It’s not often that Premier League refs get appointed to Reading games, but I suppose that’s what happens when you play the league leaders. Neil Swarbrick will be the man in the middle as Brighton visit the Madjeski Stadium this afternoon.
So far this season he has officiated in all four divisions of the Football League as well as the Capital One Cup – I challenge you to find another ref who has done that! He’s taken charge of nine games in total, giving 41 yellow cards and three red cards as well as four penalties. One of those spot-kicks was awarded to Brighton on the opening day of the season against Fulham, and was scored by Tomer Hemed to give the Seagulls a 2-1 win in the 90th minute. Let’s hope the same doesn’t occur this afternoon.
The 49 year old has reffed nine previous Reading games, of which the Royals have won four, lost four and drawn one. The most recent encounter was our FA Cup Quarter-Final tie at Bradford City last season when Swarbrick was appointed at the last minute after original ref Lee Mason called in sick. You’ll be pleased to hear that the Lancashire ref has never given a penalty against Reading or given a Royals player a red card, but has awarded us two penalties and sent off three opposition players. In less promising news, Brighton have lost just once when Swarbrick has been the ref, but that was a 7-1 defeat to Huddersfield in 2009.
Being a Select Group ref, Swarbrick’s gaffes receive a fair amount of press coverage, and his most high profile mistake to date was last season in the top flight game between Manchester City and West Brom. Just two minutes into the game, Baggies defender Craig Dawson fouled Wilfried Bony, but instead, Swarbrick sent off Garath McAuley in a terrible case of mistaken identity. He’s probably had nightmares ever since. Come on, I had to include at least one Halloween joke in there!