Saturday January 3rd. I am writing a Ref-Watch on our FA Cup Third Round tie away at Huddersfield. I start the article with "Will there be another one? Probably not. "Little did I know that three months and four more Ref-Watches later we would be playing under the Wembley arch against Arsenal in the semi-finals.
Along the way here on Ref-Watch we’ve met Phil, Lee, Craig, another Lee (who then didn’t turn up so it was Neil) and Mike. And now it’s the turn of Martin Atkinson to take charge of Reading’s cup dreams.
The 44 year old is an experienced official and has been a regular in the Premier League for the last ten years, whilst in recent seasons has also taken charge of Champions League and Europa League fixtures.
So far in 2014-15, Atkinson has been the man in the middle on 38 occasions, giving 141 yellow cards, 8 reds (average of 3.9 cards per game) and nine penalties. One of those early baths was given to Steven Gerrard just 38 seconds after the Liverpool skipper came on against Manchester United last month.
Other high-profile games that Martin has taken charge of this season include the North London derby, Chelsea vs Arsenal and Barcelona vs PSG. Tasty.
He has not refereed in the FA Cup this season since the Fifth Round clash between West’s Brom and Ham. But he has taken charge of a final before, as he officiated the 2011 show-piece as Manchester City beat Stoke. The following season, in the semi-final between Chelsea and Tottenham, Atkinson incorrectly gave a goal to the Blues when the ball had not fully crossed the line. Thankfully goal line technology is now in place so there’s no chance of history repeating itself on Saturday.
Looking at his previous with Reading, the West Yorkshire has officiated six past Royals games, and we’ve only won once, with three defeats and two draws. The most recent was the 2-0 loss to Manchester City in one of last Premier League games in May 2013.
If you want any hope for Saturday, here’s some ref based trivia. Mr Atkinson has already sent off an Arsenal player this season (Olivier Giroud) and given two penalties against the Gunners. The one penalty he has awarded to Arsene Wenger’s side, Alexis Sanchez missed against QPR. Furthermore, exactly six years ago on semi-final day, he took charge of Arsenal’s FA Cup last four tie against Chelsea, which they lost 2-1. Hopefully that’s done something for your moral.