Ref! On Moses and exhaustion

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


Evening lads,

That’s about it domestically, then. No, she hasn’t kicked me out, Dave, very funny, I’m talking about the football. After the Cup Final, yes. Funny, isn’t it, you feel like you have to call it the FA Cup Final these days , whereas in the old days there was only one cup final and it was the football one at Wembley in May. Now they’re all over the place: other sports, women’s versions…

Anyway, it wasn’t a bad end to the season, particularly for the Chelsea-bashers who like to see them get beaten. They were all talking about how lethargic the Blues were and how great Arsenal were, but I don’t  know if lethargic is the word. They were exhausted because of the season they’ve had, and they didn’t actually need to win the cup because they already had the Premiership and a place in the Champions League next season.

They’ve been playing above themselves for nine months. Great players and great manager, but they still had to dig deep to get the job done, and the Cup Final was actually something they could have done without. I reckon Victor Moses’ performance summed it up. He’d been going like a one-armed paper-hanger all season, doing two jobs and charging around when really he’s an attacking midfielder, so the tackle he got booked for was just him saying he’d had enough and why did everyone keep having to have a go.

Then the dive in the box, same thing. I reckon he was quite glad to get sent off in the end. I don’t even think he’ll be so keen to do that job next season; we might have seen it all this time, he’s given everything he’s had.

Yes, Baz, seriously, I know you’re a bit anti-Chelsea yourself, but put yourself in their position. Liverpool bugging them for a few months and then Spurs took over. It’s like the rest of the league was doing a relay against them. People even started feeling sympathy for Man City, who I reckon are the least likeable club now.

Arsenal? Good for them. They’ve had a hard time and whether Wenger stays or goes, he’s got another cup to think about. And the club’s got the Europa League next time, which Man U and Chelsea have both shown is worth winning.

Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a blue cocktail. Blue Curacao and lemonade with a shot of vodka and a squeeze of lemon. No, Dave, it’s not a poof’s drink, just because it looks nice. You stick to your cloudy pints of ale but some of us have emerged from the swamp. The primeval swamp, Baz, where human life apparently came from. Nobody really knows, it’s just another unproven scientific question, like whether Messi or Ronaldo is better.

One thing that is for sure, though, is that we’ve had some good football this year. Spurs have been great and if they’d started like they finished they’d have won it. The point is, can they keep the team together and win something next year? Everybody wants Dele Alli. Walker’s off almost definitely. Lloris could be. Kane’s not going anywhere, but they’ve got to either keep the nucleus or build a new one around him. And Pochettino, yeah, Dave, if the manager goes, that could be the worst thing of all.

City have to rebuild, United have to breathe some life into their football, although Mourinho’s such a grinder that he won’t be bothered as long as they get results. Liverpool have to hang onto Coutinho and bring in some real big guns, but for the last I don’t know how many years they’ve been buying people you’ve never heard of even if they’re quite expensive. Same with Arsenal.

So yes, Baz, that’s it for the summer apart from the Champions League final next week, but there’s no English interest in it, so I don’t even know if I’ll watch. There’s cricket now, gents, and we’re quite good at that now. Pity the Spanish and Italians and Bayern Munich don’t take that up. We’d murder them – for a few years, at least.




Ref! On fallen giants and tattooed oiks

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


Evening lads.

Who’s got an old favourite team that’s languishing in the Championship now? I don’t mean the place you were born, but someone who used to knock around in the Premier League or the First Division but fell from grace and now plays in the Who Gives A Toss League.

Well, because I glanced at the Championship table the other day and it’s full of clubs who I can’t help thinking should be up there in what people of a certain age call the Top Tier. Well I’ll tell you why we call it the top tier, Baz. Because that means either the Premier League or the First Division, because before the Premier League was formed, the top teams played in… exactly. But it’s just us older guys who feel the need to acknowledge that, because the youngsters think 1992 was a long time ago and before that, nothing counts.

You tell them about Nottingham Forest winning the European Cup twice on the trot and for one thing they don’t know what the European Cup is and for another thing they’ve never known Forest to be a top club, so they kind of don’t believe it. And Derby County, also under Clough and Taylor. It’s like a history lesson for them, it’s about as real to them as Charles II or the Battle of Waterloo. They recognize the name, but it’s just a word, it doesn’t mean anything to them.

But you look at the Championship. Leeds United – everybody hated them but you couldn’t deny they were good. Sheffield Wednesday – they never won much but they were around. Ipswich – some great nights in Europe, plucky little Ipswich with John Wark rampaging around scoring unlikely goals.

Birmingham City, QPR, Wolves, they’ve all got their history. And now look at the promotion situation. Burnley and Middlesbrough are coming back up, and maybe Brighton. And Bolton are going down to League One. How do these things happen, Dave? Yes, I’m feeling my age a bit I suppose. Life goes on and things change.

Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a Soco and lemonade. Soco, mate. So Co. Southern Comfort. Yes, it’s Jody’s influence, she’s a young woman but there’s nothing wrong with that. And she likes to have a bottle of Southern Comfort at home and I’ve got quite partial to it. All right? It’s nothing to snigger about, you pair of cavemen.

Where was I? Oh yeah. The fallen giants. Even further down in League One, you find Coventry City and Sheffield United, I believe. Playing Fleetwood. I mean, who’s ever even been to Fleetwood? I bet the satnav laughs when the coach driver punches the word in.

Well, it just makes you think, Baz. It’s like when you see some young oik up in court for assaulting an old lady and he’s got tattoos and piercings all over the place but his name is Mountbatten or Windsor or something. Where did it all go wrong?

Yes, I suppose you could see it the other way round and his ancient ancestors were the scum of the earth who bettered themselves and he’s a throwback to the bad old days.

But who are we going to be seeing down there in 20 years’ time? High-flying Fleetwood in promotion play-off with Arsenal?

Cheers Gary. If I knock this straight back could you get us another one? I’ll give you the money. All right, I’ll go myself. Anybody else? Yes, of course. No, I’ll get socos all round.



Ref! On women’s sport and freedom of speech

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


Evening gents. Let’s break with tradition tonight and speak of something that is suddenly all over the media. Women’s sport.

No longer can you take a headline at face value, Dave. You glance at BBC Sport on your phone and read “England ranked fifth in the world” and you’re halfway through thinking, “How is this possible?” when you look at the little photo and realize that although it is some people playing football, they are women.

You’re right, Baz, it’s not just football. The T20 cricket World Cup was even more confusing because they held a women’s event at exactly the same time, so every time you checked there were two stories, and only one was the real one.

No, hear me out, Dave, I know your missus is one of the top volleyball players in the county, and  you are a supportive husband and good for you, so you’re bound to be excited when something happens in that world, but with all due respect, it’s a minority sport and who really gives a toss? It’s like being the best boxer in a convent.

But with your major sports like football and cricket – yes, I know nobody goes to watch cricket anymore, but it’s still one of the big ones – when one country’s best players are playing another country’s best players, those players are men. Am I right, Baz? Of course I am, mate, thank you.

What do you mean, what’s up with me, Dave? Yes, I do now have a new girlfriend who’s a very sporty type, and no, I haven’t had a row with her. But for Christ’s sake, I get enough of this at home and I thought I might be able to speak my mind down the pub without you lot going all feminist on me.

Hockey, that’s what she plays. Again, a second-tier sport in my opinion, but she likes it, so… And football-wise she’s an Arsenal fan and you’re right, Baz, Ozil could be a woman in disguise, couldn’t he? And Ramsey. They’re suspiciously close, those two; one plays well, so does the other and vice versa.

Cheers Gary, pint of bitter in a dirty glass. That’s a Bob Hope line, showing how tough he is really. Son of Paleface. It’s a western and he’s in the saloon and orders a glass of milk and the other punters think it’s funny, so he goes, “In a dirty glass”.

No, I don’t feel I have to assert my masculinity just because I’ve been insinuating things about certain men. We’re talking about sport, aren’t we?

Yes, tennis has always had women’s tournaments as well as men’s, and okay, I do have a thing about Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, so I suppose I have an interest in their tournaments. And that could mean it’s pointing the way for the other sports. But I mean really, the papers will have to go back to being broadsheets because you can’t fit two of everything onto a tabloid page.

No, Baz, that’s the sort of comment that gets people in trouble. It’s the sort of thing Sepp Blatter might say. “They can have equal prize money if they share the same changing rooms as the guys” indeed. Shame on you, mate. We’re not animals, we’re discerning sports fans.

Yeah, all right, Dave. Your missus can’t hear me because she’s not here, so the only way I’m going to get barred from your annual barbecue is if you tell her. And as the great Boycey said to Del in Only Fools, “You may be many things, but you are not a grass”.

I’m just saying, mate. There’s enough sport in the world without doubling the coverage on the basis of gender. There, that sounded statesmanlike, didn’t it?



Ref! On ends of eras

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


Evening lads. You know that old joke about Spurs having their end of season party straight after they get knocked out of the cup in January? Well it’s all changed for them this season hasn’t it? Yes, I’m quite pleased for them, actually. They’ve been through a lot since 1961. When they won the league and the cup, Baz. Well, no, in your lifetime they have never won the league, but time isn’t measured in terms of when you or I were born. They’ve had a grim time of it, but right now they’re blossoming and you can’t begrudge it, can you? Living in Arsenal’s shadow all the time.

Now it’s Arsenal’s turn to suffer, but what does suffering actually mean? They’ve done pretty well again but they’re not going to win anything again. Well, when I say again, they won the FA Cup two years on the trot, but it’s like that doesn’t really count. The fans want more. And some of them want to get rid of one of the modern game’s best managers.

You get rid of Wenger and who are you going to replace him with? Claudio Ranieri? Even with the Leicester miracle, nobody’s saying it’s all down to him, are they? It’s the players getting the credit.

Anyway, as Steve Bruce says, you hear this sort of stuff from fans, but nobody inside the game is saying Wenger’s had his day. I mean, he has, probably, he’s had a good run and it can’t last forever, but give the poor guy some respect.

Yes, maybe they are at a crossroads and if something drastic doesn’t happen it’s going to drag on and you can’t see it getting any better. Could be a big summer, and not just for them. Chelsea too. New manager and he’s going to have to rebuild from top to bottom. Could be the end of an era there too. Even if he builds a new team immediately, full of great players, it will take a while for them to gel.

Cheers Gary. Scotch and coke please. And Manchester United too, come to that. Would you promote Ryan Giggs and risk him being found to be only human or install a big name and risk Giggs getting frustrated and leaving anyway?

I don’t know. Who’d be a billionaire club owner, eh? More trouble than it’s worth. Joking, Baz. Of course I’d like the money – Abramovich must be making more an hour than Dave does.

Yes, it’s going to be the most interesting summer since 1966, because you can bet your life the big boys are going to be waving their cheque books at Leicester, too, and if you were Jamie Vardy or Riyad Mahrez, what would you do? Stay there and hope it wasn’t a one-off or jump ship and go somewhere with a bit more tradition?

I know, Dave, in an ideal world they stay there and try to do it again, but realistically they’re going to be thinking well, if one of the giants is rebuilding and they want me, they’ll be paying silly wages, but if I stay here and the bubble bursts I might never get the chance again.

Fortunately, lads, it’s a problem we in this pub are never going to have to face. Unless Arsenal have heard about my retirement from refereeing and have the perceptiveness to see my vast football knowledge. Word gets around, and they’ve seen me on TV often enough to see I’m a man manager.

Seriously, guys, stranger things have happened.



Ref! Scandal!

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


Evening lads. What’s the smirk for then, Dave? Rumours? The world of professional football is full of them, mate. About a referee?

Oh, that. “Top ref Preece in love triangle” – that was in the Express, was it? Well I thought you might have some knowledge of that, because someone obviously talked to the media.

No, Baz, not Yvonne’s daughter. She’s only 16, for Christ’s sake. One of her teachers, yes, a grown woman. Twenty-one, if you must know. Just started at the school, teaching social studies, whatever that means. She did try to explain but I wasn’t concentrating, I suppose. And I met her because I take a keen interest in my stepdaughter’s education. So I went to a parents’ evening and she’s all “Oh, I’ve seen you on TV, haven’t I? Yeah, I’m an Arsenal fan,” she goes.

And it all went from there. Discussing football, Dave, that’s where. We went for a drink – not here, obviously, I’m not that stupid. Ended up back at her place looking at memorabilia she’s got. She was a Thierry Henry fan but she also liked Dennis Bergkamp, and she thinks there is a resemblance between me and the Dutch master. What do you reckon? More Tony Adams? You cheeky git.

Can we talk about football now? Thank you. Yes, Arsenal, as it goes. Because, Baz, they’re having an interesting season. They’ve got a chance of winning the Premier League. Funny squad, though. Full of great players who don’t do it week in, week out. Unlike me, Dave, yes, very funny.

I mean people like Tomas Rosicki, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere. They’re in for a couple of games and all’s well, and then they’re injured again or something. If they could put out a full squad for months at a time they’d be walking it.

Cheers, Gary. Half a bitter, thanks. Because, Baz, I’m cutting down. Don’t want to get a beergut like you, do I? Don’t want to be dead at 50. It’s got nothing to do with her, and she is not “the girl I’m living with”, as you so salaciously put it. Salacious. It means having sexual overtones or something. There’s nothing wrong with looking after yourself, and I’ve got to stay in shape for the refereeing. You can’t run up and down a pitch for 90 minutes trying to keep up with Aaron Ramsey if you’re dragging your stomach behind you.

Anyway, go on, what do you lot think about Arsenal? You hope they keep it up, do you? They’re not going to lie down and take it? They’re not going to roll over when the big boys are all over them? Gentlemen, enough of the innuendo. You’re about as subtle as a centre back. Yes, Gary, that was quick. Cheers. I’ll tell you what her midfield is like, mate, it’s skilful, energetic and it does a lot of pressing. That what you wanted to hear? It’s none of your frigging business and I’ll thank you to stick to football matters in future.





Ref! On Klopp and statistics

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


Yes, Dave, I was one of the officials at Jurgen Klopp’s first loss as Liverpool manager. And I don’t say that with any pleasure, because it’s not nice to lose in any walk of life, but it happens. He had a very good introduction to the Premier League, with a few wins and draws, including stuffing Chelsea, so he can’t complain.

Plus he comes in with that big toothy grin and he’s probably had half the women in Liverpool throwing themselves at him, so for his own good he has to have a bit of rough with the smooth. Yes, Baz, I suppose some of those Scouse birds must be a bit rough, but you know what I mean.

People were leaving the ground with seven minutes still to play – well welcome to the real world. This isn’t a fairy story – and even if it was, there would have to be a bit in it where the hero faces a challenge. So he’s dropped three points: boo hoo.

Statistically he’s well in the black, not that stats are my favourite thing. Journalists these days tend to throw them in instead of actual insights. You know: Aston Villa have never won away from home on a date with an odd number, that sort of thing.

Who thinks them up, that’s what I want to know. I was reading this morning that in the Arsenal-Tottenham game, Spurs as a team ran 7km further than Arsenal. I mean, is that necessarily a good thing?

Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a light and special, and you don’t have to run round the car park twice before you get it. I’m not interested in your mileage, I’m looking for a pint as quickly as possible.

Mileage – how far players run during a game – that’s only of interest to a certain type of manager. You know Peter Taylor, Brian Clough’s old partner, well the two of them were on holiday in Mallorca once and they met a coach called Sammy Chung on the beach, and Chung’s bragging about how hard he makes his players work. He says he has routines that could make the Forest players physically sick. And Clough says, “When they start awarding three points for that we’ll be in touch.”

No, Baz, it was in Taylor’s book. I never met the guy, I was too young. But he and Clough used to value skill. Hard work as well, like, but not only that. Yes, three points. They used to get three points for a win.

Your cultured midfielder doesn’t have to be chasing all over the park all afternoon. They have other people to do that. Take Eric Cantona, as skilled a player as England has ever seen. In the French national side he had Didier Deschamps doing all the barking and harassing. Cantona referred to him as The Water Carrier, which was disrespectful, but there you go. Cantona was arrogant but brilliant.

A water carrier, Baz – in the Roman army you had the officers with the brains and the soldiers with the heroics and you had these other guys carrying water, because it’s thirsty work. What would you be? You’d be in the front line, mate, the front line.