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.

 Referee

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.

 

Advertisements

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.

 Referee

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 making decisions and being dissed

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

 Referee

Evening lads. Did I watch Leicester-West Ham? As it happens, yes, and I suppose you’re going to ask me about the refereeing, aren’t you? Did it make me regret retiring, Dave? Did it hell, mate. You don’t go into refereeing to be the centre of attention. The matches a ref enjoys are the ones everybody else enjoys. Good football, sportsmanship The kind of games where you’re only there to rubber-stamp what is obvious to everybody.

I won’t talk about specifics, Baz, no. It was the guy’s general performance that upset people. But to be fair, I don’t know if there has ever been a match where the neutrals were so partisan, if you get my drift. I mean everyone wanted Leicester to win, even some West Ham fans did. It’s the triumph of the little guy, isn’t it? David versus Goliath. Not West Ham as Goliath, no, but Leicester against the big boys. If they hadn’t been doing so well this season we’d have been rooting for the Hammers, because it’s good to see them up there too.

But everybody wants Leicester to wrap it up as soon as possible. And even though the ref yesterday was neutral in that he doesn’t come from Leicester or support them, he’ll have a soft spot for them on the quiet.

He did make some strange decisions as regards penalties and you’re right, it did look like he felt he owed them one at the end when they were about to lose because of his dubious decisions earlier on. But did that affect his thinking? We will never know. You have a split second to call it, that’s all. It’s not like in cricket where some umpires give it a few seconds before deciding out or not out. If a football ref did that he’d be accused of weighing it up in more ways than one. I football it’s bang, this is my decision and it’s final.

Cheers, Gary, I don’t know what I want to drink, to be honest. Give me a moment. No, just joking, I’ll have a pint of good old honest-to-God lager, mate. Carlsberg.

Of course, when you think about it, there is something to be said for giving the injured party a break if you know you screwed up earlier and it’s going to cost them, but you can’t do it. You have to make every decision on its own merits. Penalty or no penalty, simple as that.

People were asking for it in that game, though. Huth and Morgan grabbing people in the box, impeding them. It’s the thing that brasses me off most in the whole game, as it happens. That and diving, and there was a bit of that going on too. I tell you what, there’s an ugly picture in the media of Jamie Vardy pointing his finger at the ref when he’s just been sent off and it’s the kind of thing that makes you think if you could send him off twice you’d do it. Never mind reporting it afterwards and letting the authorities deal with it. A ref’s only human, and nobody likes to be dissed in that way. Dissed, Dave. Disrespected. It’s an expression Jody uses, yes. She gets it from the kids she teaches at school.

Dissed. I like it. It makes you sound less like a victim and more like a righteous dude. Don’t diss me, man. But a ref doesn’t have that luxury. He’s just got to take it and know he’s in the right. Dissed off though he might be.

 

 

Ref! On England, Germany and the new dawn

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

 Referee

Evening lads. Yes, of course, only one subject for us tonight: the glory that is England. As you say, Baz, it’s always good to beat the bloody Germans, and I’m sure we mean that in a non-xenophobic way. It’s not because they’re German, it’s because their team is called Germany and they have this irritating habit of doing well at football. But now and again we get ‘em, don’t we?

Yes, it did all look very predictable in the first half and the start of the second until we got going, but look at their side and look at ours. They had established stars like Ozil and Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller. Your wife is quite right, Dave. Müller does have a face you want to slap and it is to an extent beside the point but at the same time he got it metaphorically slapped in the end.

So Hodgson picks a team that’s about right in my opinion, full of emerging talents. Funny how that makes last year’s emerging talents look like underachievers, though, isn’t it? Ross Barkley has now been upgraded to experienced international but he’s in danger of missing the boat. Dele Alli’s looking more like it. Yes, Dave, Adam Lallana is becoming the new James Milner because he’s Hodgson’s representative now, his trusted lieutenant. The old man likes him and knows he’ll give 100%, even if it’s not often going to light up the stadium.

We’ve spoken before about the Rooney conundrum, and it does seem unfair that we’re all slamming the door behind us and leaning on it so he can’t get back in when he’s fit again, but Hodgson will have him in the squad in the summer and unless the youngsters really perform, he’ll be getting picked for crucial games, won’t he?

Cheers, Gary, why don’t we all chip in for a bottle of that Spanish sparkling wine by way of celebration? Bobby’ll give you a discount I’m sure. It’s not really champagne, so we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we can toast the future.

In a way it’s a complication as much as a blessing that both Kane and Vardy are credible candidates for the central striker role, but for me, Kane’s in the driving seat and if Vardy can be happy coming off the bench to win games, so much the better. Trouble is, managers who can’t make up their minds have a habit of playing the second choice guy out of position just so he’s there on the off chance, so on Saturday you had Danny Welbeck hanging around looking for scraps. He’s another of Hodgson’s prefects, always smartly turned out and never lets the head teacher down.

Yes, at the back it was a bit dodgy and the sooner John Stones gets back to being the messiah the better, cos poor old Gary Cahill is going to be a nearly kind of guy. He just hasn’t got the presence, the authority, that a man with his experience needs. Very nice guy apparently, but strikers across Europe are not waking up in the middle of the night screaming “Nein! Nein! Bloody Gary Cahill!” or however you swear in German.

Butland, yes, learned a lesson the hard way. What would you have done in his position, Dave? Come off sobbing at the first tweak or tried to run it off like he did? It’s a man’s game, even the women’s version.

 

 

Ref! The referee’s fear of the penalty

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

 Referee

No, that’s okay, Dave, just because I’ve retired doesn’t mean I can’t answer refereeing questions. What do you want to know?

The Benteke penalty at the end of the Palace-Liverpool game. Well I’m glad you asked me that, as it happens, because there are two points to talk about there. Three, really.

Did I think it was a penalty? Irrelevant, mate. The guy in charge thought it was, gave it and that’s that. I know it’s the only way Christian Benteke is going to get a goal at the moment because he’s having a tough time, but I don’t think that will have entered his thoughts at that moment. Not enough time, for one thing.

And no amount of TV replays would have cleared that one up, because the guy did touch him, and you’ve got questions like who was off-balance and all that. You just don’t know, Baz. Just like I don’t know what goes on in that big, bearded mind of yours when I see you clattering some poor sod on a Sunday morning.

Whether a striker has a predisposition, if you like, to going down in the box, we will never know. I don’t think even they know, and of course they’re all different. There are those who say you should stay on your feet if you possibly can, but they’re only human and if they’ve been kicked and held and jostled for 90 minutes there might be some little spark in their brain when the defender comes in again that says, “Right, I’ve had enough of this, you touched me and I’m going down.”

And talking of 90 minutes, that one did happen late on and Alan Pardew [Crystal Palace manager] said he doubted whether Palace would have got a penalty if it had been the other way round. Now that is offensive towards officials. You try your best to be impartial, of course you do. Plus, Palace were at home, after all, so there wasn’t even that much pressure from the crowd. Yes, it can be intimidating when you know 50,000 supporters are looking at you with malice in their hearts, but that wasn’t the case, was it? It was at Selhurst Park, so what pressure there was was from Palace fans wanting him to not give a penalty.

Cheers, Gary. I’ll have a brown and mild, mate. Yeah, bit of a throwback. My Dad used to drink it, and he was a Palace fan.

It was a young defender, was it? Yes, I know, now you mention it. But I don’t think age is a factor. Any defender would have had a go in that situation because if you don’t, you’re not doing your job. Right, Baz? Right, have a go and hope for the best. You don’t chop him down like a lumberjack, you go for the ball and if you get a touch of leg or boot or something, it’s like a surgeon accidentally nicking the gall bladder when he’s got his scalpel in that area while he’s doing something else.

Not that centre backs are like surgeons, I agree, Dave. More like butchers – no offence, Baz – with the exception of the skilled ones, your Des Walkers and Colin Todds and maybe John Stoneses. Marcel Desailly, yes. You, Baz, you’re in the classic mould. You’re Jack Charlton, Big Dave Watson, Tony Adams, or Robert Huth in the modern game. You’re a colossus, a giant, lumbering colossus – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Cheers, Gary, thank God you’re back. Give him his Guinness, for gawd’s sake.