WITH the FA and police investigating whether Mark Clattenburg called John Obi Mikel a "monkey", leading managers have backed the under-fire ref and told Chelsea that they better be right.
It has been alleged that Clattenburg referred to Mikel as a "monkey" and also claimed he referred to Juan Mata as a "Spanish t**t". Clattenburg vehemently denies the allegations.
Neil Warnock, who was the QPR manager during the game against Chelsea when Terry was alleged to have abused Anton Ferdinand, said: "I have got to say I am disgusted with what's gone on.
"I'm on Mark Clattenburg's side. We ask referees to man-manage and that's what he does.
"I'm sure he might have said a few things but are you telling me if Chelsea had won that game that there would have been one iota of a complaint?
"I think he has made a mistake (for sending off Fernando Torres), but they are trying to kill him and I don't agree with that at all.
"Let's wait and see when it all comes out. Hopefully, everything has been caught. I hope if it is proved wrong, that the players, whatever they alleged Mark to have said, get done as well."
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor also welcomed the FA's desire to deal quickly with the case. "Involving police or waiting causes a massive festering of the issue," he said. "Football has got to be confident enough to deal with it. We need to grasp the nettle and show we are more than capable of dealing with it."
Clattenburg also received support from high-profile managers yesterday. "I have always found Mark Clattenburg to be an excellent referee," said Harry Redknapp.
"The whole thing looks beyond belief. I can't understand that anything we are reading about could possibly have happened.
"I don't think he is that stupid to have said something that would put him in that kind of trouble. I find it all a bit unreal but only time will tell."
The police investigation launched yesterday will run alongside the investigation that was instigated on Monday by the Football Association.
But there is a strong feeling that the FA must not be delayed by the police action, as was the case when allegations of racial abuse were made against Chelsea captain John Terry and the FA process took almost a year to conclude.
Chelsea have yet to formally complain to police and are continuing with their own internal investigation.
According to sources, as many as "three or four" players are prepared to support Chelsea's complaint, although it was suggested yesterday that Mata had not heard the comment to him.
Clattenburg's refereeing colleagues are also supporting him, including, it is understood, the officials who worked with him on Sunday. The referee, his two assistants and the fourth official wear microphones and can be heard by one another during a match.
According to one official, Clattenburg "said nothing" and intends to "fight this all the way". There is also a feeling among referees that Chelsea should be held accountable if their allegations are not proven.