AN ABSENCE of crowds have helped build the level of respect between managers and referees, according to Karl Robinson.

The Oxford United boss is a vocal critic of officials at times, but has felt the

behind-closed-doors games this season, due to coronavirus, have aided communication.

It has left him in the unfamiliar position of praising those in the middle.

He said: “Take the Lincoln game out of it and I think most of the referees have been very good.

“I think there’s been an increased performance level from them.

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“They will always make mistakes because they’re human beings.

“One thing the lack of crowd has done is it’s humanised referees and given them a personality.

“You can hear them and they can hear you, so you have to be a little more careful in what you say.

“I think I’ve been quite good on that, except for the two yellow cards I’ve had – but they weren’t my fault.”

He added: “When the crowd’s there you shout things as a manager to get above the noise.

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“Now you don’t need to shout, so you’re emotionally more connected to the game, but in a much calmer way.”

It has even changed his opinion on one official in particular.

He said: “I’ll let people into a secret now – I like Trevor Kettle a bit more.

“Some of the things he says on the pitch are some of the funniest I’ve ever heard a referee say.

“It doesn’t mean he made good decisions, but his personality came through.

“I think sometimes because we disagree with the decision we act so badly towards him.

“He’s trying to say things back to us, but it gets lost in the atmosphere.”