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! It’s a man’s game

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

 Referee

Fixture congestion, Dave. You’re right, there were a lot of people moaning about it at the weekend. Steve Bruce at Hull City, Pellegrini at Manchester City. No, I don’t think he was right to put out a weakened team to protect some of his stars for the Champions league in midweek. And his team of kids got stuffed 5-1, didn’t they?

No, you can’t do that. It’s a man’s game. Well, the men’s game is a man’s game, but I think you’ll find the principle applies to women’s football too. That’s not a bunch of Daisies and Tallulahs dancing around, frightened to get their knees dirty. They mean business, just like the men. They might not use the same expression, but they would express the same sentiment. It’s their job. And if it gets extra difficult at times because they have to play more often, they just have to get on with it.

Which brings us, Baz, as you say, to the whole issue of women’s sport. You see what looks like a football story in the paper or online but you don’t recognize the names. And that’s because it’s about Arsenal Ladies or England women.

You don’t think it’s right, then, giving equal importance to the women’s game when the standard is a lot lower. I’m inclined to agree with you, but for God’s sake don’t tell Jody I said that. Yes, that’s if you ever meet her. No, I’m not keeping her under wraps exactly, but I’m not bringing her down here on a Monday night, am I? It’s a blokes’ night, and the way to keep the peace at home is to make it clear that’s what it is. We don’t sit here looking at the totty and we certainly don’t go looking for it. But as soon as Dave goes home and says to Stephanie, “Oh, Col’s new girlfriend was there, she’s really nice,” we’re all in trouble. Either they’re going to be suspicious of our motives or they’re going to want to come along.

We can do all that socializing in the summer when we’re having barbecues rained off.

Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a spritzer. A spritzer, mate. Dry white wine topped up with soda water. Well, it’s alcohol, isn’t it? Just hasn’t got the calories of a pint of Guinness. Yes, she introduced me to it. And if it was good enough for George Best when had anti-alcohol implants, it’s good enough for me. Yes, they were supposed to make him violently ill if he drank alcohol, but he found he could slip a few spritzers through with no trouble, and bingo! Paved the way to his early death.

I hear what you’re saying, Dave. Is it wrong to only watch women’s football or cricket just to look at the women? Well what do you think they do when they watch men’s sport? If you’ve got a good knowledge of the terminology you can even comment on it without sounding sexist, so when your missus talks about how elegant Ross Barkley is when he’s shaping for a shot, she is disguising the fact that she’s imagining him shaping for a shot at her, bent over the sofa.

Sorry, Dave, not your missus specifically. You know what I’m saying. You watch a female midfielder pulling off a sliding a tackle in the mud and you can’t help imagining that she’d be quite good fun in the sack, can you? No, I mean it. You reckon it’s just me? Come on… Baz? Not you as well. I mean be honest.

 

 

Ref! On the mediocrity of England

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

 Referee

I know what you mean, Dave, England get to play a decent side after a dozen piece-of-cake games in the Euro qualifiers, and to nobody’s surprise we’re not as good as it looked on paper.

People are talking about Hodgson not having great resources to draw on, but I don’t know. I reckon he’s got the skeleton of a decent side, but what it lacks at the moment is authority.

Joe Hart, yes, Gary, the best keeper we’ve had since David Seaman. He’s not in the Peter Shilton league, but after the series of farces since Seaman, you look at him with a bit of confidence, don’t you? I’ll always be grateful to Fabio Capello for… hear me out, Baz… for.. yes, I know he was. I couldn’t agree more, but when we had that run when whoever we put in goal would have a nightmare, he kept Hart out of it. He was just emerging at the time but Capello protected him and sacrificed the likes of Rob Green instead. So Hart got his international career going after the storm had passed.

At right back, Dave, yes, Nathaniel Clyne looks the part, although again we haven’t seen him up against anybody really good and it was Kyle Walker against Spain. Ryan Bertrand on the left, did okay. Best thing he did was leave Chelsea, and he might only be keeping the spot warm for Luke Shaw, but he did well. Yes, exactly, whatever happened to Leighton Baines? He squeezed Ashley Cole out and then ran out of steam. Maybe he lacks ambition, the killer instinct.

Cheers Gary, pint of cider please. I don’t mind, whatever they’ve got. I just feel a bit rustic.

No, rustic, Baz, sort of countrified. I’m not rusty, it’s not even a week since my last game, and I do train, you know. Yes, referees train, of course they do. Hardest working man on the pitch, so we’ve got to stay fit.

Centre back, now there, Dave, as you rightly point out, we have a pool of possibilities. You can call it a pool of talent if you like. I’d call it a pool of mediocrity. Where’s the Sol Campbell, the JT, the Rio, the man of standing? Smalling, Cahill, Jagielka, Jones, they’re all able lieutenants… deputies, Baz… but they don’t stand like a rock in front of our goal. John Stones, yes, everybody hopes so, but we shall see.

Midfield, again, lots of people chasing around, and Ross Barkley’s got a spark, but who’s running the show a la Bryan Robson? Nobody. Inexperienced.

And up front, Harry Kane – fair enough. Sterling looks good in flashes but gives it away too much. It’s a work in progress, lads. And not really our problem. You get on with building extensions and I’ll referee football matches. And Roy Hodgson drinks from the poisoned chalice – which, before you ask, Baz, is a metaphor. A metaphor: an image that symbolizes what you’re talking about because it’s a similar… anybody fancy a game of dominoes?

 

Well, come on, lads. I don’t know what it is, but something’s going on. Abramovich hasn’t sacked him yet, but why not? To make him suffer? I’m the last to want to start rumours, but you’ve got to wonder, haven’t you?

 

Ref! On England and Ross Barkley

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

 Referee

So, weekend off, yes, that’s the beauty of international week. No Premier League, so no action for yours truly. I’m a football fan like all of you, so of course I watched England on Friday. A lot of people thought it was a bit of a snooze to watch, and okay, there was nothing at stake because England have already qualified, but what would you rather watch: a 2-0 win at a canter or a humiliation in a real game?

No, Dave, I don’t watch the referee as much as the play. You can’t help noticing things, obviously, but – you’re a builder, right? Do you watch the match or are you looking at the stands and the tunnel and thinking you could have done a better job?

Exactly, it’s in the back of your mind, but unless you notice something very bad or exceptionally good, you’re watching the football.

Yes, I think we’re going to get a shock at the actual Euros – got some scary friendlies coming up, in fact – but at least we’re not having one of those nailbiting qualifying campaigns.  Surprising how quickly things can settle down. Like Harry Kane, I feel quite comfortable with him up front. He’s not scoring hatfuls of goals, but he looks the part and they’ll come if you stick with him.

Cheers, Gary, paynt a hayvee. That’s my Glasgow impression, mate, some Jock asking for a pint of heavy. I don’t know, but heavy’s not going to be Bud Light, is it? Something with a bit of body to it I suppose. A bottle of Newky Brown, if you don’t mind.

What I really liked was seeing Ross Barkley showing a bit of skill. Pity he looks like he does, mind. He’s got this permanent look of being off his face and itching for a fight, the sort of drunken numbskull you steer clear of in the kebab shop on a Saturday night. Barkley’s not that sort of bloke, apparently, but all he needs is a boozy flush to his cheeks and you’d avoid looking at him.

What I mean, Baz, is haven’t you ever been waiting there at half past midnight and there’s some guy going, “Oo you fakkin’ lookin’ at mate?” You know, he hasn’t pulled, so he’s looking to indulge his second passion, which is punching people. So you look anywhere but at him, cos whoever does catch his eye is going to be invited to step outside.

No, I’m not saying Barkley is like that at all. That’s what I’ve just said, Baz. Barkley is apparently not that sort of bloke. Maybe it’s that short back and sides; he looks severe. But football-wise he’s the latest in a long line of gifted midfielders that goes back through Matt Le Tissier to Glenn Hoddle and Tony Currie and Alan Hudson. Too talented for their own good. England managers don’t trust them when the chips are down. You bet your life in a proper match that matters Hodgson is going to pick James Milner and Adam Lallana and Jonjo Shelvey and play Phil Jones in midfield. Anything but let the wizard do his stuff.

No, it’s not what I would do, it’s what tends to happen. It’s… oh, thank god for that… cheers Gary.