Last Thursday I attended an event called ‘You are the Ref’ at Riley’s Sports Bar in London. Two of the panelist’s were Sam Allardyce and infamous former referee Keith Hackett. While Allardyce did a quick exit at the end of the recording, guest WHTID poster Nigel Kahn and myself decided to door stop Keith Hackett with a request for an interview for his horrendous decision to send off Tony Gale in the 1991 FA Cup semi final.
For those who don’t know, Keith Hackett caused a storm that continues to haunt many West Ham fans when he sent Hammers defender Tony Gale for an early bath in the 1991 FA Cup semi-final v Nottingham Forest for bringing down Gary Crosby. Gale became the first ever footballer to be instantly dismissed for what is now known as the DOGSO rule (Denial Of Goal-Scoring Opportunity)
Hackett blamed the FA for his decision that day and explained he was made a scape goat but he did apologise and shoulders his part of the blame for the fateful decision.
After the match in the car park Hackett says:
“A guy from the FA came up to me and said, listen if you hadn’t sent him off we would have suspended you, I told him where to go off!” explained Hackett
“Believe it or not I worked in Romford so I can imagine going into the works area and getting absolutely castigated by the staff, it was not a happy time for me and one of my biggest regrets that I was put in that position and left with no alternative other then to dismiss”
“Behind the scenes I was in touch with the F.A, I said look I am the sacrificial cow here, we’ve gained nothing, the game has gained nothing through your change at such a late stage of the season”
“The facts are a player gets an opportunity to go to Wembley maybe once in his career, my decision affected the opportunity of that player to go to Wembley and perhaps to get a winners medal but the other side is that is look at all those fans that have come up from London, paid good money, all the things that happen and I’ve cocked it up and that’s why I am pretty harsh against refereeing now”
“West Ham fans rightly gave me a lot of stick on the day and for months afterwards, someone sent me a recording with a chant every time a referee gave a bad decision at West Ham it was “Are you Hackett in disguise?” I find that mildly amusing but at the same time it reminds me perhaps of the worst decision I ever had to make in my career and i had 34 years of active refereeing"
“There are many who watched West Ham and I ruined their day and I apologise for that, but at the same time I shoulder some of the blame at the end of the day I put blame on to the FA for making that change and the player not knowing, neither player knowing and neither manager knew about that interpretation. I remember going to the FA room and saying wow we didn’t except that was going to happen did we? that was the risk!. When we sat in that room on the Thursday [before the game] we should of said ‘Get Lost Mate’ [To the FA] we will change next season and we should have done that”
Following the interview which will broadcast in full on West Ham podcast Moore Than Just A Podcast on Monday I called up Tony Gale to get his reaction.
“It’s a quarter of a century too late, I appreciate the apology now but it still really hard to accept, I know Keith said it was the FA that said to him in the car park afterwards that you hadn’t have sent off Tony then probably you wouldn’t of refereed again but I find that a bit hard to believe. I still thought it was a decision where it was an egotistical decision where he thought he would be the first to make that decision after that ruling came up. I still don’t think by today’s standards I would be sent off and I still don’t think I fouled him. There is nothing you can do about it now, there is never in a million years I would say that was a sending off!”
Both interviews can be heard in full on the West Ham Podcast Moore Than Just A Podcast on Monday evening March 2, 2015 moorethanjustapodcast.co.uk
Here is the sending off incident 24 years ago if you need reminding or you weren’t alive in 1991. Let us know your views, Is it time to forgive and forget?