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 the Olympics and George Michael

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 did we think of the Olympics then? Needs a rethink, Dave? I don’t disagree with you, mate, but I wonder if we have the same thoughts on the general principle.

Well, it’s a paradox, isn’t it? A paradox, Baz, is… kind of hard to explain. It means two things exist together when you’d think it doesn’t make sense. Like George Michael and Aretha Franklin, Dave, thank you. The American Queen of Soul and an English berk who was a teenage girls’ heartthrob until he got arrested for gay activity in public toilets.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Baz? I appreciate that we’re men of the world and despite your Neanderthal appearance you’re trying to keep up, but actually there is something wrong with that. Not necessarily the gay part but the public aspect. Look, we’re going wildly off the subject; what’s the matter with you two tonight?

The Olympics, gents. What I was trying to say is that on the one hand it’s supposed to be a celebration of man’s physical gifts – stop it Dave – and yet you can’t believe any of it because you don’t know who’s been taking performance-enhancing drugs. Now I know we once had a spliff before that match against Woolford, but we didn’t ever do it again because cannabis is not performance enhancing. It robs you of your edge.

There was a time when Malcolm Allison was in charge of Manchester City and he caught one of his players in the middle of a match gazing at the sky and when he asked him what the hell thought he was doing the guy said he was looking at the birds flying overhead. That’s only performance-enhancing if you’re a landscape painter.

But athletes seeking to gain an advantage, they’re taking drugs to make them stronger, bigger, fitter. Yes, it’s been going on for years, but it’s got to stop. I don’t know if there is a drug to make George Michael sing as well as Aretha Franklin, but there are some that will make him think he’s as good as her.

Cheers Gary, I’ll have a shot of Jagermeister and see if I get arrested by the thought police because it looks dodgy.

No, you see, it makes football look like an innocent’s game. Apart from Maradona that time with his wild eyes that had “out of me head” written all over him, I don’t reckon the beautiful game has a drug problem. They’ll push the boundaries with things like injecting sheeps’ placenta into an injured knee – afterbirth, Baz; yes I’m serious, believe it or not – but you don’t find footballers looking like Ben Johnson.

I know Gianluca Vialli when he was Chelsea manager gave everyone half a glass of champagne before a match, but that was psychology. You’re never going to win a game if you’re pissed, and that’s what footballers like to do of an evening.

Of course I’m not saying everyone’s at it, Dave. Probably not even all of the Russians, but you just don’t know, do you? When Maria Sharapova, who looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her lap, admitted taking meldonium but said it was for a heart condition and she knew it by a different name and anyway she’d stopped before it became banned – when that happens, lads, we have to admit the current system is  a lost cause.



Ref! On the cult of the manager

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


Evening lads,

So, all the best football managers in the world have now decided England is the place to be. And it’s the time of year when they can talk themselves up, as many are.

I noticed this about 18 months ago when Alan Pardew left Newcastle, where he hadn’t exactly set the world on fire, and went to Crystal Palace. And what did he say about his mission there, Dave, you remember? We discussed it at the time. That’s right, he said he was going to “teach them how to win football matches”. Like he was the first person to make that connection between winning matches and being successful. He cast himself in the role of Great Wise One. And he’s done all right there, he has “won a few football matches”, but his status as guru disappeared as soon as they lost one and kept losing them so it was clear they weren’t going to be the best side in the country.

But this is the time of year when managers can bang on about their philosophy – although they won’t be too specific about that because they haven’t actually got one. They’re just doing their best.

And now we’ve got Pep Guardiola, who has more claim than most to being a managerial genius, and he’s taken over a disgustingly rich club with a lot of top players. Manchester City, Baz. Well, disgusting in that that’s all it’s based on. People used to say that about Chelsea a few years ago, but they’ve achieved a degree of humility and therefore people aren’t so hard on them because they had such a rough time last season and nobody really knows why.

And Guardiola’s talking about the City players learning how he wants them to play. He’s had success from the start of his managerial career, so maybe either he is that good or he’s just been lucky. I mean, he wasn’t exactly short of talent at Barcelona and when you’ve got that many great players, you’re at an advantage, aren’t you? Yes, Baz, a considerable advantage – good word, your kids teach you that?

And then he was at Bayern Munich, who are so far ahead of the rest of Germany that, again, you’d have to be stupid to mess it up. But now he’s in England, where there is a bit of opposition. In Spain all you’ve got to do is beat Real Madrid a couple of times and steamroller the rest and you’re laughing.

But here, he’s got Jose Mourinho to contend with, a man with a point to prove. And Mourinho didn’t really big himself up that much at Chelsea, but now everyone else is at it, so he’s creating a mystique.

Cheers, Gary. I’ll have something new and exciting. Doesn’t matter what it is, just ask Derek what’s new and tell him why. Because we’re talking about new brooms, new ideas, mate, and I want to know Derek’s plans for the Duck and Peasant, see what his philosophy is and how he views the future.

Yes, I know that’s cobblers, but it’s an extension of the train of thought we’re on.

And at Chelsea you’ve got Antonio Conte, who we all know now because he was all over the Euros with Italy, looking smart in his dark suit and matching shirt and tie and building his image as the elegant tough guy. But can you get the best out of Eden Hazard and Nemanya Matic by shouting at them, which apparently he does a lot? I can see him getting a knuckle sandwich if he’s not careful. If John Terry was a few years younger, you know…

And who else, there’s Klopp at Liverpool who’s come out just about even after his first season, and now Ronald Koeman’s at Everton, where he is expected to do well, even though it’s a club built on former glories and in this day and age is no more of a football power than Southampton, where he’s just jumped ship from.

Have I forgotten anyone, Baz? Claudio Ranieri? No, he’s not bothered, mate. He’s had his miracle and he must have been expecting half the team to desert him, but they haven’t. Which might be a mixed blessing if it becomes apparent that the gift has left Leicester and with the same players they struggle a bit.

As ever, gentlemen, it remains to be seen.


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?



Ref! On supporting your local team

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


Evening lads. So, yes, FA Cup hotting up, as you say, Dave. Well, actually I don’t know if that is the right expression. It’s coming to the end, but I can’t say I’m particularly excited, are you? Palace and United in the final?

Trouble is, we’re spoilt these days. With the Champions League, the FA Cup has become a minor competition, hasn’t it? Even though Manchester United are pleased to be in the final, it’s kind of a consolation prize and I’m sure they would rather be safely in the hat for playing Bayern and Barca next season. There was a time when winning the Cup, as we used to call it, was a big deal, but now it’s only a big deal for smaller clubs and for eight-year-olds supporting the big boys.

I agree, Dave, it’s unfair, but if you remember, it was United that started it when they declined to take part a few years ago, when was it?

2005, 2006, Baz? Sounds about right. And that was all to do with taking part in the World Club Championship, which is a mickey mouse thing if ever there was one. But it’s a money-spinner, and that’s all that matters to some people these days.

Quite honestly, I don’t like the way the game is going globally-speaking. Spanish football on British TV, who gives a toss? Well I know a lot of people do, but what I mean is they shouldn’t. They should be supporting their own teams, Plymouth Argyle and Stockport County and Reading, but half of them have to claim affiliation with Man U or Chelsea, and then you’ll see them wearing a Barcelona shirt. Got to be associated with teams that win things. It’s all wrong, Baz, don’t you agree? If you grew up in Stoke on Trent you support Stoke City, you don’t switch to Spurs because Harry Redknapp is there and they look like they’re on the verge of something.

Cheers, Gary. Bottle of San Miguel, please. Yes I know it’s Spanish. I’m just drinking it once, not getting married to it.

Yes, a mate of mine did that. Not Stoke, Ipswich. He was fine with his birthright in the 70s when they were doing well, but give him a couple of barren decades and he jumps ship. Didn’t tell me, though. I was talking to a mutual acquaintance and his name came up and the guy goes “He’s a Spurs fan, isn’t he?” I said no, born in Ipswich. And when I confronted him about it, he was almost denying his heritage.

I think it’s outrageous these days when kids from England profess to be Barca fans. Mind you, I think a lot of it has to do with the colours of the shirt and the fact that it’s a fashionable city. You don’t meet a lot of British Bayern Munich fans, because it hasn’t got the cachet.  French word, Baz, I’m not even sure of the dictionary definition, but it means something is cool, trendy, respected, something like that. You don’t go on stag weekends to Germany, do you? Same with Shakhtar Donetsk and Porto. People are pathetic, they have to cling to the coattails of the popular.



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! On Chelsea and a beautiful game

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


I tell you what, lads, yesterday I watched the best game of football I’ve seen all season. Yes, Baz, I make no apology for the fact that it was Chelsea. Cracking game.

Yes, I’ll tell you why. Okay, it was against MK Dons, who are not exactly giants of the footballing world, but they played football – they didn’t shut up shop and try to stifle Chelsea, and they didn’t try to kick them out of it. They played football as it should be played.

And Chelsea, for their part, they put out a full strength team and they took it seriously, gave MK a bit of respect even after it became apparent they could stuff them. They kept at it for 90 minutes.

Yes, of course, Dave, that’s what people should always do, but they don’t, do they? Half the time the big club names players you’ve never heard of and the smaller club decides they might not be as skilful but they’re every bit as big and strong, and they decide to dish out the rough stuff.

But this, lads – did you see it, Gary? Brilliant stuff, wasn’t it? Whatever you think about what happened at Chelsea early in the season, which we still don’t know and maybe never will really, they’ve got some great players and it was football’s loss when they were giving matches away. So they come into this match, FA Cup, which may be their best chance of a trophy this season, and they give it their all.

They’ve got such a lot of skill in the squad and in similar positions, so Hazard hasn’t been good this season but Willian’s been doing it, and Hazard starts and has a good go but it’s just not working for him at the moment. And then Oscar gets a hat trick. And Hazard scores a penalty, but you could see he still wasn’t happy with himself. He wants to do like he did last season and be brilliant every week. But with the teammates he’s got, it doesn’t matter so much. You lose as a team and you win as a team.

Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a glass of sparkling wine. No, seriously. I’m celebrating because it felt yesterday like normal service had been resumed and all the grumbling about overpaid players taking us for a ride was gone.

You’re right, Baz, it was a bit of a bombshell to find out straight after that John Terry’s leaving, but he didn’t make a fuss either, did he? Everything was done in the right spirit yesterday. Hardly a foul, and you had to keep checking to see there actually was a referee there.

And late on, MK were still having a go but still in the right way, and they get a good chance and Courtois, who hadn’t had hardly anything to do, he’s still awake and pulls off a good save.

It tell you, lads, sometimes life doesn’t seem so bad after all. Cheers, Gary. Your health, one and all.





Ref! On Swansea and building a football club

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?


Ref! Mis predicciones

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 indeed get away to the frozen north for New Year. Very nice, thanks. Very cold, Canada, although they were all telling us it was actually quite mild where we were, in Vancouver. They play football there, as you know. Vancouver Whitecaps, named for the snow-tipped mountains outside the city. Peter Beardsley used to play for them, in the NASL, and although that folded and eventually MLS started, the Whitecaps name still exists. No one I’ve ever heard of there now, mind you.

Didn’t miss much down here, did I? Van Gaal getting his knickers in a twist and reality beginning to call out to Leicester. You often find the second half of the season is very different from the first. Like last year, what people tend to forget is that Chelsea were red hot before Christmas but went into a slow dive after it, but they had built up such a lead that they could land the plane even with the engines failing.

It’s a metaphor, Baz, it sort of describes one situation by making you think of another. That’s right, and the engines were still knackered at the start of this season, exactly, but now they’ve had a good service and changed the oil and we shall see. And if we apply another, no not menopause, metaphor, to Leicester , they’ve been bombing down the M1 in an old Transit, passing all the flash Mercs and BMWs, but you can’t do that forever. Sooner or later they’ll pull in at a service station for a full English breakfast and when they go back out to the van it won’t start and when they do get it going it will be on three cylinders.

Cheers, Gary, you’re right, I do need a rest after that. Something English, my good man. Pint of your finest bitter beer, Sire. Have they got a local one? Pigs Tie? Yeah, go on. They must have confidence if they can call it that. And a bag of crisps. Cheese and onion, none of your fancy sour cream and bear-shit-roasted potato chips.

No, Dave, you don’t want my predictions for the rest of the season. 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.

And a happy New Year to all. May football be the winner, as long as your team does okay in the end.



Ref! On Mourinho and Chelsea

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


Evening lads. I won’t beat about the bush. I am gasping for a pint. Dave, here’s a 20, would you mind? Lovely, so I can tell the rest of you all about it. Well, I was at the Liberty Stadium for Swansea-Arsenal, and an entertaining game it was too, but that’s not what we want to talk about, is it?

It’s all about Jose Mourinho. What the four asterisks is going on at Chelsea? Exactly, Dave.

It all started with the doctor business, the Carneiro woman – no, really, that’s where all the trouble started. I’ve seen her up close, mate, and let me tell you she is a bit of all right. And I think Mourinho liked that element, the showbiz angle. It was all very Chelsea, wasn’t it? Playboys, always have been, right from the 60s with Osgood and Eddie McCreadie’s pink shirt and boozing up and down the King’s Road.

So they get bought by a Russian billionaire and they start winning things and they’ve got a charismatic manager. Then he leaves, but his soul never sets foot outside Stamford Bridge because it knows he’ll be back. And sure enough he does return, but in the meantime they’ve won the Champions League without him, whereas he didn’t manage it first time round

He’s getting older – hear me out, Gary – and he can’t just do a sort of Round Two, plus he’s got some hard decisions to make about David Luiz and Fernando Torres etc, which he does. But now the club’s lacking a bit of glamour, but suddenly, what’s this? A nice looking woman hanging around the pitch on match days. Can’t do any harm, can it?

But somebody with an ego like his can’t have co-stars hogging the limelight, even though, as I mentioned a few week ago, I reckon she had something going with the owner, Roman Abramovich. So Mourinho finds an excuse to get rid of her.

And it’s been all downhill from there, hasn’t it?

Now, someone like Abramovich, he didn’t get where he is today by being nice. It doesn’t just drop into your lap and change your life – just doesn’t happen like that. Okay, Baz, granted there was the time when Johnny Boothroyd’s uncle died and left him the burger van in Clacton – and Johnny never looked back until the heart attack – but that was an exception, a freak occurrence if you like.

The point is, nobody knows what’s going on at Chelsea, but you can bet your life there’s more to it than meets the eye. Half the side is off form at the same time. That is suspicious.

You remember the Ice Bucket Challenge last year? When you did one – and yes, thank you, Dave, my nipples have finally thawed out – you had to nominate somebody else. And Eva Carneiro nominated Branislav Ivanovich. It’s the kind of thing you do to someone you’re fond of, isn’t it? And now Ivanovich has aged 10 years over the summer.

Well, come on, lads. I don’t know what it is, but something’s going on. Abramovich hasn’t sacked him yet, but why not? To make him suffer? I’m the last to want to start rumours, but you’ve got to wonder, haven’t you?