For and against: Mike Dean's antics have gone too far
Two of our writers debate whether the idiosyncratic referee needs to tone down his peculiar mannerisms...
Jack Green | The argument for
No one can deny that Mike Dean is entertaining.
His flamboyant antics on the pitch are perfect Vine fodder, and they certainly add a certain something to every Premier League weekend.
His occasional celebrating of a well-timed advantage is also no cause for criticism – he takes obvious pride in his work, and should be commended for doing so.
And by being the only referee to consistently enforce the FA’s new initiative against holding in the penalty area, he’s proven that unlike many officials, he is not afraid to make unpopular decisions.
But the best referees are those who go unnoticed for the entire 90 minutes, and Dean’s constant courting of the cameras has seen him attract the spotlight on far too many occasions.
His place in the headlines this week is evidence enough that his behaviour on the pitch has gone too far.
It is a distraction ahead of the FA Cup game he will oversee on Sunday between Tottenham and Aston Villa.
All eyes will be on Dean at White Hart Lane, and that added scrutiny cannot help a man in one of the most high-pressure jobs in football.
His decision making is already being adversely affected by his mentality.
That staunch self-belief and refusal to shy away from big calls mean he often sees things that aren’t actually there, like Sofiane Feghouli’s supposed lunge at Phil Jones on Monday.
That is why Dean so regularly features as the top trend on Twitter – his bad games are comprised of multiple inexplicable calls as one mistake so regularly follows another.
Both Martin Atkinson and Mark Clattenberg are ahead of Dean on the referees’ elite list, and while the latter also seems to enjoy the cameras’ gaze, he also makes far fewer incorrect decisions.
Clattenberg’s matey demeanour inspires the odd cringe, but he does calm volatile situations by getting the players on his side.
Dean seems to only stoke the flames by treating footballers like misbehaving schoolchildren.
Stephen Hunt labelled him “the most arrogant man he’s ever met on a football pitch”, and that is not the only example of that sort of rhetoric being used to describe the Wirral official.
Dean has reportedly been taken aback by the criticism he has received, and is seeking coaching to tone down his mannerisms.
Until the media furore dies down, it is the right step to take.
Adam Drury | The argument against
The newfangled notion of the ‘celebrity ref’ – of which the Wirral’s Mike Dean is a pioneer – appears to be twisting an awful lot of knickers.
That the, let’s say, idiosyncratic referee regularly claims post-match headlines does, understandably, not sit well with many.
Dean is, after all, only there to assist the centrepiece.
But the concept should not be discouraged too vigorously.
Not only is decision making difficult, but referees at any level are also forced to negotiate foul abuse from all and sundry, whether their calls are right or wrong.
Portraying an inflated sense of self-importance and belief is, therefore, surely the most effective coping mechanism – particularly when requested by your employers to enforce contentious rules.
And when it comes to the FA’s summer crackdowns – namely, shirt-grabbing inside the box and dissent – Dean’s efficiency has topped any of his colleagues.
After just three weeks of the Premier League season, the 45-year-old had caused consternation by awarding two penalties for negligible shirt-pulls inside the box – particularly memorably penalising Raheem Sterling at Stoke.
But both, by the letter of the law, were correct decisions, and Dean’s dismissive contempt of any remonstration in that instance has since ensured control over the matches that he officiates.
The Wirral Whistler’s distinctive gestures, meanwhile – the true root of his cult fame – are harmless at worst, and another example of his exacting standards at best.
He wheeled away wonderfully to celebrate with himself when playing advantage led to Spurs’ opener against Aston Villa last season, delighted with his work.
And his what-do-you-expect-me-to-do shrug explains decisions more succinctly than 1,000 words.
He cannot be doing with Premier League players and their histrionics, and is unable to comprehend a single rebuke.
Equally, his frustration at players’ incompetence – notably, foul throws or a failure to capitalise on advantage – is brilliantly expressed with a roll of the eyes or a dismissive flick of the wrists.
Dean is a man who dislikes it when standards slip. And he cares.
In a game lacking individual personality and character, he is a refreshing antidote.
Of the 23 performers on the field of play, he is the most regular source of amusement, while channelling his eccentricity into fine displays of officiating, too. Admirable.
Crucially, though, Dean’s remarkable methods are being proven as the most effective way to deal with the turmoils of refereeing.
Let him get on with it, or you risk a no-look brandishing to the naughty step.