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.

 

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Ref! On derbies and decisions

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

 Referee

Evening lads. I’m hot off the train from Manchester. Yes, the bore draw derby. It’s not surprising you get one of them now and then, though. The pressure, mate. You can feel it as soon as you walk in the ground. Even if you get there early, as the officials do, you can sense it.

The ground staff and the admin people, they’re giving you the old positive bit, but even they are a bit nervous. There’s a lot at stake – well, there was in this case. Not just what the media call ’bragging rights’, but this was two teams at the top of the Barclays Premier League.

You have to, Baz, you have to say Barclays, because sponsors put up the money for these things on condition that their name is linked to it at all times. So you don’t have to say Barclays, but someone like me has to, because I’m part of the whole Barclays Premier League family, if you like.

Where does a referee stand in that family, Dave? Well, I suppose we’re a respected uncle with a professional speciality that is called for at certain times and events. We’re a voice of authority, of reason, even. Without us it’s anarchy. In fact if referees didn’t exist they’d have to invent them.

Anyway, derbies, yes, the tension is all around. See young Bobby Madley got thrown in the deep end at Newcastle, where there was even more riding on it than usual, with Steve McClaren under pressure and Big Sam just installed at Sunderland.

And what does he get? A controversial sending off for an infringement that people could argue about till the cows come home.

The laws are clear but some are open to interpretation, Gary. Yes, a bit like the Bible, as you say. Thou shalt not barge people like thou didst in the 1950s, when the barge was about the most heinous of crimes but was perfectly legal, just frowned upon if you conceded a goal because of it.

Pint of Peroni, mate – no, that’s not open to interpretation. He’s a wag, isn’t he, Dave? It’s a pint, as defined by the weights and measures people – an English pint – and Peroni is the draught lager of that name. Yes, I suppose you could make it a pint out of bottles, but that would cost you even more, so only a fool would do that.

And the decision is going to be reviewed, yes. Can you imagine any other profession putting up with that? You’re in charge, you make a decision and it gets challenged. Exactly, Baz, bloody insulting. But that’s the way it is. It’s even worse in cricket, mate. They do it during the game, and not only that, the teams are encouraged to do it. They can make a certain number of reviews in each innings, so if you haven’t used up your quota towards the end it must be tempting to challenge a decision even though it’s obviously correct.

It’s transparency, which is a fashionable thing in all sorts of environments nowadays. Exactly, Baz, if something is transparent, you can see through it. No, it’s not the decision that needs to be transparent, it’s the process. Imagine the process as a box or a room, and the decision takes place inside. If it’s not transparent, you can’t see what’s going on. Yes, I suppose it has to be transparent for sound too, so you can hear any discussion. Is there a separate word for that? I don’t know, mate. I’m a football referee, not a bloody Professor of English.