Keith Hackett has insisted referee Craig Pawson has to improve his fitness levels to become an elite referee after his performance in Tottenham v Newcastle United.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the ex-Premier League and FIFA official insisted Pawson had improved greatly over the past year but still has a long way to go to reach the elite level.

The 42-year-old’s display at St. James’ Park came under criticism for not punishing fouls and being hesitant to dish out yellow cards.

And while Hackett can understand the supporter’s perspective he defended Pawson.

He told Football Insider correspondent Connor Whitley: “I think that often what fans don’t see is the fact that quite a lot of times the referee is not in view on the screen and is playing advantage.

“Craig Pawson is having a better season than he has previously and part of that is he’s trying to keep the game going and not penalising every petty foul. But if you look at it from a fan’s perspective every bit of contact is a foul.

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“It’s not just consistency from one game to the next, it’s consistency within the game.

“I’d like to see him become a little bit more animated when he’s refereeing to communicate better.

“His shortfall last year and where I was critical was I felt he lacked speed, he lacked that dynamic sprint and his level of fitness could have been better on the basis that he was stopping 15, 20 yards short of the penalty area and therefore missing incidents in the box.

“For me, I think he’s improved his fitness levels but he’s still got to go up to a level to get to that elite level in the class of Michael Oliver and Anthony Taylor.

“He’s now seen in Europe as a good referee, he’s just got to go to being seen as a very good referee. 

“The movement still needs improvement. But he’s still a better referee this year than he was last year.

“Fans tend to remember the matches you had before where he didn’t do well and he’s got a few of those in his locker.”

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