Ref! On Allardyce and a grim future

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

 Referee

Hey,Baz, there’s a bloke asking for you up by the bar. I don’t know, he’s from the FA, I think, wants to offer you a job. No, the Allardyce thing was all an elaborate joke and it’s you they want for England manager.

Well, I mean come on, Sam Allardyce? How desperate has this country become? Never mind him being at unfashionable clubs – Brian Clough and Peter Taylor were at Derby and Notts Forest, but they actually won things. They transformed clubs and won the league and the European Cup. All Big Sam’s done is make Bolton and Blackburn unpleasant places to go on the dreaded, legendary “wet Wednesday in November”.

Dreaded because you were going to be assaulted, Dave, that’s right. He can talk all he likes about the great football his teams played, but how come nobody else thinks so? If he’d turned Bolton into Barcelona I think we might have noticed.

And at West Ham the fans couldn’t wait to get rid of him because the team didn’t play “the West Ham way”, which might be a myth going back to the 1960s, but you can see their point. Allardyce got back into his element at Sunderland, because they were in a relegation dogfight, and that’s what his teams are good at: scrapping.

No, no, Dave, I agree, we shouldn’t bury him before he’s lived in the England job. But what points do you want to make in his defence? His name?

Yes, I agree, it’s unfortunate that he sounds like a character in Last of the Summer Wine, a dyed-in-the-wool northerner with ferrets down his trousers. It makes him sound like an unsubtle dinosaur. They used to say the opposite about Tim Henman, like he’d have been a more powerful and successful player if his name was Tom Bulman, just because it sounds meatier. So yes, if Allardyce had been called Simon Alan Dyson, we might have given him a bit of credit.

And if he’s looked less like a thug and more like a thinker, but he can’t help that either. I don’t disagree with you, mate.

Cheers, Gary, what’s the guest ale this week? Big Sam? Seriously? I’ll have a pint of that, mate. In a reinforced glass, just in case.

So what we’re saying is that Sam Allardyce needs a makeover. I’m sure the FA’s PR department is working on that. Lose some weight, get rid of the coaliminer’s haircut and make him look more like Philip Seymour Hoffman. There is a resemblance, you know.

But no, we’ll see. But it’s a bit embarrassing, isn’t it, when the press are asking people like Jose Mourinho what he thinks and Mourinho’s going, “Yes, Good appointment.” He must have laughed himself silly when he heard the news.

Seriously, gentlemen, we shall see, but from here it looks ludicrous, doesn’t it? If the English candidates were Allardyce and Steve Bruce – who’s a very nice guy, by the way – then we’re in trouble. I just hope the way the situation has been laid bare will show the club owners the folly of appointing foreign managers. Except the owners are all foreign too, Dave, exactly.

So maybe we need to fast forward to 50 years’ time, when the bubble has burst and football in England is a part-time game and the Shetland Islands are world champions because of their zero-tax laws and untold riches.

And our grandchildren will be sitting here – Baz’s won’t, because they’ll be in prison – talking about the good old days when England used to occasionally qualify for a tournament before getting knocked out by Andorra.

 

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 Klopp and statistics

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

 Referee

Yes, Dave, I was one of the officials at Jurgen Klopp’s first loss as Liverpool manager. And I don’t say that with any pleasure, because it’s not nice to lose in any walk of life, but it happens. He had a very good introduction to the Premier League, with a few wins and draws, including stuffing Chelsea, so he can’t complain.

Plus he comes in with that big toothy grin and he’s probably had half the women in Liverpool throwing themselves at him, so for his own good he has to have a bit of rough with the smooth. Yes, Baz, I suppose some of those Scouse birds must be a bit rough, but you know what I mean.

People were leaving the ground with seven minutes still to play – well welcome to the real world. This isn’t a fairy story – and even if it was, there would have to be a bit in it where the hero faces a challenge. So he’s dropped three points: boo hoo.

Statistically he’s well in the black, not that stats are my favourite thing. Journalists these days tend to throw them in instead of actual insights. You know: Aston Villa have never won away from home on a date with an odd number, that sort of thing.

Who thinks them up, that’s what I want to know. I was reading this morning that in the Arsenal-Tottenham game, Spurs as a team ran 7km further than Arsenal. I mean, is that necessarily a good thing?

Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a light and special, and you don’t have to run round the car park twice before you get it. I’m not interested in your mileage, I’m looking for a pint as quickly as possible.

Mileage – how far players run during a game – that’s only of interest to a certain type of manager. You know Peter Taylor, Brian Clough’s old partner, well the two of them were on holiday in Mallorca once and they met a coach called Sammy Chung on the beach, and Chung’s bragging about how hard he makes his players work. He says he has routines that could make the Forest players physically sick. And Clough says, “When they start awarding three points for that we’ll be in touch.”

No, Baz, it was in Taylor’s book. I never met the guy, I was too young. But he and Clough used to value skill. Hard work as well, like, but not only that. Yes, three points. They used to get three points for a win.

Your cultured midfielder doesn’t have to be chasing all over the park all afternoon. They have other people to do that. Take Eric Cantona, as skilled a player as England has ever seen. In the French national side he had Didier Deschamps doing all the barking and harassing. Cantona referred to him as The Water Carrier, which was disrespectful, but there you go. Cantona was arrogant but brilliant.

A water carrier, Baz – in the Roman army you had the officers with the brains and the soldiers with the heroics and you had these other guys carrying water, because it’s thirsty work. What would you be? You’d be in the front line, mate, the front line.