Whilst there can be no real argument over the fact that Wilfried Zaha deserved an additional ban for sarcastically clapping referee Andre Marriner during Crystal Palace’s 1-1 draw with Southampton at the end of January, the inconsistencies now in place at the FA make it impossible to respect their judgment.
Taking our game against the Saints into specific consideration requires a degree of context for anyone tasked with weighing up whether or not Wilfried Zaha may have had a reason to feel a tad hard done by. Thankfully, the modern world enables the club and player to highlight exactly why he reached a tipping point at that particular moment of the contest, split seconds after being denied a blatant free-kick by the consistently awful Andre Marriner.
The game as a whole saw Southampton rotationally fouling the Palace winger, with Oriol Romeu undoubtedly the biggest culprit over the course of the 90 minutes. Quite how the former Chelsea man managed to avoid even a yellow card from referee Marriner is beyond me but as always, the referees are protected from any real scrutiny or punishment by those at the top of the game.
Aside from Zaha, Marriner missed a clear elbow from Romeu on James Tomkins inside the penalty area and waved play-on after a potential leg-breaker on Andros Townsend from Jack Stephens midway through the opening 45 minutes. Whilst none of this excuses Zaha for clapping him following the yellow card, it does at least offer an insight into the thought-process which led him to that point.
Running alongside this particular narrative is the case of Burnley striker Ashley Barnes, who just a few days later, screamed abuse into the face of a linesman from mere inches away, only to get away scot-free on the basis of “passion” being shown. It is that lack of consistency which boils the blood of Palace fans when it comes to Zaha, whose unfair reputation led Marriner to not punish the fouls on him at St Mary’s in the manner he should have.
I’m not one to suggest that there is an open and blatant conspiracy against the Palace man but there is no doubt in my mind that subconsciously, referees, linesman and pundits across the game look upon him with a different perspective to the vast majority of players operating in the Premier League and at a base level, that just isn’t right.