWO of their players – Mikel and Mata? To the point where chairman Bruce Buck has apologised in person and compensation may have to be paid?
After all, Chelsea have yet to recover from the events of that fateful last-gasp 3-2 defeat against Manchester United. They haven’t won a game since, they’ve crashed off the top of the Premier League and out of the Champions League.
And to cap it all, miraculous European conqueror Roberto di Matteo has been sacked as coach in the aftermath, replaced amid loud boos by unloved former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez.
Clattenburg sent off two Blues – Branislav Ivanovic and, more controversially for diving, Fernando Torres – and awarded United an off-side winner before finding himself confronted by the usually phlegmatic Buck and several others in his dressing room after the match, where the accusations of abuse flew.
Initially, Chelsea wanted action taken against Clattenburg for verbally abusing both Mata and Mikel, but on October 31, they chose to pursue the matter on behalf of Mikel alone.
The FA statement on that read: "On Wednesday 31 October Chelsea FC contacted The FA and confirmed that the club had conducted an internal enquiry and that they did wish to proceed with a formal complaint in relation to one of the allegations of abuse. The club did not wish to proceed in relation to the other allegation. The club provided witness statements from two players, Ramires Santos do Nascimento (“Ramires”) and John Obi Mikel.”
Ramires and Mikel were interviewed by The FA on November 5 where the FA also used video footage of the match. Chelsea provided "unbroadcast television coverage of the game from static cameras" which The FA showed Ramires when he was re-interviewed on November 15.
The FA also revealed that its findings showed that Ramires' first language is not English and that Mikel "was much closer to the referee than Ramires and did not hear what it is suggested was said to him."
The three other match officials, who were also witnesses in the case, said Clattenburg did not utter the "alleged words" via their communication gadgets. But would Mikel and Mata have reported the words if they hand’t been uttered? I doubt it.
Though Sir Alex Ferguson leapt to Clattenburg’s defence – insisting with absolutely no basis that Clattenburg would “never do that” – there can be no question a display of very poor refereeing was punctuated by very poorly chosen words.
But the FA appear to feel that doesn’t matter. Punishing Mikel for his righteous indignation does. Do
they give a monkey’s?