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04th Dec 2017

Mark Clattenburg admits he went in with a gameplan to infamous Chelsea vs. Spurs clash

"I allowed them to self-destruct."

Darragh Murphy

It seems strange that a referee would decide on a gameplan before taking charge of a match.

Referee Mark Clattenburg has admitted that he gave some serious thought to how he would officiate the infamous meeting between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in May 2016.

Spurs needed to win at Stamford Bridge in order to keep the pressure on Leicester, who famously went on to win the Premier League and finish 11 points ahead of third-placed Spurs.

The 2-2 draw with Chelsea was seen as the beginning of Spurs’ capitulation and it was one of the most ill-tempered games in recent memory.

Nine Spurs players were booked in the match, which the North London side led 2-0 at half-time, but it was all downhill after the break.

And Clattenburg, who was entrusted with the high-profile clash, has revealed that he didn’t want to send off any of Mauricio Pochettino’s men so as to avoid the media spotlight.

Speaking on NBC’s Men in Blazers podcast, Clattenburg said: “I allowed them [Spurs] to self-destruct so all the media, all the people in the world went: ‘Tottenham lost the title.’

“If I sent three players off from Tottenham, what are the headlines? ‘Clattenburg cost Tottenham the title.’ It was pure theatre that Tottenham self-destructed against Chelsea and Leicester won the title.”

The match saw several on-pitch altercations, with the most memorable probably being the gouging incident involving Mousa Dembele and Diego Costa.

And Clattenburg admitted that he deviated from the established rulebook by allowing Spurs to finish with their full complement of players.

“I helped the game. I certainly benefited the game by my style of refereeing,” Clattenburg said.

“Some referees would have played by the book; Tottenham would have been down to seven or eight players and probably lost and they would’ve been looking for an excuse.

“But I didn’t give them an excuse, because my gameplan was: Let them lose the title.”

Clattenburg was seen as one of the top officials in England at that point in time and he went on to referee both the Champions League and FA Cup final that year, as well as the Euro 2016 final.

He has since taken up a position as Saudi Arabia’s head of referees.