Ref! On relegation and history

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


You’re right, Dave. Business end of the season, and everybody’s thinking about Leicester and Spurs maybe winning the Premier League. They’re not bothered about that in the north-east, though, mate. Did you see Newcastle-Sunderland? Not the most attractive game of the weekend, but it’s a point for each and they’re pretty glad of it.

Yes, Baz, I do have a bit of a soft spot for Sunderland. My Dad’s parents came from there and they used to tell me stories about the glory days. They’re still the sixth most successful club in England as regards winning the league, although the last time they did it was in the mid 1930s or something. Yeah, I know, it’s just another statistic if you want to look at it like that, but it’s history really. Just because you and I weren’t around doesn’t mean it never happened.

One day there will be a bunch of people sitting around this table and they’ll hear about you and me and Dave and Gary, and how one of us was a professional referee but they won’t know us from Adam. And then the young barmaid – she won’t be young then but I bet she’s a good looking older woman – she’ll say “No, it’s true. Colin was a ref, I saw him on TV a lot and would have liked to bear his children, but he was spoken for. He was a handsome man and very charming and his mates were all right except that Baz, he was a bit of a gorilla.”

Cheers, Gary, tell you what, get us all a large scotch on me – I’m quite flush at the moment. Well you have what you like with it, Dave. I’ll have mine straight, no ice, nothing, like they do on TV in Mad Men and detective shows. You too, Baz? Good man.

Yeah, so Newcastle-Sunderland and they’re both staring into the abyss, as they say. Relegation. Loss of earnings. Players leaving. Bloody hell, mate, it’s grim enough up there at the best of times. Give the poor sods a bit of Premier League, at least.

You know what would be a good game? Pick three or four managers and predict what they’ll be doing this time next year. If we’d done that last year it would be like “Sam Allardyce vs Rafa Benitez. What’s the fixture? Big Sam was about to jump ship at West Ham 12 months ago and Rafa was in Spain, no…  Italy, with Napoli, Dave? You may well be right. He hadn’t even gone to Real Madrid yet. Who’d have thought they’d be presiding over the Tyne-Wear derby in 2016?

And if you’d said “Claudio Ranieri”, everybody would have gone, “He’s not even in England anymore and who’d be stupid enough to have him back?” Yet here he is, top of the pile with a no-hoper club and no money.

It just goes to show, Baz, yes. Show what, mate? No, I’ve always wanted to say that. Show what? It’s one of those expressions, that’s all.

Cheers, Gary. Down the hatch, eh? To the future, Baz. May the bluebird of happiness fly up your shorts one Sunday morning and transform you into Tony Adams.







Ref! On Rodgers and Newcastle

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


That’s right, lads, I had the privilege of being the ‘man in the middle’ as you put it, at the City of Manchester stadium for City’s demolition of Newcastle. To tell you the truth, when a game is as one-sided as that, the problem is to keep your concentration. If you’re a fair-minded person you want to see a balanced game. You don’t want to see anybody get whipped 6-1, and apart from anything else you worry that you’ve lost count.

Newcastle, I don’t know, they’ve just been left behind, haven’t they? In today’s technological terms they need to shut down and reboot. They’ve tried everything – they even tried Alan Shearer as manager a few years ago, just because the fans think he’s God. They had to appoint him and let him fail so they could move on, but where have they moved on to? I know somebody was bound to give Steve McClaren another chance in England, but that’s the problem with the Geordies, they’re too sentimental.

Only they would have persevered with John Carver as long as they did, purely because he’s an honest-to-goodness local boy, and when they finally saw sense, they give the job to a nice guy who has demonstrated repeatedly that he’s not going to be successful in English football.

And now the poor sod’s got the weirdest haircut in the Premier League, with that little tuft at the front. Used to be a quiff and you can tell he’s still proud of it, but it’s like a bird standing on the beach when the tide’s gone out.

Fair enough, Dave, his follicular problems have nothing to do with his ability as a manager, and he’s endured enough ridicule, but you can’t help noticing, can you?

So who’s next up there in Liverpool? People are talking about Jurgen Klopp, who’s regarded as a bit of a guru, plus we don’t know that much about him, which is always good when you’re speculating.

Sam Allardyce is available but you can’t have that. Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a black and tan. You’ll have to explain to the barman, cos he’s only a nipper. Half a draught Guinness topped up with a bottle of pale ale. And then you can watch while he makes a mess of it – see you in half an hour, mate.

No, I reckon they’re going to go for someone really unlikely. Baseball coach with transferrable skills. Sir Clive Woodward. Nigel Clough. Drew Barrymore. They’re desperate enough, Baz, yes – you’re on the ball tonight, what’s the matter?

Jose Mourinho? Stranger things have happened, but nothing as strange as that. Abramovich probably can’t believe what’s happening, but when he leaves the denial phase he’s going to do something, isn’t he? He’s ruthless – they have to be, shady characters like him.

You know what I reckon? He was having it off with the doctor, Eva Carneiro. Then he got tired of it and told Mourinho to get rid of her.

Like Bill Shankly said, Baz, the only thing that surprises me is that I can be surprised.