What's going on? Rafa Benitez, Newcastle and Championship referees
Rafa Benitez was angry. And he was angry, first and foremost, with Henri Lansbury.
Newcastle United’s manager kept a lid on his anger, but only just.
Benitez took his seat in the City Ground’s cramped post-match media room and waited for the first question from the half a dozen or so journalists sat in front of him.
It was about Lansbury.
Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett had been sent off in Newcastle’s 2-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest.
The common denomenator was Lansbury, or “the No 10”, as Benitez referred to him.
“In both situations, I think he was doing something that normally in England everybody criticises,” said Benitez, still nursing a cold.
“I was really surprised by that.
“I don’t know if they can look at the images, but maybe they can consider their No 10 in both situations, because I think he was creating a mess.”
Benitez, remarkably calm given his understandable anger, indicated he would not appeal either card.
He didn’t even directly criticise referee Stephen Martin, who had missed a foul on Ciaran Clark in the Forest box.
Benitez, never one to publicly criticise officials, didn’t throw Martin under a bus as the team coach was waited for him outside.
Shelvey was sent off by Martin for reacting to provocation from Lansbury.
Dummett was dismissed after a challenging a tumbling Lansbury in the box.
Lansbury, according to Benitez, was “clever”.
That was one way of putting it.
Benitez went on: “I will not ask for anything. If they want to do something, fine. If they do not, it is up to them.
“We made a mistake, but he was kicking Jonjo first, and after that he was waiting and diving.
“It was so obvious, so clear. So if they want to do something, fine. If not, forget it. We will carry on and do what we have to do, and make sure we do not make these mistakes like Jonjo.”
Benitez and the club had time to think over the weekend. This wasn’t the first time United have been frustrated by a referee this season. And it won’t be the last.
Referees, unquestionably, have a difficult job, but the difference between the standard of Premier League and Championship officiating is striking.
Are Newcastle being treated any differently? Or are the referees just that much worse in English football’s second tier?
Those are the questions the club, which doesn’t want special treatment, has been asking over the past few days.