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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Hackett questions ref call for Reds tie

England's former top referee Keith Hackett
England's former top referee Keith Hackett

England's former top referee Keith Hackett has criticised the decision to put Wythenshawe-based Anthony Taylor in charge of next Monday night's clash between Liverpool and Manchester United.

Hackett is a former head of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited body, which appoints referees to matches.

He cannot understand why Taylor has been handed the Anfield fixture, given he lives just a short distance from Old Trafford.

Hackett has no doubt about the 37-year-old's professionalism, but he suspects accusations of impartiality are bound to be levelled at Taylor, even though Altrincham are the team he supports.

Mike Riley currently heads up PGMOL, and Hackett believes the referees' body should have looked elsewhere for the figure to officiate a Premier League game where tensions on and off the pitch run high.

Hackett said: "No-one is questioning Anthony's integrity or his ability to handle this game. You could argue it's testimony to his unflappable character and capacity to focus that he's been appointed to it.

"Taylor is also in form and establishing himself firmly as one of the select group's best operators.

"But what if something goes wrong for him on the day - as it can for even the finest referees?

"That's when the focus on him would be intolerable, especially if a controversial incident has gone in favour of Liverpool and it influences the result.

"If that happens then it would be those who appointed him who must take the blame for taking such an avoidable risk - on a weekend when Mark Clattenburg, the 2016 Champions League referee, is holding up a board as fourth official in another match."

Liverpool fans have already questioned Taylor's involvement, and Hackett said: "It is a small slice of what can be expected if things go wrong for Anthony - and his bosses - in the game itself."

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