Ref! On success, failure and dignity

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


Evening lads, and what an auspicious occasion this is. Domestic season wrapped up as far as the big boys are concerned, apart from the FA Cup Final. One word to describe 2015-16, Dave. Weird? Okay. Baz. Refreshing? That’s not what I think of as a Baz type word, but very appropriate, yes.

Me, I’d say emotional. It just makes you realize what a procession the Premier League had become, a bit like Formula 1. No real surprises. The top guys get out front and that’s it. A while later they’ve won it.

But the emotion, it all started months ago when Leicester’s good start didn’t turn out to be a flash in the pan after all. Yes, I remember predicting it wasn’t going to happen. I also remember saying it was foolish to make predictions. Hang on, I’ll look it up, where are we,, blah blah blah, January… here we  are:

“Only a fool makes predictions, mate. But since it’s New Year, okay, Spurs win the Premier League narrowly from Man City. United finish mid table, just below Chelsea, and Leicester  and Southampton scrape a Champions League place. Watford relegated along with Villa and Norwich.”

So I was right about Chelsea and got two out of three for relegation. But as I said, it’s all about emotion, and there was plenty of that at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. It was relevant, Dave, because it’s a lesson in humility. Chelsea had a diabolical season by their standards, but they steadied the ship in mid season, Hiddink did, anyway, and got back to some semblance of form. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves or make excuses, they just got on with it.

As in football, so in life, Dave. When things go wrong, when you fall off your perch, you’ve just got to have another go. It’s not a case of deliberately preserving your dignity, I don’t think. Dignity is accorded to you by your fellows. They see how you’ve coped with it and they respect it. Or they think you’re  wanker, yes. Precisely.

Cheers, Gary, let’s have a  malt whisky each on me. On you, mate? You’re a gentleman. I’ll have a large one, whatever they’ve got, but not one of them that tastes like the remains of a bonfire if you can avoid it. The landlord will tell you what’s what. He’s not a complete moron. Palace fan, yes, but the poor sod’s got enough to worry about, then, hasn’t he?

Yeah, at Chelsea yesterday. They had their old boss Ranieri back for the day and they gave him a right old reception didn’t they? Then there was John Terry getting emotional because he doesn’t know if he’s staying or going. Didn’t play, of course, because he was suspended, so he hasn’t learnt that much in his old age.

Then at Man City you’ve got Pellegrini leaving when he’s really not done much wrong, but he’s going with dignity too. Why do they call him This Charming Man, Dave? Because it’s a song by a Manchester band, The Smiths.  Yes, that’s right, my “young bird” told me. Jody’s her name, Dave, and she teaches me things and I teach her things. That’s how it works, mate. She keeps me up to date with things I might otherwise miss and I give her the benefit of my… all right, all right, you may laugh, but… give it a rest, mate.

Hold up, who’s that just walked in? Only Michel Platini. I don’t know, maybe he wants a job. I know they’re looking for a barman.



Ref! On man’s inhumanity to man

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


Evening lads,

What I would like to discuss this evening is bigger than football, bigger than sport as a whole. No, Baz, not why so many pop stars are dying this year – that’s just one of those things. I’m talking about man’s inhumanity to man. Seriously, Dave, it’s something that troubles me, and has done ever since I myself was vilified – slagged off, Baz –  for the crime of falling in love. Six months down the road, Jody and I are very much devo ted to each other and the future, and what’s done is done. You can’t change the past, which is what my ex is trying to do, and it’s made me look at the world in a new light.

Yes, I know we always talk about football, and we’re going to, but not the game itself. I am disgusted with the way so-called fans have a go at their manager if results don’t go their way.

Take Roberto Martinez at Everton. It was all sweetness and light when he came in, because he’d just taken Wigan to glory, he had a reasonable first season but this year they’ve been disappointing and suddenly he’s an idiot.

Well, it’s not fair, is it? He’s the same manager he was before, and sometimes you have to live through the bad times to appreciate the good.

Wenger at Arsenal, even worse scenario. The guy brought them success for several years and then through circumstances beyond his control he had to operate differently from everyone else, because for the sake of the future they had to pay for a new stadium and therefore he couldn’t spend money on players. And apparently in order for the club to borrow the money, the banks insisted he sign a five-year contract, so obviously they believed in him.

Well, Dave, we have to give bank managers some credit. Many may be prats but that doesn’t mean they know nothing about football. I once met one who was a Mansfield Town fan, and good for him, supporting his home town club even though he was living in the land of milk and honey – London – and could quite easily have switched to Millwall and no one would have known.

Cheers, Gary, bottle of Grolsch if they have such a thing. Something decent in a bottle, anyway, whatever you think.

You’ve got to be thick-skinned to be a manager. Look at Rafa Benitez. Spends five minutes at Real Madrid, doesn’t do too bad but they boot him out because they want Zidane. And Benitez ends up at Newcastle, trying to avoid relegation. And talking of Benitez, remember when he went to Chelsea temporarily – everyone knew it wasn’t a permanent post – but the fans gave him terrible stick just because he had been at Liverpool.

I don’t know. Where’s the respect, where’s the intelligence? Get rid of Wenger and you could be on the managerial merry-go-round for years and end up with Louis Van Gaal or his spiritual heir who’s been bouncing around the world, winning things and gaining experience and looking for a home. That’s all they’re doing, lads, just looking for a home where they can enjoy their life and not worry about tomorrow. Obviously they don’t have to worry financially, if they’ve got any sense at all, because they do get paid a lot.

But there’s family, there’s peace of mind, there’s the kids and the dog getting freaked out because they’ve got no stability, no consistency. One minute they’re in McDonalds in west London and the next they’re in Burger King in Valencia. It must be hard, guys. And the missus is screaming “Why can’t we settle down and have a normal life? I wish I’d married that bus driver, at least I’d have known where to call home.”

You can mock, Dave, but we only get one go at life and the least we can ask is to be able to remember our address and phone number.

Yeah, she’s driving me mad, Baz, trolling me on Facebook, spreading rumours, slagging Jody off, the lot…




Ref! On the manager-go-round

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


That’s right, Dave, only one subject to talk about today: the manager-go-round. Remember I said a couple of months ago I thought there was something fishy going on at Chelsea with Doctor Gorgeous and Mourinho’s overreaction? Well we still don’t know the actual details, but it looks that way, doesn’t it? The way the team suddenly looked good again when he was out the door: Mark Lawrenson described it as disgraceful, and I’m inclined to agree with him.

Because, Baz, some of the players seemed to be holding something back. I don’t know if it could be construed, as you put it – good word, mate – as match fixing exactly, but it’s not far off.

Anyway, Mourinho’s very publicly available and the popular little equation is him to Man U, Guardiola to City and Simeone to Chelsea. But things don’t often work out so neatly and I think we could be in for a surprise. Let’s say Roman Abramovich is at a Christmas party and he gets pissed and bumps into Tony Pulis. And somebody’s put magic mushrooms in the punch and they become instant pals and he can see Pulis working his magic at Stamford Bridge.

Or how about this? Arsene Wenger to Chelsea for two years before he retires, allowing Drogba to gain managerial experience at, say, PSG, before taking over in west London.

Stranger things have happened. Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a mulled wine please. No mushrooms in it, mind.

Why didn’t I go into management, Dave? Because my talent for discipline with harmony led me down my current path. Yes, I suppose there are similarities – transferrable skills if you like. You don’t know what any of these guys are really like in the dressing room, but there have been some real characters. Bill Shankly, Cloughie, Fergie. And also some quite grey ones. You can’t imagine Alf Ramsey telling too many jokes, can you? Bob Paisley: like a nice old uncle, he seemed, but there must have been more to him than that. Sven-Goran Eriksson. Capello. Grim.

Nowadays, is Van Gaal really such a miserable sod as he looks? Maybe he’s just got worse over the years and now he’s a grumpy old git, but he used to be all right.

Thing is, we think these foreign coaches are so good because we don’t really know them. Then they come over here and they’re not geniuses after all, but where are the English managers who are going to replace them? People complain about the lack of black managers, but first things first. Let’s get a generation of Brits running the clubs, then we can empower the minorities. As it is, I mean who have you got? Sam Allardyce? Dinosaur in many ways. He likes dossiers apparently, but so did Don Revie, and Allardyce makes him look sophisticated. No, that’s not negative, Dave, it’s realistic.

Anyway – cheers Gary – Merry Christmas one and all, but Santa can’t bring everyone three points on Boxing Day. Such is life, lads, such is life.




The English Pedant – The language of football

It would be wrong to suggest that footballers are illiterate. But it would be equally misleading to suggest that they as a whole are well educated.

The sport takes over their life from an early age, at the expense of everything else, and while you do find some who are quite articulate, their thoughts tend to be expressed in a sort of football jargon.

It’s always been like that (sick as a parrot, over the moon etc.) but since the great foreign invasion began about 10 years ago, with top players from around the globe coming to England to take the clubs’ money… I mean to test themselves against the best in the world, the language of the Premier League has become a mishmash of foreign adaptations and pure errors, which the English players don’t notice and use themselves without thinking.

Take, for example:

In a good moment. ‘We’re in a good moment’ means the team is winning, things are going well. But that expression didn’t exist in the English language in the 20th century.

Shall. Manchester United’s manager, the Dutchman Louis van Gaal, is waging a one-man battle to reintroduce the verb ‘shall’ to English. We long ago abandoned it in favour of ‘will’, which really suggests wanting to do something (free will, where there’s a will, there’s a way etc), while ‘shall’ was simply predictive. So now we say ‘We will get beaten if we defend like that again,’ when obviously we don’t want to be beaten. Nowadays in English we only use ‘shall’ in expressions like ‘Shall we do this?’ In Dutch they still have ‘zal’, meaning shall, and ‘wil’ meaning will, and they use them appropriately.

Van Gaal
He’s dour, he’s Dutch, and he says “shall” too much. Louis Van Gaal is pretty good at English, though

Get beat. While we’re on the subject, getting ‘beaten’ is being abandoned in favour of getting ‘beat’. Sounds suspiciously like an Americanism, although there aren’t enough Yanks playing football here to have an influence.

On the other hand…

Offense. ‘Attack’, the English word for going forward, trying to score, is being challenged by ‘offense’, so that when someone talks about playing offensively, they don’t mean running with two fingers raised, questioning their opponent’s parentage. And note that the American offense has an s instead of a c. How long before that spelling infiltrates our dictionaries?

Normal. It’s an ordinary word that can cover a multitude of situations. But rather than learn the adjectives that are traditionally used, your imported player just uses this catch-all one. So when the other team came back harder in the second half because they were a goal down, when the English option would have been something like ‘that’s what you would expect’, Johnny Foreigner opts for ‘that’s normal’. Nothing wrong with that – it’s just an observation.

Chelsea’s Diego Costa may want to learn the English expression “That b***ard tore my shirt”

But it’s not just the foreign influence. Here are two that we are inflicting on ourselves.

Defeat to. ‘City have struggled away from home since their defeat to Stoke.’ Ladies and gentlemen, we are defeated by somebody, not to them.

Tour to. Fair enough, you go to America on tour. But once there, you are on tour in America, or on a tour of America. You’re not on a tour to America.

This is not rocket science. It is not difficult. Nor, admittedly, is it desperately important. Just watch all these things creep into British English and know where they came from.