Express & Star

Wolves boss Gary O'Neil questions whether players' behaviour is going against them in key decisions

Gary O’Neil fears Wolves may have paid the price for being too respectful to referees after bemoaning more rough justice in Monday’s defeat at Fulham.


Wolves fell to a controversial 3-2 loss after the hosts were awarded two hotly disputed second half penalties, the second in stoppage time following a VAR intervention.

Moments earlier, video assistant Stuart Attwell had opted not to intervene when Fulham substitute Carlos Vinicius thrust his forehead into the nose of Wolves captain Max Kilman.

On-pitch referee Michael Salisbury later admitted the officials got that decision wrong, while also conceding Fulham’s Tim Ream should have received a second yellow card when barging over Hwang Hee-chan for the penalty which brought Wolves back level at 2-2.

O’Neil, who has seen a string of contentious calls go against his team this season, spent an extensive period after the match speaking to Salisbury and his assistants.

He said: “I've had a good discussion with them around the way I conduct myself and trying to be respectful with the fourth official, trying to be respectful, which I was, there was no abusing anybody or telling anybody what I thought of them.

“It was just a discussion around the decisions.

“Do I need to tell Max to roll around on the floor when someone head butts him?

“I don't want to. I don't want Max to roll around on the floor. I want the rules to look after it.

“Do I want my players to surround the referee and ask for a yellow card for Tim Ream? No.

“But behaving respectfully and conducting myself this way, it's probably cost us, I think.”

O’Neil spoke to referees’ chief Howard Webb earlier this month after Wolves were beaten 2-1 at Sheffield United by another controversial late penalty.

It followed previous questionable decisions in games with Manchester United and Newcastle, with the head coach’s post-match briefings increasingly focused on the subject of referees rather than the performance of his team.

That was again the case on Monday as O’Neil spent 15 minutes speaking to the written press alone.

He continued: “We're probably seven points down, I think, on PGMOL reviews, depending on what they come back with this time.

“The difference between 22 points and 15 for the thousands of supporters that follow their team around the country is huge.

“The difference between 22 and 15 on my reputation at a big club that I'm trying to build as a new manager is irreparable.

“You can say sorry, you can send me flowers, you can ring me tomorrow, you can do whatever you want, but we should be on 22 points and we're on 15.

“I'm going to try to conduct myself in a way that I think is right and I will continue to, but the players are extremely frustrated.

“The players are obviously thinking ‘should we make some noise about this?’ Do we need social media posts?

“And my advice so far, before this evening is no, we make sure we're good enough to win the game regardless of what the officials do.”

O’Neil claimed Salisbury told him he would have overturned his decision to award Fulham’s first penalty, after adjudging Nelson Semedo had fouled Tom Cairney, had he been advised to check his monitor by Attwell.

Attwell did give that instruction in stoppage time when Harry Wilson tumbled over Joao Gomes’ leg, with Salisbury opting to award the spot-kick from which Willian struck the winner.

Asked how hard it was to stay calm, while the check was taking place, O’Neil replied: “It's hard. When I was watching the Harry Wilson one back on the iPad, obviously you're emotional at that point and you're thinking: ‘It's definitely not a penalty’.

“I've been involved in that before, thinking: ‘I hope they don't send it into the screen’. Then when they send him to the screen I’m thinking: ‘Do I just walk in here?’

“Do I actually need to do something that people are going to visibly see or do I just stand there and behave in a way that I'm supposed to behave?

“And fortunately, or unfortunately, I just decide to stand there and take what's being given to us, but it is difficult.

“It is difficult because like I've said, the difference the points tally makes to me, because the referee maybe gets some criticism this evening and maybe over the next few days around his decision, but in three weeks’ time that loss is on me.

“No one remembers how. There's not an asterisk next to it. Of course, I play my part in it. I take responsibility for the way the players perform.

“But the consequences are huge. I'm doing the best I can to make sure that I am respectful to the referees.”