Football has an unerring knack of being able to burn itself into our memories and stay there for years.
Ask yourself where you put your keys 20 minutes ago and you might struggle, but recite most major events in the recent history of Rotherham United – well that’s no problem.
The obvious good memories stay, deep-rooted and there for life. We can all remember the moment Alan Lee turned and shot in front of the Railway End at Millmoor or vividly see Alex Revell’s ambitious-but-brilliant volley from 40 yards looping towards goal at Wembley.
But some of the finer details of matches are inevitably lost to time. For example, if you were quizzed about who the referees were for 45 out of 46 Millers games in the 2005-06 season you’d be most likely scratching your head.
Asked who the referee was for Rotherham’s 1-1 draw with Barnsley at Oakwell in that season, however, and your reaction is instant.
That League One game in November 2005 was the last time the two sides met in a competitive fixture. But that’s not why it is so memorable.
That was the day that Trevor Kettle ingrained himself into the memories of Millers fans forever and forever, until their dying day.
They say that time is the best healer in life. Not when Kettle is involved. Remembering his refereeing performance in that game instantly sends your blood pressure through the roof, triggers a wave of anger and probably has you sat in a cold sweat and unable to stop shaking your head. Over a decade on, there is no forgiving the Rutland official.
This isn’t a case of sour grapes just because Rotherham conceded a late equaliser in a local derby. This was the worst display of officialdom the Millers have ever seen.
His rap sheet reads something like this: Three red cards for Rotherham players, all of them questionable and one after the full-time whistle. A further sending off for manager Mick Harford for complaining about the amount of injury time. Oh, and the awarding of a phantom goal for Barnsley in added time which robbed the Millers of a much-needed win.
That they were on the end of such an abysmal set of decisions was testament to the luck they were having at the time. In the early post-Ronnie Moore days and with financial oblivion on the horizon, the shine had come off a promising start to the season and they arrived at Oakwell without a win in 12 games.
The first half was as good as it got. Kettle was disrupting the game with his pedantry and eagerness to get his cards out, but the Millers were winning thanks to Shaun Barker’s 31st-minute goal from a set-play, though they spurned chances to be further in front.
It was after the break where things went south. Deon Burton, already on a yellow card, was the first Miller to go when he was booked for diving when racing through on goal. It was a genuine fury-inducing moment as there appeared clear contact.
The Millers rallied, though, and looked like holding out, despite another outrageous dismissal for their best player – Lee Williamson – in the 85th minute. The midfielder, in the corner and trying to protect the ball, slipped and inadvertently fell into a Barnsley player. Kettle saw it as a second yellow card and sent him off. Cue more blood boiling in the away end.
Yet still it looked as if the visitors might just hang on until deep into the five minutes of the injury time that Harford complained about when, with the assistance of his linesman, the man in black gave the worst decision of the lot.
Barnsley defender Steven Watt got to a corner first but his header was clawed away by Millers goalkeeper Neil Cutler well in front of the line, only for the goal to be inexplicably awarded with barely any home player claiming a goal. Utter outrage was taking over now.
It’s a good job Harford was in the stands as he might well have lived up to his hard-man reputation and lost control. It would almost have been forgiveable.
As it was, complaining about the decision at full-time, which came immediately after the restart, did for skipper Colin Murdock, who saw red for giving Kettle an X-rated piece of his mind.
Kettle was in for more abuse as he ran the gauntlet of walking past the Rotherham fans to get to the tunnel. Waiting, spitting blood and ready to explode, the Millers fans were penned in by police and stewards.
Harford had not calmed down by the time he spoke to the press after the game. The strength of his comments makes it clear the exasperation and sheer disbelief the Millers were feeling.
“The game was absolutely spoiled by the referee who shouldn’t officiate at any level of football,” he fumed. “I am not going to accept what he did today without saying anything.
“The players and my livelihood are at stake and I understand the pressures of the job but this bloke should be struck off the list. When I was dismissed all I said was ‘five minutes, where did you get that from?’. I never swore.
“I have been involved in professional football since I was 18 and that was the worst standard of refereeing I have ever witnessed – by all three of them. The game was absolutely spoiled by the referee who should not be allowed to officiate at any level of football. The bloke should be struck off – I’m not bothered what the FA may say. I have to take a stance for every manager who comes across referees like this.”
That interview was played on a famous local radio phone-in, which was flooded with calls by irate Millers and sympathetic Barnsley fans. The sympathy didn’t cool the anger.
Harford’s stance earned him an FA charge and fine. Worse was to come as four games later he was sacked – a decision that would never have been made at that time had they won that game at Oakwell.
The disappointment and hurt at losing a game generally subsides pretty quickly, after all there’s always another one to look forward to.
But such was the injustice of this match and such was the outrage of his performance, even now it is impossible to hear Kettle’s name without reaching boiling point.