Ref! Diego Costa

The candid thoughts of Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.


That’s right, Dave, I did Bournemouth-Sunderland on Saturday. I tell you what, although a referee can’t afford to get emotionally involved, we’re only football fans like anyone else. There can’t be many people in England who don’t want Bournemouth to survive in the Premier League, because it seems like a nice little club from an area that doesn’t get much credit football-wise.

The old thing about Southern Softies – just because your Dad wasn’t down a coal mine eight days a week and you’ve got a nice beach to play on and the weather’s a bit warmer, that doesn’t mean you’re any less dedicated. Yes, I speak as a Surrey man, nothing wrong with that.

And on this occasion you had the complete opposite as the opposition. Sunderland, where hardship is worn like a badge of honour, it’s all “we had to eat earwax sandwiches” and the club’s struggling and changing managers every five minutes but they’ve got a glorious history if you go back far enough. So you want them to do okay as well.

But as a ref you keep out of the way as much as possible, We’re, to use the modern parlance, facilitators. What that means, Baz, is that we facilitate the match – we provide the framework, the rules, the schedule – that enables the match to be played. It’s one of those contemporary words that many people think are bollocks, but one has to rise above that and just do the job.

Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a large Scotch. I’ll get the large if you get the Scotch – no, it’s just what I feel like having, it’s not that’s I’m desperate to catch up just because I was half an hour late. I had a couple at home, as it happens.

See, that’s the challenge, and it’s what Mike Dean fell foul of in the Chelsea-Arsenal game. He got the blame in some quarters – Garth Crooks, to be precise – for becoming visible, if you like. He sent off two Arsenal players when the one who should have gone was Diego Costa. He’s a bleeding troublemaker, everyone knows that, but the referee can only give what he sees, and Costa does most of his mischief off the ball, when you’re following the action. So all you know is when the defender finally gets pissed off with it and lamps him one.

Like at home when the missus has been needling you in her subtle, underhand way that doesn’t break any of the rules of domestic interaction. She just quietly picks away at you until finally you might erupt and call her a fat cow or something. We’ve all done it.

Mike did what he thought was right based on what he saw, and I don’t agree that he was making himself the centre of attention. But you are anyway, that’s the trouble. I get home after a game and Yvonne’s daughter, Kellie – 16 now, Dave, why? – she’s noticed my performance and is very complimentary. What can you do? She’s a perceptive girl, takes after her Mum.


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