Ref! The final whistle

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

 Referee

Evening lads,

I see we’ve all woken up, then. From the snooze that was the England-Slovakia game, Baz. Load of rubbish, wasn’t it? And all the people who were talking Sam Allardyce up beforehand, about this system he had that the players could fall back on, well it didn’t look like they were particularly inspired, did it? And him sitting there like a face in the crowd.

No, I’m sorry, Dave, but I don’t reckon he’s up to it. I’m really sorry to be negative about it. Particularly as this is the last Ref! blog.

Why? Because the guy who writes this stuff is packing it in, that’s why. He says he’s been doing it for a year and has had a lot of fun, but he’s got other things to be getting on with. So that’s it.

He’d like to thank everyone for their support, blah blah blah, but what good’s that to the likes of us?

Cheers Gary, no drink thanks, I’m not in the mood. Rather sad actually, gents. It’s been a significant part of my life these last 12 months and I’ll miss it.

But all good things must come to an end and we’ve had the 90 minutes plus stoppage time on this. And all the other threads, Dave, yes. Our colleagues in the expat, pedant, film, pop music, food and religion departments – all the same bloke, as it happens – all packing it in.

So there we are. Nothing more to be said. Anybody wishing to contact the miserable git can use his email address: chrismorvan@gmail.com

Bye.

 

 

 

Ref! On the farce that is Formula One

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee and all-round sports expert Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant

 Referee

Evening lads,

Just for a change let’s talk about something other than football tonight, okay? Such as? What do you mean, such as, Dave? There are other subjects in the world. We just naturally talk about football because… yes, Baz, it’s what we do – very profound.

So how about Formula One? Very popular sport. A man’s sport, you could say, because it’s all blokes in here tonight and they’re all talking about it. Well I tell you what, I don’t see the appeal. I lost interest when it stopped being called motor racing. Now it’s Formula One or even F1. It’s lost its way, you know.  Too clever for its own good. I don’t even understand it half the time. Well, Baz, do you? You do? Because you are also a driver. Yes, you’re a lorry driver. You can call it a truck driver if you like but here in Britain you’re a lorry driver, mate. And it’s hardly the same thing, is it?

Okay, I’ll grant you that you and Lewis Hamilton both have to have a basic understanding of motor vehicles, but that hardly means you have a lot in common. Okay, I will test you. What was all this nonsense about tyre pressures on Sunday? And why did Hamilton have to start last? And if they’ve perfected a new head protector on the cars why aren’t they using it?

You see? None of it is about actually driving. It’s all technical stuff. No, Dave, I can see he’s trying to answer and I deliberately gave him three questions at once because the whole thing is confusing. They change their tyres two or three times during a race, they’ve made the engines quieter but some people think that spoils the fun. They could actually go faster than they do but there are restrictions on that. It’s cobblers, mate. Nonsense.

Cheers Gary, I’ll have a cocktail please. The most complicated thing they can make. I don’t care.

Look, if other sports did what F1 does there’d be an outcry. You pole vaulters can’t use those poles because they’re too good, so you’ll have to use an inferior one. Mo Farah, you’ll have to use soft spikes and stop halfway and put wet weather ones on. And you can use a headset to communicate with your coach, but you can only use it a certain number of times or they’ll penalize you.

Whatever happened to just getting in the fastest car your team can make and driving it as fast as you can? No, Baz, that isn’t what they do. There’s all this other stuff that gets in the way. You hear that Fernando Alonso is one of the fastest drivers and Jenson Button is a more naturally gifted driver than Hamilton, so why do they not win races anymore? It’s like saying Dave is a better singer than Pavarotti because he’s got a better microphone.

It’s like making cricket bats with holes in them to stop the great batsmen scoring so many runs.

Absolute nonsense, mate, the world’s gone mad and Bernie Ecclestone and the rest of them  are out of their heads on money, intoxicated by cash. Cheers Gary, what the bloody hell’s this?

 

 

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.

 Referee

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 Sunderland and new life

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

 Referee

Sunderland, Dave. Yes, Sunderland. I would like to hear your thoughts on one of the sleeping giants that’s been asleep so long it’s got hair and a beard like Hagrid in Harry Potter. The Robbie Coltrane character, Baz. Fat bloke with hair and a beard that look like Sunderland would if it was a man. Bloody hell it’s hard around here sometimes. But as you say, Dave, giving cultural references to a man devoid of culture is, well, it’s hard to finish that thought without another cultural reference.

But if Leicester City can achieve what they did last season, supporters of the other perennial strugglers must be thinking it’s just possible it’s their turn now.

So, the team in red and white stripes with black shorts are dreaming of glory, and why not? Their manger until about a month ago is now the manager of England. And he’s been replaced by a former manager of a Champion’s’ League-winning club. The sobering reality is that it’s David Moyes, but, again, think back just a few years and he was highly respected for doing good things with Everton. Anybody would have struggled at Man U straight after Ferguson. Nothing wrong with Moyesy, and he’s probably better off somewhere where expectations are not high.

Sunderland’s a working man’s club. Have you seen their crest, their badge? It’s got a ship on it, a silhouette of a ship. Not the Queen Mary or a cruise ship, but it looks like a merchant vessel or maybe a warship. And that’s because that’s what the town is famous for, building ships. I know it’s not like that now, but what do you think they’re going to put on their crest, a silhouette of a council estate? That’s their history and they’re trying to use it as inspiration.

Raich Carter, Brian Clough, Tom Finney, Ian Porterfield, Jim Montgomery. I know the kids haven’t heard of them, but why does it always have to be about kids? Nobody’s ever heard of Baz, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. I had to explain to Jody the other day who Brian Clough was, and she’s 25. Only one of the greatest centre forwards in the English language and a legendary manager who won the European Cup twice on the trot. You have to explain what the European Cup was too nowadays, and tell them the old First Division was what is now the Premier League.

Cheers, Gary, something from the north-east, mate. Do they still have Newcastle Brown ale? I know Sunderland supporters would probably object, but it’s the closest we’re going to get. See if they’ve got Shipbuilding on the juke box. Robert Wyatt or Elvis Costello, I don’t mind. Or Don’t Give Up, Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. Bit gloomy for a juke box, I know. Tell you what, I’ve got it on my iPod, which I happen to have here. We can take turns. To get in the mood, Baz. To bring luck to the boys shivering up in la la land.

Sentimental? Yes, I suppose I am a bit. I’ll tell you the truth. The ex-wife’s daughter is up the duff. Pregnant. The father’s a guy from the Job Centre, originally from the north-east. So I’m going to be a granddad. No, she’s not my own flesh and blood, but close enough. Jody? Not amused, but she’ll get over it.

At least Sunderland have a history. Leicester didn’t. Towns and cities tend to have successful football clubs when the town is doing well, and Sunderland was booming once with the shipbuilding, but what’s Leicester’s claim to fame? Look at Aberdeen. They were a force in Scottish football in the days when Britain suddenly discovered it had oil and gas under the sea, and a lot of it happened to be in the frozen north. So the town no longer just had beer and fish and chilblains, it had money, and then it had Alex Ferguson and European football.

Life goes on, gents, life goes on.

 

 

Ref! On Pogba and value for money

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

 Referee

Ludicrous, Dave. Insane. £100m. A hundred million nicker for a player. And a player who’s not yet the finished article.

Yes, I know if someone is stupid enough to give you that sort of money you would be equally stupid to turn it down, but really. Paul Pogba. If he’s worth that much, what would Pele be worth if he was playing today? What’s Messi worth?

That’s just taking people for a ride, exactly, Baz. You’re old enough to remember when Trevor Francis became the first million pound player, aren’t you? Dave was in nappies and I wasn’t much older. 1979, wasn’t it? And Francis wasn’t worth the money either. He was a prodigy at Birmingham City – they used to call him Superboy because he was playing in the First Division at 16.

But was he worth a million? I think you’ll find even he doesn’t think so. The football world was aghast – yes, it is a funny word, and probably not the right one, but you know what I mean. People were shocked. They were still recovering from Jimmy Greaves being signed by Tottenham for £99,999. They did that, Baz, because they didn’t want him to have the pressure of being the first £100,000 player. So they paid a quid less than that.

Like you see in the supermarket, everything is a penny below a landmark price to make it seem less expensive. Did I pay a tenner for that bottle of wine? Did I hell. Bargain, mate, £9.99.

But Pogba, you see, isn’t afraid of that. His agent isn’t, anyway, and he’s getting millions out of the deal too. I tell you, boys, that’s the racket to be in. Never mind working for a living, doing something worthwhile. Like being a referee, Dave, yes. My former career contributed to the wellbeing of this country. In a modest way, I agree, but professional football provides enjoyment for millions of people and it has to be played in the right spirit, so the people who ensure that, like myself, are making a contribution to society. You could call it a form of philanthropy.

And now I’m teaching people to drive. It’s a life skill. I’m helping to keep the world moving, but in  a safe way.

Cheers, Gary, bottle of Pils please. Czech Republic if they’ve got it.

So anyway, getting back to the point, if Mino Raiola, the superagent, had Baz on his books, how much would he get for him? Veteran centre half, unflappable, hard as nails,  has been known to score goals from corners. Got to be getting on for the price of a bottle of wine, don’t you reckon? What do you think, Baz? Are you worth a Chilean Merlot or a magnum of champagne?

Pogba. I’d have offered Juventus a case of Chianti. Yes, I know you know what that is because I explained it when Hannibal Lecter said it in Silence of the Lambs. He had someone’s liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. Can’t have been a footballer, then, old Hannibal. Cos if he had been he’d have had some carbohydrates with it. Pasta or rice . Not mashed potatoes, Baz. Because they just don’t, mate.

Well, you could have it on top of a mound of spaghetti with the beans on the side. They’re known as broad beans in this country. No, I don’t like them either.

 

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.

 

Ref! On Allardyce and a grim future

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

 Referee

Hey,Baz, there’s a bloke asking for you up by the bar. I don’t know, he’s from the FA, I think, wants to offer you a job. No, the Allardyce thing was all an elaborate joke and it’s you they want for England manager.

Well, I mean come on, Sam Allardyce? How desperate has this country become? Never mind him being at unfashionable clubs – Brian Clough and Peter Taylor were at Derby and Notts Forest, but they actually won things. They transformed clubs and won the league and the European Cup. All Big Sam’s done is make Bolton and Blackburn unpleasant places to go on the dreaded, legendary “wet Wednesday in November”.

Dreaded because you were going to be assaulted, Dave, that’s right. He can talk all he likes about the great football his teams played, but how come nobody else thinks so? If he’d turned Bolton into Barcelona I think we might have noticed.

And at West Ham the fans couldn’t wait to get rid of him because the team didn’t play “the West Ham way”, which might be a myth going back to the 1960s, but you can see their point. Allardyce got back into his element at Sunderland, because they were in a relegation dogfight, and that’s what his teams are good at: scrapping.

No, no, Dave, I agree, we shouldn’t bury him before he’s lived in the England job. But what points do you want to make in his defence? His name?

Yes, I agree, it’s unfortunate that he sounds like a character in Last of the Summer Wine, a dyed-in-the-wool northerner with ferrets down his trousers. It makes him sound like an unsubtle dinosaur. They used to say the opposite about Tim Henman, like he’d have been a more powerful and successful player if his name was Tom Bulman, just because it sounds meatier. So yes, if Allardyce had been called Simon Alan Dyson, we might have given him a bit of credit.

And if he’s looked less like a thug and more like a thinker, but he can’t help that either. I don’t disagree with you, mate.

Cheers, Gary, what’s the guest ale this week? Big Sam? Seriously? I’ll have a pint of that, mate. In a reinforced glass, just in case.

So what we’re saying is that Sam Allardyce needs a makeover. I’m sure the FA’s PR department is working on that. Lose some weight, get rid of the coaliminer’s haircut and make him look more like Philip Seymour Hoffman. There is a resemblance, you know.

But no, we’ll see. But it’s a bit embarrassing, isn’t it, when the press are asking people like Jose Mourinho what he thinks and Mourinho’s going, “Yes, Good appointment.” He must have laughed himself silly when he heard the news.

Seriously, gentlemen, we shall see, but from here it looks ludicrous, doesn’t it? If the English candidates were Allardyce and Steve Bruce – who’s a very nice guy, by the way – then we’re in trouble. I just hope the way the situation has been laid bare will show the club owners the folly of appointing foreign managers. Except the owners are all foreign too, Dave, exactly.

So maybe we need to fast forward to 50 years’ time, when the bubble has burst and football in England is a part-time game and the Shetland Islands are world champions because of their zero-tax laws and untold riches.

And our grandchildren will be sitting here – Baz’s won’t, because they’ll be in prison – talking about the good old days when England used to occasionally qualify for a tournament before getting knocked out by Andorra.

 

Ref! On pre-season and America

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

 Referee

Evening lads,

Yes, I suppose it is a bit of a rarity, this, with no serious football going on. You can’t really say there’s none, though, because the pre-season friendlies are happening already.  Makes me feel a bit sad, as it happens, because it means the summer is almost over. And yes, it’s the first year for many years that I haven’t been starting a new season myself, because even these meaningless games have to be officiated.

Yes, I have been doing a bit of training, as it happens. Old habits die hard. Jody and I have been running to the park, round it a few times and home for some exercises and a massage. Do me a favour, Baz, be your age, mate. She’s a qualified masseuse. Yes, that is how it’s pronounced. Masserz. I know the yanks say m’soose, but that’s  a funny thing about them, they don’t know how to pronounce foreign words.

That’s probably why they don’t leave their country very often, apart from John Kerry, of course. Kerry, Baz, not John Terry. Kerry is the Secretary of State, mate. The Secretary of State for what? Nothing, mate. That’s the job title. Often wondered about that myself. Sort of Foreign Minister. And he’s always abroad. Anywhere anything major’s happening, he’s there, just reminding us that there are Americans other than cops and black people shooting each other.

I know, it’s surprising they haven’t become a major force in football, but long may it remain so. If they dropped all their silly games and just played sahker they’d be getting in the way, wouldn’t they?

So don’t give them too much encouragement, I say. It’s bad enough with our top sides going there to play each other pre-season and our old codgers spending their twilight years with LA Galaxy.

They’ve produced a few good goalkeepers, haven’t they? Kasey Keller, Tim Howard, Brad Friedel, Brad Guzan. It’s a refreshing display of humility, I reckon, sending people to the Premier League to play in a low-profile position. You’d think they’d all want to be strikers, wouldn’t you? Chewing gum and smoking marijuana in the dugout.

There’s one at Chelsea now, Matt Miazga. Young centre back. Hasn’t had a first team game yet, I don’t think, but he’s learning his trade I suppose.

Cheers, Gary, bottle of Budweiser please, since we’re on a transatlantic theme.

Remember when Beckham first went over there. Some of them didn’t like it at all. He breezes in and takes over and the captain was well put out. Landon Donovan. Sounds like a made-up name, doesn’t it? Got his PR company to come up with something swashbuckling because he’s really Reginald Smith.

Then Beckham turns up with his pop star wife and the girls are all over him and he beats them at their own game. So to speak. Our game is football.

Clint Dempsey, that’s another one, Dave. Real name Jolyon Schnitzengruber, but that doesn’t sound so good on the front pages. You’re never going to pull Britney Spears with a name like that.

Anyway, they can call themselves what they like, and even the teams have fancy names. The San Jose Earthquakes, the Galaxy, Red Bulls, all that sort of caper. Showbusiness. Maybe that is the secret of their lack of success. If they had clubs called Accrington Stanley and Brighton and Hove Albion, you might take them seriously.

Not at all, Baz, no anti-American bias here. Just saying, mate. As I said, long may it remain so.

 

 

Ref! On football follies

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

 Referee

A farce, Dave. A farce. Ludicrous. Who’s the best national team in Europe? Well I’m sorry, but it’s not Portugal. Well obviously that’s what the records are going to show, and that is precisely my point. But actually, that’s not what the records are going to show. It’s what the Portuguese are going to say the records show. But there is a difference between the winners of a tournament  and the best team.

Yes, Baz, as you are struggling so manfully to articulate, it calls into question the very nature of the knockout competition. It’s a nursery school attitude. “Play nicely with the other children, and it’s Kayleigh’s turn to win this time, so let’s give her a big clap. No, Jordan, snakes and ladders is not the devil’s game, it’s a game that shows us what life is like. Good days, bad days.”

Who should have won in my humble opinion? It should have been a France-Germany final. That was the best match, wasn’t it? The two best sides.

But the actual final turned into the bloody Cristiano Ronaldo show. I’m hurt. No, I’m okay. No, I’m really hurt. I’ve been very brave, haven’t I, Mum? Can I have chicken nuggets for tea?

So off he goes, and even a pillock like him is allowed to shed a tear at such a turn of events, but then he thinks he’s the coach, so he’s on his feet – on his injured leg – screaming and shouting from the technical area. You’re right, Dave, if I’d been the real manager I’d have told him to bloody sit down and behave. But he’s bigger than the rest of the country, isn’t he? You can be nice and say they’re not a one-man team, but they’re one-man country in all honesty. And that one man should not be getting chicken nuggets for his tea. He should be getting a red card from his Mum, straight to bed, unplug the internet and take the light bulb out.

Yes, I suppose I would make a strict Dad, but that’s not such a bad thing, is it? No, there’s no chance of that now, Baz. I’ve had the snip. Couple of weeks ago, as it happens. Well, Jody doesn’t want kids, and if you’re firing blanks that’s one less thing to worry about, isn’t it?

Cheers, Gary. A glass of red wine, mate. As long as it hasn’t been open for three weeks waiting for some mug to finish it. Yes, tell Derek I said that.

So, the football was nothing to get excited about, although Sissoko had a good game early on, didn’t he? And the other highlight was when crybaby went off and Quaresma came on with his head shaven apart from a very artistic light brown feather shape in his hair. Quite impressive. You’d have to be a bit of a donut to walk around like that, but for an international footballer it must seem like a fashion statement. I bet his girlfriend thinks it’s lovely. I bet she plays with it while he’s… you know.

And England was represented in the final of Euro 2016. Mark Clattenburg and the boys officiating. Yeah, he’s a good mate of mine, Clatts. And he controlled the game pretty well, I thought, didn’t you? You were aware that he was there, but he let them get on with it. Yes, Baz, of course the players can make it easy or hard for you, but they also know who they’re dealing with. They’ll have been briefed about the ref. He’s a bit of a rebel himself. Remember when he got in trouble for shooting off on his own after a match to go to an Ed Sheeran concert? Well, the ref and his team are supposed to travel to and from the ground together so they can account for their movements and actions.

Yes, load of cobblers, but there’s always someone coming up with a new regulation when something goes wrong. It’s easy to be wise after the event, isn’t it, lads?

 

Ref! On neutrality and haircuts

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

 Referee

Evening lads,

I notice no one is wearing football regalia this evening. Well, you can’t sit there wearing an England shirt during a competition we’re no longer involved in, can you? So at the moment we’re neutral. And what a boring thing that is, isn’t it Baz?

Well, Dave, because Wales have made it quite clear that they’re delighted we’re out, so I’m not supporting them. And they’re not good to watch, anyway.

Well, as it happens, and I was kind of dreading the question, I’m supporting Germany now. Because they’re the most fun to watch. They play the best football. Plus – and this is important – I know most of their players. Not personally, no, although obviously I met a few of them during my refereeing days, but we all know Schweinsteiger cos he’s been around for years and he’s now spending the twilight of his career at Manchester United. I don’t think they expected it to be twilight when they paid all that money for him, but he hasn’t set the Premier League on fire.

So there’s him, and Toni Kroos, who everybody thought would be joining United a couple of years ago but he didn’t. And the goalkeeper, he’s a good ‘un. Mats Hummels at the back. Julian Draxler. Funny, though; they don’t seem interested in coming to England or going anywhere else. They’d rather stay in Germany. And that may be part of their strength.

Anyway, they’re worth watching, aren’t they? Better than Italy, and I must say I enjoyed the penalty shootout. You could see the nerves in their knees, some of them. Heaving it wide like some hungover has-been in the Dads’ penalty tournament on a Saturday morning, end of the season. Yes, I’ve done a few of them. Get a lucky one top corner and the boy thinks you’re a genius, but the next one reveals your true caliber. Trickles out of play and you’re clutching your thigh, hoping nobody noticed.

Cheers Gary, I’ll have a Lowenbrau or something else unpronounceable. Something from the fatherland, mate. None of your brewed-in-Rotherham rubbish with a German-sounding name.

No, I agree, Dave, let’s have a Germany-Portugal final and have them embarrass Cristiano Ronaldo, that would be a bonus, wouldn’t it? Misses an open goal and a penalty – now you’re talking, mate. Germany six, Portugal nil.

And at the end, when they’ve handed out the medals they can have a prize for the worst haircut. Have you noticed the western European players tend to look relatively sensible – maybe a bit too short around the sides, but still – and it’s the eastern Europeans who look like they’ve just nicked a fiver out of their mum’s handbag and gone to get the stupidest haircut they can find, dyed blond just to exaggerate it?

And a special mention for Axel Witsel of Belgium, who’s rocking an afro with sort of shaved bits over the ears so it looks like a badly fitting wig.

axel
Just pull it down a bit, Axel. Well, twist it, then

Oh, we can do best beard too. And the runner up will have to be the captain of Iceland, what’s his name. Somethingssson, yes, that’s him. With his my-grandad-was-a-viking look. He must have choked when he saw Joe Ledley – Wales, Baz –  cos he’s got the same thing only in black and he’s had his hair cut to look like he was run over by a lawn mower. Ah, the abiding memories of a neutral football fan.

croatia
You see? In Eastern Europe we have many cool hairdressers also