It is fair to say that referee Mike Dean wasn’t on top of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s Christmas card following his decision to award a penalty against The Gunners in their draw with West Bromwich Albion. His decision was widely derided with Sky pundits Jamie Redknapp and Ray Parlour describing it as “awful” and “horrendous”, whilst Alan Shearer said “it was never a penalty”. Even West Brom manager Alan Pardew affirmed that “the decision was tough on Arsenal”.
Talking to Sky Sports a few days after the match, former referee Dermot Gallagher noted” It’s not a penalty, you know it isn’t, everyone knows this now, including the referee … unfortunately, he judged it wrong, but that’s all it was, one mistake.”
Unfortunately, Gallagher is wrong in his assessment on two counts. First of all, there is no evidence whatsoever that Dean believes he made an error, and, secondly, far from this being only one mistake, it is the latest in a litany of such blunders which have marked the career of such an unlikeable official.
Part of the problem with Dean is that he appears to want to be the centre of attention with a range of facial expressions and gestures that would make him more suited to a role in a Hollywood musical rather than officiating a top flight match. There is also the air of arrogance that he exudes, and his refusal to engage in dialogue with players and club officials over his decisions. Niall Quinn commented a year ago “Time and time again I look at this guy Mike Dean and his arrogance alone, and I suppose running the show and looking the part…..it puts me off”. Meanwhile former Ireland international Stephen Hunt described Dean as “the most arrogant man he’d ever met on a football pitch”.
Aside from his latest clanger, here are some of the other major Mike Dean moments in recent years.
Chelsea versus Arsenal 2015
New Year’s Eve was by no means the first time that Dean has incurred the wrath of Arsenal fans. In September 2015 Dean sent off Arsenal defender Gabriel in this London derby, but failed to mete out similar punishment to Chelsea forward Diego Costa who scratched Gabriel’s neck, and struck fellow defender Laurent Koscielny twice in the face, before banging him in the chest.
After the match, an online petition demanding Dean never be allowed to officiate an Arsenal match again attracted 106,000 signatures.
Mike Dean celebrating Tottenham goals
Referees are meant to be unbiased and impartial. Yet Dean has more than once been caught on the pitch celebrating goals for Tottenham Hotspur. The first time this happened was in the North London derby in 2012, as Louis Saha’s deflected shot gives Spurs the lead at The Emirates, as Dean visibly skips in the air with delight.
However, before there is talk of conspiracy theories amongst Arsenal fans, not to be out-done, Dean’s reaction as Spurs score against Aston Villa is a full-blown celebration, with both arms raised in the air as the ball hits the back of the net.
West Ham United versus Manchester United 2017
15 minutes into the match, Dean sent off West Ham’s Sofiane Feghouli for a late tackle on United’s Phil Jones. The problem was that Feghouli’s feet never left the ground, whilst it was Jones who came in over the top on his man, and then dramatically reacted to the challenge.
Dean was not finished there, however. When West Ham’s Spaniard Pedro Obiang dared to look in his direction, Dean told him “Don’t look at me again, otherwise you won’t be playing again”. The referee then compounded matters by failing to spot that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was clearly offside when scoring United’s second goal.
Afterwards, West Ham manager Slavan Bilic riled against the red card saying “it was the key decision and it killed us”.
Feghouli’s red card and resultant three match ban were rescinded by the FA.
Barnsley – Leeds United January 2017
Dean’s blunders are not just confined to the Premier League. Following the West Ham game, he was demoted to officiating matches in the Championship for a spell, and took charge of the Yorkshire derby between Barnsley and Leeds United. With the home side leading 3 – 1 and time running out, Barnsley defender Marc Roberts was chasing back with Leeds forward Chris Wood, when he brushed the ball with his hand.
Dean immediately gave a penalty, even though Roberts was clearly outside the area, and the better-placed assistant linesman had not signalled. Wood scored although, fortunately for Barnsley, there was no time for Leeds to get an equaliser.
Bournemouth – Manchester City August 2017
Even when Dean gets a decision technically right, he fails to read the spirit of the game, and manages to alienate both fans and pundits with his attitude and arrogance.
In August this season, Manchester City were playing away at Bournemouth, with the two sides level at one goal each, as the match headed into 5 minutes injury time. Those 5 minutes inexplicably became 10, and then, in the 7th minute of added-on time, Raheem Sterling scored a winner for the away team. In his joy he ran to celebrate with City supporters, several of whom spilled on to the pitch. Sterling was booked for excessive celebration and, because he was already on a yellow card, Dean promptly sent him off.
Ex-players were quick to have their say. Bobby Zamora tweeted
— Bobby Zamora (@RobertZamora25) August 26, 2017
Meanwhile Ian Wright commented:
Mike Dean !!! Obviously never got to score the winning goal in the playground. Probably playing marbles on a drain. 🤣🤣🤣
— Ian Wright (@IanWright0) August 26, 2017
Sadly for football fans, Dean looks set to continue his refereeing career with immunity for his misdeeds, and it is Wenger who is set for a stadium ban if remarks he made to the controversial official after the West Brom game are regarded as bringing the game into disrepute.
Dean might do well to remember that the game of football is about 22 men on the pitch, and the man in the middle is there to assist the spectacle, not become the centre of it.