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.

 Referee

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 the Capital One Cup final

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

 Referee

Yes, Dave, of course I watched it. It’s a funny time of year to win a trophy and it’s the least important of the trophies, but, you know, it’s a cup final, isn’t it?

I wasn’t supporting either of them, actually. I don’t think any neutral really wants Manchester City to win anything, because they’re just not likeable. Same as Chelsea had to put up with for a few years; people were put off by the fact that it was all down to money.

You were supporting Liverpool, were you, Baz? I’ve got nothing against the club, mate, and it used to be good seeing them in Europe in their heyday, when they were exciting to watch, but now? No. It’s the fans, Baz. They’re unbearable. There’s no humility. They act like they’ve been on the top table all along, whereas they stopped being invited to the do years ago and they just sneak in the side door now and then.

Some decent players, certainly. Coutinho’s okay, isn’t he? He’s like one of the Chelsea boys, Hazard, Oscar and Willian, and Mata, of course. But poor old Coutinho’s all on his own. Not getting injured all the time like Sturridge, not blowing hot and cold like a lot of them. He does it week in, week out, but the rest of them let him down all the time.

I remember saying early in the season that they were top-heavy with strikers, but then the lad from Burnley, Danny Ings, got injured and Benteke didn’t impose himself on the scene. Sturridge comes back and drops out, comes back and drops out. And there’s Origi going “What about me? What about me?”

And they’ve got no consistency in the back four, plus Mignolet’s a bit sensitive for a goalie.

They can’t help it, I know. They’ve signed too many average players over the years. If Liverpool was a building you’d have to pull it down and start again from scratch.

Cheers, Gary, pint of cider, please. Why? Why not?

Funny questions that guy asks sometimes.

Anyway, not a bad game, was it? Something to do on a Sunday afternoon. Not that I’m short of action in that department at the moment, Dave, no. Had to get special dispensation, as it happens. Fortunately Jody does like sport so we watched it in bed.

The trouble is, as I said, when you don’t really want either side to win, it’s hard to enjoy it. So when City scored I thought “Oh, go on, then, let’s get it over with.”

Then Liverpool come back and you think, “Okay, let the poor sods have their day for once.” But it’s not the same as standing on the settee because you’re so excited.

I suppose penalties was the best bit, yes. You don’t like it when it’s your team, but when it’s somebody else’s problem, why not? And Caballero makes himself a hero for a day, which we can all get into. It sort of transcends sport.

Transcend, Baz, means… haven’t you got a dictionary on your phone? Well I have. Here…

 

 

 

 

Ref! The enigma that is Liverpool

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

 Referee

What do I think of Liverpool, Dave? In light of the fact I did their game against Villa, you mean? Well, it was thoroughly enjoyable from my point of view, but that’s not what you’re asking, is it? You’re asking if, in my professional opinion, Brendan Rodgers has got it right.

The answer is, as so often, circumstances have helped him. I thought he – or his transfer committee – had a terrible summer. First it’s all about Danny Ings. He snaps him up as soon as Burnley are relegated. Indecent haste, mate. Embarrassing.

But okay, he’s got Ings and this is going to be the answer to Liverpool’s prayers. Then he buys Benteke, who is a more high-profile player and a different kettle of fish altogether. Big target man, a throwback to John Toshack, almost, and everybody’s saying they’ll have to build the team around him.

Then Daniel Sturridge comes back from injury and Benteke does a hamstring and it’s all about Sturridge. And him and Ings do look more like it, you have to admit.

But all the time, guys, all the time, there’s little Philippe Coutinho, who’s their real diamond, and he must be thinking ‘Okay, Brendan, sort it out and get the team to catch up with me’, cos he’s your Brazilian Mata, he’s as good as Hazard, but he’s like a beautiful carrot that’s already grown and ready to dig while they’re still spreading manure on the rest of the garden.

That, Baz, is called mixing metaphors. It’s what happens when you’ve got a football brain like the thoughts of Chairman Mao meets the mind of Brian Clough.

Cheers, Gary, pint of that milky stuff we invented last week: Guinness and Baileys. Gaileys, yes, Dave, good one. Well, a bit… you know, but we’re all secure in our sexuality, I think.

At the back, mate? Liverpool, you mean? The jury is out, Dave. He’s got lots of options but they’re so unconvincing the jury is not just out but has gone for a pint, had a few scotches and is now hanging around the only remaining chip shop in the area, in search of a bit of relief from the tedium.

Manual relief, yes, Baz, maybe, but someone else’s manual.

They’re a funny bunch, though, Liverpool. They’ve been hopeless for years apart from that little Suarez interlude, ever since Fergie did what he set out to do and knocked them off their effing perch, but they don’t see it. They still think it’s a blip. But manager after manager buys ten cheap shirts instead of one beautiful one and wonders why they shrink in the wash.

Yes, Baz, minced menopause again. Go back to sleep, for Clough’s sake.