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 genius and idiocy

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


Evening lads,

So what do you think of it so far? The Euros, gentlemen. Seen anything you like? Yes, England, going okay, more than okay in my opinion. Roy doesn’t, as people keep saying, he doesn’t know his best team yet, but I think that’s being overstated. At international level, does anyone ever know their best team? You’ve got a pool of players who must all be good or they wouldn’t be there, but putting 11 of them together and expecting them to gel like a club side, it’s not going to happen.

I bet they were saying the same in 1966 when Alf Ramsey was doing his best with what fate threw at him. And that meant Jimmy Greaves getting injured early on in the tournament, so he had to bring in Geoff Hurst, or as some people would have said, Geoff Who? He might have been expecting Roger Hunt to be the star up front, but Hurst rose to the occasion. Greaves was his number one striker. No wonder the poor sod turned to drink later.  Greavsie, I mean, not Ramsey.

Funnily enough, there’s a bit of Ramsey about Roy Hodgson. Not a lot of charisma floating around. And not afraid to make unpopular decisions. Ramsey played without wingers, which must have been like sacrilege – yes, Dave, insanity – at the time. Them were the days of two fast wide men and a big bloke in the middle. Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon pinging them in for Andy Carroll or bloody Peter Crouch. But Ramsey was having none of it. Was he a genius? Probably not. He just happened to have a few good players at his disposal and through a combination of shrewdness and circumstances he got the job done.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, Baz, but Hurst and Martin Peters emerged during the tournament. Ramsey knew Gordon Banks was his best goalie and he’d have put his house on Jack Charlton at the back, and Bobby Moore of course, but we’ve got the World Cup winning XI set in stone. He didn’t.

You’ve just got to hope your name is on the trophy. Cheers Gary, pint of bitter, mate. Anything as long as it’s English, you know what I mean?

You’ve got to hope that it’s your destiny. Remember when Chelsea won the Champions League a couple of years back? Bayern Munich should have won it, but it was Chelsea’s year. You could just feel it. Even Gary Neville noticed and you could tell he liked it, rabid Man U man though he is. He was co-commentating on the final and he could sense it. It doesn’t matter who you’re up against. It just happens.

So against Wales, the key match in the group. I was nervous, I don’t mind telling you. And when Bale put that free kick away when Joe Hart should have had it for breakfast, you suddenly thought oh no. Not one of those days! But funnily enough I had a feeling it was going to be all right and sure enough, Vardy does the business. Even when it got to stoppage time, Jody’s bouncing up and down on the settee next to me – she gets excited, Baz, she’s a passionate woman – I was just waiting for it and sure enough, Sturridge does the business.

Hodgson didn’t know that was going to happen, two of his substitutes score and make him look clairvoyant. We’re talking before the Slovakia game, so we could ourselves be sounding like geniuses or idiots – thank you, Dave, I was waiting for that. Anyway, if we get tonked in that, it’s not the end of the world.

Why don’t you join me in a quick rendition of a song by Neil Innes – the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Baz, don’t you know anything?

How sweet to be an idiot,
As harmless as a cloud,
Too small to hide the sun
Almost poking fun,
At the warm but insecure untidy crowd.

No, It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a smartarse attempt to be funny. And if we do beat Slovakia and go on to win the tournament, who’ll be an idiot then?



Is God a Liverpool fan?


The whole concept of faith involves belief in things that are unproven. While the chief argument of the atheist is that we can’t prove God exists, the counter argument is that they can’t prove he doesn’t.

In the modern age, educated people are more likely to believe in ghosts than in God (and incidentally, who has ever been killed or wounded by a ghost? If they do exist, why be afraid of them?)

The Holy Spirit used to be known as the Holy Ghost, but the word ‘spirit’ doesn’t have the same spooky connotations. Some people profess to be ‘spiritual’ but not religious, although because there is no definition of the word that they would all agree on, it may mean one thing to one and something different to another.

For the purpose of this little study, let’s say that people who call themselves ‘spiritual’ believe in a higher power – something or somebody not in human form but capable of influencing what happens in the human realm. They may or may not believe in ‘spiritualism’ as in the ability to communicate with the dead, as practised by someone known as a ‘medium’ but I don’t think that is what most really mean.

I think people who consider themselves spiritual are closer than they would like to think to believing in God, but just can’t bring themselves to do it, because it’s too complex and involves, as they see it, too many rules and regulations, dos and don’ts.

They will tell you that you don’t have to believe in God to be a good person: one who helps others and doesn’t knowingly do any damage in life – and in many cases I think they’re right.

I can only speak for Christians, and even then, only from my own experience. So not all Christians are good people, and not all non-Christians are good people – if we could all agree on what constitutes a good person. We do what we can within the limitations of our own flaws and weaknesses, and we try to fix our flaws and strengthen where there is weakness.

Does a non-religious person have a definition of the word “miracle”? The Bible contains lots of stories involving miracles, all powered by God, through a chosen few including, notably, Jesus. But what is a miracle? It’s something that happens that seemed highly unlikely but which we were desperate for. We couldn’t make it happen. So even non-religious people will “pray” for a miracle.

And who are they praying to? Are they directing it to God, just on the off-chance that  such a person or thing exists?

Modern-day “miracles” are often seen in a sporting context, so let’s look at one of those.

In 2005, Liverpool Football Club won the UEFA Champions league against AC Milan in the neutral city of Istanbul, Turkey. Liverpool weren’t, by common consent, the best team in Europe at that time. They weren’t even dominant in the English Premier League. And in the Champions League final they were 3-0 down at half time.

miracle 3
Cheer up, Stevie G. The fans around here think you’re God

How many Liverpool fans were “praying for a miracle” while they got the beers in or made a cup of tea? How many half-jokingly closed their eyes and begged some higher power to help them out?

And then it happened: in the second half they scored three goals, making it 3-3, so after 90 minutes came extra time. No change after the added 30 minutes, so it went to penalties. Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties.

The match has gone down in football history as The Miracle of Istanbul.

miracle 2
How did that happen? Are we brilliant or are we lucky?

But was God involved in that? Italy is probably a more Christian country than England, with the Catholic Church fundamental to its society. So millions of Milan fans must have been praying too.

Is God a Liverpool fan? Seriously, what do you think?

Prayer is a question of belief, of faith, but we have to be sensible about this. If you’re praying for your team and someone else is praying for theirs, how can a loving god give it to one rather than the other? God is the father, and even human fathers would not make such a decision between two of his children. We might try to make a decision based on who deserved it more, which team was playing better and who had been a good boy recently, but ultimately we can’t make that judgement.

The point is that in times of dire need, we realize we can’t do it on our own, so we reach out for help. But if we only ever consider the possibility that God exists when we need him, what message is that sending? How about a bit of gratefulness for the good things that have happened so far?

Nobody has all the answers – not even atheists.