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 Jurassic strikers

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

 Referee

Evening lads. Hey, Baz, you had a phone call from Roy Hodgson yet? Because you had a good game yesterday in your Sunday league, didn’t you? Everybody’s talking about it, mate. Me and Jody were out for a walk in the afternoon and bumped into your Mum and Dad and they told me your striker had a torn stag party ligament so they played you up front.

Two goals, yes, that’s what they said. So I immediately got on the phone to Roy and put your name forward for the Euros this summer. I’m serious, Dave, if Andy Carroll has one good game  after years of nothing and people are calling for him to go, why not Baz? Especially as the squad is now open to players from the lower leagues.

Vardy and Alli made the transition no sweat, so Baz Parkinson from the Carshalton Cobras could do it too. Think of the publicity. Hodgson the visionary, that’s how I put it to him. No, I didn’t get through to him personally, of course not, but I got my message across, don’t worry. No, Ray Lewington didn’t answer the phone either. I sent Roy a Whatsapp, as it happens. Today’s form of communication, Dave. I suppose you’re still stuck in the age of the fax, but since I met Jody I’ve joined the modern world, mate. You can send all sorts – it’s a very secure system. So there’s no worries about the media getting hold of the story.

Or the police, no, but why would they… oh, I see. That’s what you use it for, is it? Trying to get the barmaid to send you pictures of her drawers. Yeah, well some of us are still decent, mate.

Cheers, Gary, just get us a bag of dry-roasted. No, no drink. Well it’s not obligatory, is it? I’m taking it easy, nothing wrong with that, is there? Weird? What’s weird about it?

Anyway, so Baz for England. There’s a certain mentality, isn’t there, that says you’ve got to have a big centre forward on the bench so that late in the game if you’re desperate you can abandon the fancy stuff you’ve been cultivating for years and just bang long balls into the box and hope your trained giraffe gets his head above their earthbound colossus.

Poetry, it’s called, Baz. Some of us are born with images flowing from our mouths, but you can understand what I’m saying, can’t you? That’s right, I’m not really suggesting you should play for England; I’m being ironic. I’m drawing attention to the fact that there’s this outdated way of thinking that comes up again every time there’s a tournament squad to pick. England managers have been doing it for decades. Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch, Long John bloody Silver.

Bring on the big guy with 10 minutes to go. That’ll surprise the fancy continentals, they won’t know what’s hit them when we stop playing football and start that lark.

They’ve been talking about the embarrassment of riches we’ve got up front right now and suddenly they want to squeeze one of them out and put a dinosaur in there. No, Baz, I’m not calling you a dinosaur. You’re post-Jurassic, just.

 

 

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.

 Referee

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 centre backs and non-league

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

 Referee

Yes, so, lads, a couple of months ago we spoke about Jamie Vardy and why Roy Hodgson was picking him for England, and of course it’s turned out very different from how we expected. Okay, Dave, how I expected. I know I tend to be the spokesman around here, but that’s because I’m involved in the game in a professional capacity.

No, I didn’t have much of a playing career after junior school because everybody else shot up and suddenly I was the shortarse, and kids can be cruel.

Baz, on the other hand, bestrode the schools league like a colossus, didn’t you, mate? The Jack Charlton of his generation, unmoved by the subtlety entering centre half play when they started being called centre backs instead. Your role model was Big Dave Watson, was it? Yes, I suppose Jack had been eclipsed by then.

Anyway, you were one of the breed known as “Big” somebody, and there can be no higher accolade for a central defender. And now you’re a respected veteran in the Sunday league, pulverizing the pointy-haired prats who think they’re good on a Saturday night.

So when was the last time you came across a Vardy type who could easily step up into the Football League and maybe even the Premier League?

Yes, I know they all think it now and it gives them delusions of grandeur, so how do you deal with it?

You know I was a big Brian Clough fan and he is quoted in Peter Taylor’s book as saying his only instruction to his team was to put the opposing centre forward in the Trent early on. This was in Nottingham, mate, and the Trent is the river that runs through it. In other words, let him know you’re there. Shake him out of his reverie where he’s a goal machine and remind him that he’d better watch his step.

Yes, you’re right, it does go against the grain for me as a referee to say that, and I have my own standards that they’d better not cross, but it’s a man’s game. I’d rather see someone flattening Wayne Rooney than… yes, than almost anything. But I was going to say all the holding and pulling and impeding that goes on at corners.

Cheers Gary, Pernod and lemonade if they’ve got it. I know it’s a bit 70s, but we’re getting nostalgic here and it’s just what I fancy.

Do I think Vardy is ‘the real deal’, as you so Americanly put it, Dave?

We’ll see next season, mate. Look at how mighty Diego Costa was in his first few months, but this season he’s just the elbowing pillock he always was underneath. If Vardy can keep it up next time – even after Christmas – then you’ve just got to ask where he’s been hiding it all this time, haven’t you? Or was it really Hodgson’s vote of confidence that did it?

Gawd. Roy Hodgson with a magic wand, eh? Maybe Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy are real after all.

 

 

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?