• Under pressure ... English referee Howard Webb (Getty)
English referee Howard Webb has no regrets over his handling of the 'extremely challenging' FIFA World Cup final between Spain and Netherlands.
Source:
PA Sport
14 Jul 2010 - 6:04 AM  UPDATED 9 Nov 2012 - 11:12 AM

The Yorkshireman arrived home from South Africa with his assistants
Darren Cann and
Michael Mullarkey to a barrage of media interest in their performance in the final at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

Webb has come in for criticism from both the Dutch and Spanish camps after he handed out 14 yellow cards and sent off Netherlands' Everton defender John Heitinga during Spain's fractious 1-0 win.

"Whatever the match, you always hope that the officials won't need to be heavily involved. However, we had to raise our profile in order to keep control," Webb said in a statement released through the Premier League.

"We don't feel that we had much choice except to manage the game in the way we did. We came away feeling satisfied that we'd done a tough job in difficult circumstances to the best of our abilities.

"It was an extremely challenging match to handle, but it would have been so for any referee. It is one of the toughest games we will ever be involved in and we feel that we worked hard to keep the focus on the football as much as possible."

The Dutch players have been widely criticised for their behaviour
during the final, during which Bert van Marwijk's side committed a rash
of heavy-handed challenges.

Netherlands was fortunate not to lose midfielder Nigel de Jong to a
straight red card in the first half for a high challenge on Xabi Alonso.
But, despite Webb's leniency on that
occasion, his performance nevertheless incensed the Dutch, and he was
confronted by several players after the final whistle.

"From early on in the match we had to make decisions that were clear
yellow cards," Webb continued.

"We tried to apply some common sense officiating given the magnitude
of the occasion for both sides - advising players early on for some of
their tackling, sending players away when they were surrounding the
officials, and speaking to their senior colleagues to try to calm them
down."

Despite the furore that has followed the final, Webb insists he has come away from South
Africa harbouring 'amazing memories'.

"It was a marvellous honour to have been selected for the tournament
and we had a wonderful six weeks in South Africa," he said.

"The people made us feel really welcome and we've hugely enjoyed the
experience of being involved in such an incredible and unique event.

"We left the 2010 World Cup with amazing memories.

"We have been overwhelmed by the support of the public, the media,
friends, colleagues, players and managers before and after the final.

"It was a massive honour and a privilege to take charge of the World
Cup final. It is something every referee dreams of and to fulfil that
dream was a remarkable feeling."

People within the English game have been quick to leap to the defence
of the 39-year-old Rotherham official amid the fallout from the game,
and Webb himself has no concerns about
the overall display of his team.

"Mike and Darren made some terrific calls and I thought the decisions
made by my team throughout the tournament were excellent," said Webb. "It's because of the quality of the team
work that we were appointed to the final.

"We leave the tournament pleased with how we performed, honoured to
be given the final and privileged to have met so many wonderful people
in South Africa.

"We're all looking forward to a little bit of a rest and then coming
back fresh for the new Barclays Premier League season."

Former Premier League official Mike Riley, the general manager of
Professional Game Match Officials, slammed the Dutch and Spanish players
for showing 'little respect for the laws of the game' and praised Webb's handling of the situation.

"The final was without doubt one of the most difficult games Howard
will have ever refereed," said Riley.

"On far too many occasions during the match the players showed little
respect for the laws of the game and showed scant regard for the spirit
of the game.

"In spite of these challenges Howard and his team performed superbly,
showing great resolve and courage in dealing with the many incidents in
the game.

"The experience and expertise of the team was evident to all and when
they reflect on their contribution they will do so with great
satisfaction.

"We should be thankful that such a difficult encounter was controlled
by officials whose composure in the face of great challenges
safeguarded the integrity of FIFA's showpiece fixture.

"Howard and his team have enjoyed an outstanding tournament. In their
three matches leading up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup final they were
rightly recognised as the leading match officials of the tournament and
built on an excellent performance in the UEFA Champions League final.

"Their measured approach to managing players, allowing football to
flourish, was matched by the quality and accuracy of their decision
making. Their appointment to the final was a fitting reward for their
contribution to the tournament."

Webb became the fourth Englishman to take charge of the crowning game
in world football following Jack Taylor (1974), Bill Ling (1954) and
George Reader (1950).