Ref! On Kendall, Mourinho and bad boys

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


Yes, I ‘done’ Newcastle-Norwich at the weekend, Dave. And refereeing-wise it was no problem at all. And so it should be at this stage of the season. Everybody’s settling down and it’s all to play for, as they say. There’s no point losing your discipline when there’s loads of time left.

Newcastle will be thinking they can get out of trouble and finish halfway up the table, and the best way to achieve that is with 11 players on the pitch. That’s a point that’s often overlooked by the less intelligent player. No, nobody in particular, Baz. It means less intelligent players in general; the ones who can’t see past the present moment.

That’s not the same as impetuous, but funnily enough the hotheads don’t tend to go into management afterwards. They go on TV and spend their second career trying to make us forget what twats they were in the first.

As a ref you can sometimes forge a decent relationship with a pillock after he’s retired, if he’s suitably embarrassed about his reputation. You get the odd one who still wants the world to come round to his point of view, but you often find that there was a brain in there all along. So you get your Robbie Savage, who as a player was a mouthy git with talent that was overshadowed by his volatility – sorry Dave, getting a bit poetic in my old age – but who’s actually all right. In his case there is the hair issue, yes, which has always been a feature.

Nowadays he’s not so much a scruffy sod as a preening bloody narcissist. It’s probably his missus, or one of the BBC’s make-up people. Stylists, they call them, and they’re obsessed with making people look attractive, or in Savage’s case ridiculous in a Kings Road sort of way.

Cheers Gary, I’ll have a brandy and Canada – no, that bloke’s hair just makes me think of the way we used to get stiffed by birds with expensive tastes – pint of Stella please.

John Hartson, he’s another one who’s gone straight since he stopped playing, and he can often sound quite intelligent and humble when he’s talking to that Jake Whatsit on Football Focus.

Yes, Dave, shame about Howard Kendall, but he was nearly 70 and it comes to all of us. Slightly before my time as a player, but he did wonders with Everton as a manager. Should he have been an England manager? Good question. His name never seemed to come up, did it? It would now, too true.

They’re starting to look at life after Hodgson, and Mourinho’s a candidate. It’ll never happen, mate, the guy’s too much of a maverick and they don’t like that. The FA were quite happy to let us think it was going to be Harry Redknapp last time when all along they had Uncle Roy up their sleeve. They wouldn’t have Cloughie and they won’t have Mourinho, simple as that.

Actually, I’m not that surprised that he seems to be considering it, because the way things are going this season he must be thinking it’s not a job for life at Chelsea after all. Yes, I wonder if he does drink pints of special. Cheers Gary. Good man.

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.


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.


Ref! On Grealish and Vardy

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 did Leicester-Aston Villa. It was a bit of a seesaw, cos, you know, Villa go 2-0 up and then Leicester come back and win it. Tim Sherwood was well pissed off, wasn’t he? He must have thought his season was really getting going when Jack Grealish scored.

I don’t know where he’s been, the Grealish boy. Maybe he’s only just sobered up after that skinful he had on holiday in the close season. They don’t seem to realize they can’t behave like their mates, because if JG’s Mate gets paralytic in Tenerife, nobody notices or cares, but if the lad himself does it, there’s every chance it’s going to get photographed and find its way to the British media.

But they’re only kids, Baz, fair’s fair. Look at Grealish himself. Baby face and his grandad’s haircut. The boy’s a child. And a couple of good displays last season and he’s got Roy Hodgson trying to make him commit himself to England, rather than playing for Ireland. No talk of actually picking him. He just wants to have the option, like Chelsea with all their players out on loan. Most of them will never play at Stamford Bridge, but if the club owns them, nobody else can.

Funnily enough, two they actually let go have turned out to be genuine talents. They had to buy Matic back for an inflated fee after he blossomed abroad, and now there’s Kevin De Bruyne, who’s gone to Man City of all people. So maybe their policy is right. Sign them and deprive others of the pleasure.

Cheers Gary, just a bottle of Grolsch, mate. No, a bottle, the draught’s not the same.

Anyway, I’m at the King Power Stadium – Leicester’s ground, Baz – and a nice little game it turned out to be. Nothing too naughty, nothing demanding from a reffing point of view, and that means you can enjoy it. It’s where I do a lot of my thinking, to be honest. One part of my brain is doing the job, running the game, and the other part is thinking.

Well, since you ask, Dave, what I was thinking was about Hodgson again. What does he see in Jamie Vardy that he keeps picking him for England? Nobody else thinks he’s more than an average lower-half-of-the-table striker. It’s not like he’s ever scored shedfuls of goals. Maybe he’s just an exceptionally nice bloke, because Roy does value that. It’s a good thing injury has kept Danny Welbeck out of the picture for the last year, or he’d have kept selecting him ahead of your Harry Kanes. And yet Vardy’s in there, as if Roy thinks he’s going to kick-start his career by gaining confidence at international level.

But you have to give people credit for being experts in their own field. Few know the intricacies of refereeing – and there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye – and I suppose international management is the same. Come to think of it, Roy Hodgson would probably have made a good ref.

Now now, Dave, oddball is not a nice expression. And you wouldn’t describe me like that, would you? I mean would you?