BROWNE ON THE BALL: Referee Toma Masaaki is a fine Japanese import

Japanese ref Toma Masaaki lines up with his assistants, United captain Gareth Jelleyman and Solihull captain Junior English. Photo: David Shipman.
Japanese ref Toma Masaaki lines up with his assistants, United captain Gareth Jelleyman and Solihull captain Junior English. Photo: David Shipman.

THE Honda RC30. The Super Nintendo. Sushi. Jujitsu. Godzilla. We’ve had some pretty amazing imports from Japan over the years.

And on Saturday, we were treated to another fine arrival from the land of the Rising Sun... Toma Masaaki.

The Japanese official arrived in England as part of an exchange of officials between the two nations.

A regular in the J-League - Japan’s top-flight, which was once the home of Gary Lineker - his last appearance with the whistle over here came as he took charge of England’s friendly against Mexico in front of 89,000 in May last year.

On that night he was pictured taking charge of the likes of Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch and Javier Hernandez.

On Saturday, a stone’s throw from the country’s second city, he stood to have his picture taken with Gareth Jelleyman and Moors captain Junior English as 301 fans looked on.

It may be a different world entirely from his last visit, but for Masaaki, he was the consumate professional.

His decisions were spot on, his bookings sparse but deserved.

For the travelling United fans, you could argue that the experience was a pleasant one following on from the performances of the officials in the recent home clashes against Workington and Colwyn Bay.

Both matches saw the officials come in for harsh criticisms from the terraces after a number of decisions that could fairly be called inconsistent at best.

But then again, that should be expected at Blue Square Bet North level. If the players aren’t consistent, you cannot expect the officials to be either. If you play in the sixth level of English football, you cannot expect the best referees to grace the turf.

Everyone from Sir Alex Ferguson to Rob Scott enjoys a pop at the officials, but I think the system operating in this country means referees will find their correct level.

It winds me up when managers have a go at referees by stating they ‘have never played the game’. This was a favourite of Scott’s, but I never saw him flaunt his level six referee’s qualification. I never heard Harry Redknapp or Arsene Wenger explain the importance of diagonal running or discussing why it’s better to have your assistants operating over your left or right shoulder. In fact, name me a manager that has ever refereed at any level.

Sadly, if you’re not the best player, you won’t be officiated by the best refs. That’s why Masaaki’s appearance on Saturday was a rare treat. His stay in England will also see him take charge of an FA Cup clash, Bolton Reserves and and the nation’s under 19s.

Solihull versus Boston may not be his most memorable match in England, but the gifts the club handed to him in appreciation means it won’t be a game he forgets.