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.

 Referee

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 potential glory

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

 Referee

Evening lads,

Another week, another option on the England front. Yes, Baz, Marcus Rashford. And bloody Wayne Rooney. Rashford? I think Hodgson will take him and hang onto him in case of emergencies. He’s not going to disturb the new twin kings, is he?  Kane and Vardy, separately or together, one or the other, either or both, that’s what we have to have in my humble opinion. Trust in the future.

The present, indeed, Dave, they’ve both done it in the Premier League and look comfortable at international level, so it’s no gamble to pin your hopes on them. What we don’t want is Roy going soft and playing Rooney through the middle with one or both of them on the flanks. Okay, the old boy scored a good one against Australia and looked  like the experienced campaigner he is. But it’s a new dawn and if anyone is going to standing back, letting the other boys play, it’s got to be him.

You’re right, Dave, it does get me agitated. And there’s nothing you or I can do about it, but it’s what being a fan is all about. We’re interested, we have  a certain amount of knowledge and we want to see the boss do the right thing. And the right thing right now is to give it to the youth. All of a sudden they’re queueing up, whereas some years there’s nobody knocking on the door. But you’ve got all the Spurs boys looking the part – all except Kyle Walker, Dave, I agree. He should be the reserve and we play Nathanial Clyne as first choice right back.

Cheers, Gary, I feel like a spirit. Some “fancy foreign muck”, as Baz would say. Well, you did, Baz, in that Italian restaurant where they had Juventus on the telly in the corner. What did we have that night? Grappa, that’s right. Like brandy strained through an old sock. I’ll have one of them, Gary. If they’ve got it, yes. Otherwise, whatever’s the dustiest on the top shelf.

My prediction? Too early to predict the tournament, but this time I reckon we’ll win the group at least. Well, no, that’s a lot bolder than I was two years ago with the World Cup, when I didn’t even think we’d get out of the group. And I was right, wasn’t I? We were rubbish. All changed now. All we need is for the centre backs to get their act together, and one good game could do that. Stones gets his confidence back and Roy gets either Cahill or Smalling going as the cool head, the voice of experience.

Joe Hart at the back. Somebody suddenly grows up and starts running the midfield – not Milner. I don’t know who, no, but there’s plenty of them there or thereabouts. You can’t predict, you can only hope. But I don’t know: I’ve just got a good feeling about this. And if the best team should win the tournament and we’re not that yet, well, we can grow into it. That’s what Hodgson’s good at. He picked Vardy when everybody thought he was just a flash in the pan, he’s made Kane feel like he owns the shirt – in a good way. I don’t know. I haven’t been this excited since 1990. In a football sense, Dave. For gawd’s sake don’t tell Jody I said that.

Cheers Gary. Down the hatch. Wallop! Yeah, grappa. Fancy foreign muck. Doesn’t half repeat on you too.

 

 

Ref! On Euro hopes and dreams

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

 Referee

Evening lads,

England, Russia, Slovenia, Wales. Who’s going to win the Euros? England, Baz? Is that a considered answer or purely based on sentiment? Yes, of course I want England to win it, but only if they’re the best team. And are they? We’ve seen it all before, haven’t we? Excellent record in qualifying but when it comes to the real thing, we find that the world has moved on and while we’ve been admiring the development of  one or two promising players, other people have produced superstars.

So what have we got, Dave? Potential gold upfront, I agree. Gone are the days of hoping someone like Danny Welbeck can rise to the occasion and score at international level when he doesn’t do much for his club.

But Kane or Vardy? Both? I would like to agree with you, mate, but at the moment I reckon we’re in either/or territory. Because they haven’t really played together much, and even if Roy Hodgson does play them as a pair rather than having one out wide, it remains to be seen if they can accept being co-stars rather than undisputed kings, which is what they are at their clubs.

If you look back through history at the great strike partnerships, it hasn’t been like that. Lineker and Beardsley? That was very much Lineker as the hit man and Beardsley buzzing around creating chances. Alan Shearer? Whoever played with him was always going to be second fiddle. Go right back to the year of our Lord  1966 and in the final it was Geoff Hurst and Roger Hunt but I sometimes struggle to remember Hunt was even there. And if Jimmy Greaves been fit in earlier matches, you’d have had him up there, and there was a lone wolf if ever there was one.

Cheers Gary. Get us a Campari and orange juice, will you? Because it’s what I fancy, that’s why.

Midfield, lads? Full of promise but not too much proven experience. I agree, Baz, I like Ross Barkley, but he’s got to stamp his authority on the squad. Dele Alli’s on a wave of youthful enthusiasm and confidence, so let’s hope that bubble doesn’t burst. Other than them you’ve got Fabian Delph, who’s shellshocked after Villa’s nightmare. Lallana, Drinkwater, Henderson, Dier. Where’s the commanding influence, the guy who takes over when the going gets tough? Yes, I suppose that was an illusion much of the time, but at least with Lampard and Gerrard and Beckham you felt it was a possibility.Maybe Jack Wilshere, yes, it’s like pre-season for him so at least he’s going to be fresh.  Where’s Bryan Robson when you need him?

And at the back, well, unconvincing is the word that springs to mind, don’t you think?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea replaced Gary Cahill this summer, and yet he’s the captain of England. In the absence of Rooney, yes, and there’s the key. I know I’ve been vocal in my wish for Rooney to quietly fade away, but that was from the strikers. If he can play deeper, which he’s been doing lately, then fine, and he has the experience, which we need.

Also at the back, John Stones needs to rediscover his composure and the full backs, well, they don’t have to be world-beaters, just solid. Disciplined. Leave the fancy stuff to others.

And as the boss said in Mike Bassett: England Manager, we’re going to play four four f***ing two.

Cheers, Gary. Let’s enjoy it while we can, eh?

 

 

 

 

Ref! On the mediocrity of England

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

 Referee

I know what you mean, Dave, England get to play a decent side after a dozen piece-of-cake games in the Euro qualifiers, and to nobody’s surprise we’re not as good as it looked on paper.

People are talking about Hodgson not having great resources to draw on, but I don’t know. I reckon he’s got the skeleton of a decent side, but what it lacks at the moment is authority.

Joe Hart, yes, Gary, the best keeper we’ve had since David Seaman. He’s not in the Peter Shilton league, but after the series of farces since Seaman, you look at him with a bit of confidence, don’t you? I’ll always be grateful to Fabio Capello for… hear me out, Baz… for.. yes, I know he was. I couldn’t agree more, but when we had that run when whoever we put in goal would have a nightmare, he kept Hart out of it. He was just emerging at the time but Capello protected him and sacrificed the likes of Rob Green instead. So Hart got his international career going after the storm had passed.

At right back, Dave, yes, Nathaniel Clyne looks the part, although again we haven’t seen him up against anybody really good and it was Kyle Walker against Spain. Ryan Bertrand on the left, did okay. Best thing he did was leave Chelsea, and he might only be keeping the spot warm for Luke Shaw, but he did well. Yes, exactly, whatever happened to Leighton Baines? He squeezed Ashley Cole out and then ran out of steam. Maybe he lacks ambition, the killer instinct.

Cheers Gary, pint of cider please. I don’t mind, whatever they’ve got. I just feel a bit rustic.

No, rustic, Baz, sort of countrified. I’m not rusty, it’s not even a week since my last game, and I do train, you know. Yes, referees train, of course they do. Hardest working man on the pitch, so we’ve got to stay fit.

Centre back, now there, Dave, as you rightly point out, we have a pool of possibilities. You can call it a pool of talent if you like. I’d call it a pool of mediocrity. Where’s the Sol Campbell, the JT, the Rio, the man of standing? Smalling, Cahill, Jagielka, Jones, they’re all able lieutenants… deputies, Baz… but they don’t stand like a rock in front of our goal. John Stones, yes, everybody hopes so, but we shall see.

Midfield, again, lots of people chasing around, and Ross Barkley’s got a spark, but who’s running the show a la Bryan Robson? Nobody. Inexperienced.

And up front, Harry Kane – fair enough. Sterling looks good in flashes but gives it away too much. It’s a work in progress, lads. And not really our problem. You get on with building extensions and I’ll referee football matches. And Roy Hodgson drinks from the poisoned chalice – which, before you ask, Baz, is a metaphor. A metaphor: an image that symbolizes what you’re talking about because it’s a similar… anybody fancy a game of dominoes?

 

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?

 

Ref! On England and Ross Barkley

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

 Referee

So, weekend off, yes, that’s the beauty of international week. No Premier League, so no action for yours truly. I’m a football fan like all of you, so of course I watched England on Friday. A lot of people thought it was a bit of a snooze to watch, and okay, there was nothing at stake because England have already qualified, but what would you rather watch: a 2-0 win at a canter or a humiliation in a real game?

No, Dave, I don’t watch the referee as much as the play. You can’t help noticing things, obviously, but – you’re a builder, right? Do you watch the match or are you looking at the stands and the tunnel and thinking you could have done a better job?

Exactly, it’s in the back of your mind, but unless you notice something very bad or exceptionally good, you’re watching the football.

Yes, I think we’re going to get a shock at the actual Euros – got some scary friendlies coming up, in fact – but at least we’re not having one of those nailbiting qualifying campaigns.  Surprising how quickly things can settle down. Like Harry Kane, I feel quite comfortable with him up front. He’s not scoring hatfuls of goals, but he looks the part and they’ll come if you stick with him.

Cheers, Gary, paynt a hayvee. That’s my Glasgow impression, mate, some Jock asking for a pint of heavy. I don’t know, but heavy’s not going to be Bud Light, is it? Something with a bit of body to it I suppose. A bottle of Newky Brown, if you don’t mind.

What I really liked was seeing Ross Barkley showing a bit of skill. Pity he looks like he does, mind. He’s got this permanent look of being off his face and itching for a fight, the sort of drunken numbskull you steer clear of in the kebab shop on a Saturday night. Barkley’s not that sort of bloke, apparently, but all he needs is a boozy flush to his cheeks and you’d avoid looking at him.

What I mean, Baz, is haven’t you ever been waiting there at half past midnight and there’s some guy going, “Oo you fakkin’ lookin’ at mate?” You know, he hasn’t pulled, so he’s looking to indulge his second passion, which is punching people. So you look anywhere but at him, cos whoever does catch his eye is going to be invited to step outside.

No, I’m not saying Barkley is like that at all. That’s what I’ve just said, Baz. Barkley is apparently not that sort of bloke. Maybe it’s that short back and sides; he looks severe. But football-wise he’s the latest in a long line of gifted midfielders that goes back through Matt Le Tissier to Glenn Hoddle and Tony Currie and Alan Hudson. Too talented for their own good. England managers don’t trust them when the chips are down. You bet your life in a proper match that matters Hodgson is going to pick James Milner and Adam Lallana and Jonjo Shelvey and play Phil Jones in midfield. Anything but let the wizard do his stuff.

No, it’s not what I would do, it’s what tends to happen. It’s… oh, thank god for that… cheers Gary.

 

Ref! On Grealish and Vardy

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

 Referee

That’s right, lads, I did Leicester-Aston Villa. It was a bit of a seesaw, cos, you know, Villa go 2-0 up and then Leicester come back and win it. Tim Sherwood was well pissed off, wasn’t he? He must have thought his season was really getting going when Jack Grealish scored.

I don’t know where he’s been, the Grealish boy. Maybe he’s only just sobered up after that skinful he had on holiday in the close season. They don’t seem to realize they can’t behave like their mates, because if JG’s Mate gets paralytic in Tenerife, nobody notices or cares, but if the lad himself does it, there’s every chance it’s going to get photographed and find its way to the British media.

But they’re only kids, Baz, fair’s fair. Look at Grealish himself. Baby face and his grandad’s haircut. The boy’s a child. And a couple of good displays last season and he’s got Roy Hodgson trying to make him commit himself to England, rather than playing for Ireland. No talk of actually picking him. He just wants to have the option, like Chelsea with all their players out on loan. Most of them will never play at Stamford Bridge, but if the club owns them, nobody else can.

Funnily enough, two they actually let go have turned out to be genuine talents. They had to buy Matic back for an inflated fee after he blossomed abroad, and now there’s Kevin De Bruyne, who’s gone to Man City of all people. So maybe their policy is right. Sign them and deprive others of the pleasure.

Cheers Gary, just a bottle of Grolsch, mate. No, a bottle, the draught’s not the same.

Anyway, I’m at the King Power Stadium – Leicester’s ground, Baz – and a nice little game it turned out to be. Nothing too naughty, nothing demanding from a reffing point of view, and that means you can enjoy it. It’s where I do a lot of my thinking, to be honest. One part of my brain is doing the job, running the game, and the other part is thinking.

Well, since you ask, Dave, what I was thinking was about Hodgson again. What does he see in Jamie Vardy that he keeps picking him for England? Nobody else thinks he’s more than an average lower-half-of-the-table striker. It’s not like he’s ever scored shedfuls of goals. Maybe he’s just an exceptionally nice bloke, because Roy does value that. It’s a good thing injury has kept Danny Welbeck out of the picture for the last year, or he’d have kept selecting him ahead of your Harry Kanes. And yet Vardy’s in there, as if Roy thinks he’s going to kick-start his career by gaining confidence at international level.

But you have to give people credit for being experts in their own field. Few know the intricacies of refereeing – and there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye – and I suppose international management is the same. Come to think of it, Roy Hodgson would probably have made a good ref.

Now now, Dave, oddball is not a nice expression. And you wouldn’t describe me like that, would you? I mean would you?