The candid thoughts of Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.
The magic of the FA Cup, eh, Dave? That’s what you think I’m going to talk about. Well, it’s only magical when it’s magical, and did anything exceptional happen at the weekend? Oxford United beat Swansea, which must be a choker for the Welsh and exciting for Oxford, but it’s hardly your pub team beating Man City, is it?
Yes, Baz, it just goes to show. Show what? No, there has to be another sentence on the end. It just goes to show that…
All right, I’ll help you out, since you’re not sure. It just goes to show that when you’re struggling, you’ll struggle against anybody. Is that what you meant? No?
Yeah, hang on a minute, Gary, I’ll have pint of whatever the guest ale is, but don’t disturb Baz when he’s thinking. I doesn’t happen often.
Okay, Baz, it just goes to show that… Anybody can beat anybody? Yes, I suppose that’s true, but it’s why that interests me. Swansea didn’t get beaten because Oxford were brilliant, they lost because they’re having a losing streak. I mean, it’s got to be tough for a club like that, hasn’t it? They’re not a traditional Premier League club.
They’ve got up there by hook or by crook and they’ve managed to stay there for a while, but players leave, managers leave – nobody’s really convinced. And now they’ve got a caretaker manager, one of their ex-players who wasn’t even a star really, just like Garry Monk, who he’s replacing. That’s right Dave, it’s like a castle built on sand. It takes time to build a castle, and sometimes that means … in this case, they’ve got to scrape away the top level of sand – to a depth of, I don’t know Baz, it’s a metaphor again, not an engineering class. But they’ve got to get a solid base on which to build. And one of the ways of doing that with a football club is to have consistency. A manager who’s there for a long time.
But even that’s not easy to arrange. It’s luck or fate or something. When Liverpool needed to rebuild in the early 60s – no, I wasn’t around – they happened to pick Bill Shankly. Who just happened to be the perfect man for the job. If they’d appointed Bill Smith, it wouldn’t have worked. No, it’s just a random name, Baz, there was no Bill Smith around at the time, and certainly not a world class football manager of that name.
Chelsea wouldn’t have become the club they are if Abramovich hadn’t chosen Jose Mourinho, even though his time was eventually up, as we know. Manchester United wouldn’t have flourished under anyone other than Alex Ferguson, probably. But the directors don’t know that in advance. It’s a gamble, like so many other things in life.
It’s possible that in 10 years’ time Swansea will be winning Champions’ Leagues every year, but only if they get their management situation sorted out with a huge dollop of luck. And a fabulously wealthy owner, of course. Owners have to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the greater good these days. But for now, the guy in charge is the guy in charge and he’s not rushing into an appointment because he has to make sure it’s the right one, and he clearly feels nobody of the right caliber is available at the moment. And, if you want to be cynical about it, he can save himself a few bob in the meantime, because Alan Curtis isn’t on Mourinho money, you can bet your life. Cheers Gary, Adnam’s, eh? A bit of tradition there, my friend. Nice.
All I ask of the top teams is that they do okay for us in Europe. You don’t have to love Liverpool to enjoy seeing them win the Champions League. We used to complain about Ferguson and fergie time and all that, but I’d rather see him breaking into his annual grin than the current Barcelona manager, wouldn’t you?