"It can't be easy for them"
"Imagine having to work with thousands baying for your blood because of one decision"
"Without them the game....etc"
The usual line of reasoning which is often trotted out when football referees, especially those in Scotland, come under criticism.
All the above points are valid. Certainly I for one would not want to put my neck on the line and do that job.
So is what I'm about to say invalid?
"I may not crush the grapes but I know the difference between a good Rioja and a bottle of Blue Nun."
You don't need to be a referee yourself to know who are the good ones and who are lame ducks.
The sad thing about Scottish football, the good ones appear with as much regularity as Halley's Comet while the bad whistlers make fans feel like the Wildlings did on Game of Thrones when the swarm of White Walkers came at them.
And the frustrating thing is, there appears to be little inclination from the Scottish Football Association to raise the bar.
They will no doubt say that they "strive to maximise the improvement of refereeing officials to the highest level obtainable."
Once your head has recovered from such PR-speak (read drivel), you will be entitled to ask, "why are we not seeing any visible evidence of this then?"
Obvious mistakes are made which are often repeated by the same officials week after week after week.
These things happen. Of course they do and it would be churlish not to allow for the error factor to creep in.
But there is one thing the SFA can do to help their men and ease the minds of supporters.
Because given the suspicious nature of football fans, attention is inevitably drawn to... "what team does that ref support?"
I'll happily stand corrected if other countries operate in the same manner as Scotland, but, to my knowledge, most nations insist on their officials not being involved in fixtures if the team they support is playing or if the fixture has two different sides but the result could help or hinder the team that the official follows.
England is one nation that operates on this basis.
A sensible policy because even though the referee could be professional enough to leave his club allegiance in the dressing room, he is one decision away from having his integrity put into question.
On the other side of the scale, temptation to 'do his own a favour' or even trying too hard to be 'seen not to do his own a favour' compromises the official.
So you don't see many Scousers or Mancunians officiating games between Liverpool and Manchester United for just that reason.
It would be unfair to put a referee in that position and the English FA correctly remove him from that situation.
Sure, English refs make mistakes but their paymasters have ensured the accusation of bias, though it may fly around, has little credence to it because the whistler is not emotionally involved with the two teams playing the game he's just officiated.
In Scotland it's slightly different.
Again, I'll stand corrected if not the case, but it appears that referees up here appear to be 'trusted' to put their club allegiance to one side and 'let their inbuilt professionalism' carry the day.
Looking at this attitude with the glass half-full, they might genuinely do that.
But the minute that first penalty shout or offside call which looks incorrect at the time and is proven by TV evidence later on, the questions of the referee's integrity soon comes into sharp focus.
Hearts fans will not forget the final day of the 1985/86 season in a hurry when needing a draw to win the league title only to lose in the last seven minutes.
But early in that game there was one key moment which could have decided the outcome of that season.
Hearts striker Sandy Clark was fouled inside the box (look it up on Youtube - the maroon tinted glasses are off here) by Dundee's Colin Hendry.
However, the penalty claim was waved away by referee Bill Crombie who was.... a Hearts supporter.
Many felt that by appointing Crombie for this fixture, the SFA had put him in an unfair position.
As Clark himself years later said:
“I believe the football authorities made an absolute mess of things by appointing Bill to our game. “Everyone knew Bill was a Hearts fan. It put enormous pressure on him and it was all so unnecessary.
“I can’t speak for Bill but it certainly looked like he was uncomfortable refereeing that Dens Park clash.
“The last thing he would have wanted was to be accused of favouritism towards Hearts. In that penalty call he went too far the other way
“I got a feeling it wasn’t going to be our day. It all stemmed from the infamous penalty that never was after Colin Hendry brought me down. It came from a throw-in down our left.
“I turned Colin on the goalline and he stuck his thigh out and knocked me over. It was a stonewall penalty.
“If Bill had done his job right that day and given the correct decision then I believe Hearts would have won the league.
“I have met Bill on several occasions since but I have never been able to ask him why he never gave us that penalty. It still hurts so much.
“I don’t really need to ask him because I know it should have been a penalty.
“It was such a momentous decision and one that I, Bill and every Hearts fan will have to live with for the rest of our lives.”
Rangers were the visitors and they had to get a win against Hearts to keep their title challenge against Celtic alive.
It had been going well as they were 1-0 up with five minutes left only for Hearts to equalise.
Then, following a cross into the Hearts box deep into injury time, the linesman, Andy Davis, raised his flag.
Puzzled looks from everyone as it looked as if nothing had happened. Only Mr Davis told referee Hugh Dallas that an infringement had taken place and that Rangers should have a penalty.
Cue outrage from those in maroon - especially winger Saul Mikoliunas who barged into Davis and would cop an eight-match ban for doing so.
Rangers scored the penalty and won the game. A result that proved pivotal as without it, they would not have won the title ahead of Celtic by a point come the final day of that season.
Accusations came flying in - especially when Mr Davis' alleged light blue preferences came to the fore.
If he was a Rangers supporter, why was he put in that position in the first place? Why did the SFA leave him and themselves open to accusations of bias.
We still don't know what he claims to have seen take place as he's never been given the chance to explain himself which only fuelled the suspicions further.
Fans of other clubs can point to many instances of compromised integrity.
In 2001, then-Dundee manager, Ivano Bonetti, opined that it was strange that a referee from Aberdeen, Alan Freeland, should be allowed to officiate a match involving a team from his area.
Bonetti had felt there to be a number of controversial incidents that went against his team that day (they lost 4-1).
Freeland may possibly have got all his decisions spot on but was still put in a place he should not have been by the SFA who left the door of accusation ajar.
"Scotland's too small to enforce England's neutral refs rule"
Another line that's trotted out.
Now there's a lame excuse.
It can be enforced if the will is there - that seems to be the issue here, not the practicality of the proposal.
Pete Wishart MP (for Perth and North Perthshire) back in 2010 proposed that this rule should be put into place by the SFA - lest a referee's integrity be called into question.
At the time, Daily Telegraph journalist, Roddy Forsyth posted this anecdote:
"On my first day as a radio commentator at BBC Scotland – in the days when live broadcasts were restricted to the second half and the final ten minutes of the first half – I was working at Ibrox (another Rangers v Kilmarnock match) with a summariser who had played for the home club. As the teams lined up, the former player said to me: 'This referee will give Rangers a penalty.' Sure enough, midway through the first half, the ref pointed to the spot, to the evident surprise of both teams. My summariser said: 'Told you'.
"After the match the former player explained that although the referee had a name that sounded Irish, the official had no allegiance to Celtic, but that to emphasise the point he regularly awarded Rangers unwarranted penalty kicks. And when I was commissioned by Rangers to produce an audio history of the club some years ago, I found an old player who testified – and it is to the club’s credit that they did not attempt to edit it out – that he had played in a match in which the Ibrox side were losing to Queen of the South.
"According to the veteran player, he had been advised by the official: 'Don’t worry – I’ve never refereed a game that Rangers lost.' Rangers duly drew 1-1 after an obliging decision went their way."
But such errors keep happening.
They will keep on happening - human nature alone guarantees that.
But it is unfair to those men in the middle, the players who participate and the fans who pay a lot of money to get into the ground to have something hanging in the air that could be removed at a stroke.
The SFA can make referees declare who they support (all football-minded people follow a team - let's not be completely naive about this), they can easily arrange it that their integrity is not left open to accusations of bias if a game has a controversial call to be made.
Because not doing so is the biggest controversy of the lot.
And it is not fair on the 'patsy' they have sent out in the middle to take the SFA's flak for them.