‘Significant’ - PGMOL chief admits costly ‘error’ that may have relegated Newcastle United

Former referee and PGMOL technical director Howard Webb has admitted to making an ‘error’ that may have relegated Newcastle United in 2009.
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Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League for the first time at the end of the 2008-09 season following a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day of the season.

But The Magpies’ penultimate match of the campaign against Fulham at St James’ Park also ended in a 1-0 defeat. Webb was referee for the match and over 14-years on has admitted that he incorrectly disallowed a Newcastle equaliser scored by Mark Viduka that hypothetically could have kept them up after Diomansy Kamara had given Fulham the lead in the first half.

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Webb admitted the mistake to Alan Shearer, who was Newcastle manager at the time, on The Rest Is Football Podcast as he said: “It’s taken 10 years but people are talking about acknowledging errors at the moment and I do have to acknowledge that error.

“I blame Kevin Nolan. It was Newcastle v Fulham. And I’m not totally to blame for it, I did only referee one of those games you were in charge for! 

“Kevin had been standing on the toes of Mark Schwarzer on corners and I’d sort of had a word with Kevin. A corner was awarded and I saw him do it again so I stopped it, you see referees blowing the whistle, go in and have a word so I did that and said, ‘don’t do it, don’t stand on his toes.’

“Anyway, as the corner is coming in, [Nolan] moves towards Schwarzer and I just reacted too quickly and blew and he kind of just stopped short of doing it and Mark Viduka slammed this [header] into the top corner, majestically as I’ve blown the whistle thinking ‘oh my goodness, I’ve blown too soon’.

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“No VAR, no opportunity to change it and I spent the rest of the day thinking, ‘I hope Newcastle come back into this game’ and they didn’t.”

“I ended up having to send a player [Sebastien Bassong] off for a professional foul as well and Newcastle lost.

“You went to Villa on the last day needing a win or a point and I remember being at West Ham the same day thinking ‘I hope Newcastle have got something out of the game’ otherwise that decision to disallow that goal is going to be pretty significant.”

Newcastle were ultimately relegated and Shearer left his role as manager at the end of the season.

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In response to Webb’s admission, Shearer begrudgingly said: “You’re forgiven.”

The Magpies returned to the Premier League at the first attempt by winning the Championship under Chris Hughton. Six seasons later, The Magpies were relegated again but once again bounced back by winning the Championship, this time under the management of Rafael Benitez.

Since the club’s most recent promotion in 2017, they had to settle for mid-table finishes before Eddie Howe led Newcastle to a fourth place finish during the 2022-23 campaign and qualification for the Champions League for the first time in over 20 years.