Ref! On success, failure and dignity

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


Evening lads, and what an auspicious occasion this is. Domestic season wrapped up as far as the big boys are concerned, apart from the FA Cup Final. One word to describe 2015-16, Dave. Weird? Okay. Baz. Refreshing? That’s not what I think of as a Baz type word, but very appropriate, yes.

Me, I’d say emotional. It just makes you realize what a procession the Premier League had become, a bit like Formula 1. No real surprises. The top guys get out front and that’s it. A while later they’ve won it.

But the emotion, it all started months ago when Leicester’s good start didn’t turn out to be a flash in the pan after all. Yes, I remember predicting it wasn’t going to happen. I also remember saying it was foolish to make predictions. Hang on, I’ll look it up, where are we,, blah blah blah, January… here we  are:

“Only a fool makes predictions, mate. But since it’s New Year, okay, Spurs win the Premier League narrowly from Man City. United finish mid table, just below Chelsea, and Leicester  and Southampton scrape a Champions League place. Watford relegated along with Villa and Norwich.”

So I was right about Chelsea and got two out of three for relegation. But as I said, it’s all about emotion, and there was plenty of that at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. It was relevant, Dave, because it’s a lesson in humility. Chelsea had a diabolical season by their standards, but they steadied the ship in mid season, Hiddink did, anyway, and got back to some semblance of form. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves or make excuses, they just got on with it.

As in football, so in life, Dave. When things go wrong, when you fall off your perch, you’ve just got to have another go. It’s not a case of deliberately preserving your dignity, I don’t think. Dignity is accorded to you by your fellows. They see how you’ve coped with it and they respect it. Or they think you’re  wanker, yes. Precisely.

Cheers, Gary, let’s have a  malt whisky each on me. On you, mate? You’re a gentleman. I’ll have a large one, whatever they’ve got, but not one of them that tastes like the remains of a bonfire if you can avoid it. The landlord will tell you what’s what. He’s not a complete moron. Palace fan, yes, but the poor sod’s got enough to worry about, then, hasn’t he?

Yeah, at Chelsea yesterday. They had their old boss Ranieri back for the day and they gave him a right old reception didn’t they? Then there was John Terry getting emotional because he doesn’t know if he’s staying or going. Didn’t play, of course, because he was suspended, so he hasn’t learnt that much in his old age.

Then at Man City you’ve got Pellegrini leaving when he’s really not done much wrong, but he’s going with dignity too. Why do they call him This Charming Man, Dave? Because it’s a song by a Manchester band, The Smiths.  Yes, that’s right, my “young bird” told me. Jody’s her name, Dave, and she teaches me things and I teach her things. That’s how it works, mate. She keeps me up to date with things I might otherwise miss and I give her the benefit of my… all right, all right, you may laugh, but… give it a rest, mate.

Hold up, who’s that just walked in? Only Michel Platini. I don’t know, maybe he wants a job. I know they’re looking for a barman.



Ref! On man’s inhumanity to man

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


Evening lads,

What I would like to discuss this evening is bigger than football, bigger than sport as a whole. No, Baz, not why so many pop stars are dying this year – that’s just one of those things. I’m talking about man’s inhumanity to man. Seriously, Dave, it’s something that troubles me, and has done ever since I myself was vilified – slagged off, Baz –  for the crime of falling in love. Six months down the road, Jody and I are very much devo ted to each other and the future, and what’s done is done. You can’t change the past, which is what my ex is trying to do, and it’s made me look at the world in a new light.

Yes, I know we always talk about football, and we’re going to, but not the game itself. I am disgusted with the way so-called fans have a go at their manager if results don’t go their way.

Take Roberto Martinez at Everton. It was all sweetness and light when he came in, because he’d just taken Wigan to glory, he had a reasonable first season but this year they’ve been disappointing and suddenly he’s an idiot.

Well, it’s not fair, is it? He’s the same manager he was before, and sometimes you have to live through the bad times to appreciate the good.

Wenger at Arsenal, even worse scenario. The guy brought them success for several years and then through circumstances beyond his control he had to operate differently from everyone else, because for the sake of the future they had to pay for a new stadium and therefore he couldn’t spend money on players. And apparently in order for the club to borrow the money, the banks insisted he sign a five-year contract, so obviously they believed in him.

Well, Dave, we have to give bank managers some credit. Many may be prats but that doesn’t mean they know nothing about football. I once met one who was a Mansfield Town fan, and good for him, supporting his home town club even though he was living in the land of milk and honey – London – and could quite easily have switched to Millwall and no one would have known.

Cheers, Gary, bottle of Grolsch if they have such a thing. Something decent in a bottle, anyway, whatever you think.

You’ve got to be thick-skinned to be a manager. Look at Rafa Benitez. Spends five minutes at Real Madrid, doesn’t do too bad but they boot him out because they want Zidane. And Benitez ends up at Newcastle, trying to avoid relegation. And talking of Benitez, remember when he went to Chelsea temporarily – everyone knew it wasn’t a permanent post – but the fans gave him terrible stick just because he had been at Liverpool.

I don’t know. Where’s the respect, where’s the intelligence? Get rid of Wenger and you could be on the managerial merry-go-round for years and end up with Louis Van Gaal or his spiritual heir who’s been bouncing around the world, winning things and gaining experience and looking for a home. That’s all they’re doing, lads, just looking for a home where they can enjoy their life and not worry about tomorrow. Obviously they don’t have to worry financially, if they’ve got any sense at all, because they do get paid a lot.

But there’s family, there’s peace of mind, there’s the kids and the dog getting freaked out because they’ve got no stability, no consistency. One minute they’re in McDonalds in west London and the next they’re in Burger King in Valencia. It must be hard, guys. And the missus is screaming “Why can’t we settle down and have a normal life? I wish I’d married that bus driver, at least I’d have known where to call home.”

You can mock, Dave, but we only get one go at life and the least we can ask is to be able to remember our address and phone number.

Yeah, she’s driving me mad, Baz, trolling me on Facebook, spreading rumours, slagging Jody off, the lot…




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.