Ref! On the end of the world

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


Cheer up, Baz. We’re English football fans. So we know the end of the world comes around every two years, and it happened again last night. You just don’t expect it to be caused by Iceland, that’s all. Remember when that Norwegian commentator gave us a load of verbal when they beat us? 1981 or something. And he was going “Maggie Thatchuurr. Maggie Thatchuurr. Your boys took a hell of a beating. Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana.”

That’s right, I know it off by heart. It used to be my party piece whenever there was a Scandinavian in the room. Yes, Dave, I was a bit of a pillock at the time. But really – who do these people think they are? One football match and they think they’re entitled to mouth off about it and we’ve just got to take it.

Who was Lord Beaverbrook, Baz? Newspaper proprietor, mate. Owned the Daily Express. No, I don’t know why the guy picked on him, must have just liked the sound of it. If we were doing that in reverse, who would we name? The only Norwegian I know is Anders Breivik.

Anyway, it wasn’t Norway this time, it was Iceland, and who do we know from there? That’s right, Dave: Bjork, funny-looking singer with a funny voice. Anyone else? No, all they’re famous for is having volcanoes that send out a load of dust and shut down airlines for a few days.

Well, that was all they were famous for. Now Iceland is another country that has beaten England at football.

Cheer, Gary, I’ll have a vodka. On the rocks. Just like it is, a drop of the hard stuff, mate. Down the hatch, bottoms up and here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women. Robert Shaw in Jaws, Dave.

Good game? I suppose you could say that, for the neutral, anyway. We weren’t bad, were we? Just unlucky. Rooney was off his game and Sterling had one of his days when he had plenty of the ball but didn’t look like he’d ever actually played before outside his back garden. I know some of the pundits are saying it was a diabolical performance, but really, we had a few chances and if just one of the shots on target had been a foot to one side we’d be laughing.

So what now? What now indeed. Another two weeks of football and no vested interest. No, I’m not supporting Wales. Do you think they’d support us if it was the other way round? No, good luck to them, but they’re a bunch of journeymen with a couple of superstars. I always want the best team to win a tournament, and I’m afraid that might mean the bloody Germans again.

So, for the neutral it’s a lose-lose situation. We’ll have the telly on , but I’ll be trying it on with Jody most of the time. And it’s very hard to combine making love with watching football. But in this case there can be only one winner, and it’s not Poland-Portugal.



Ref! On potential glory

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


Evening lads,

Another week, another option on the England front. Yes, Baz, Marcus Rashford. And bloody Wayne Rooney. Rashford? I think Hodgson will take him and hang onto him in case of emergencies. He’s not going to disturb the new twin kings, is he?  Kane and Vardy, separately or together, one or the other, either or both, that’s what we have to have in my humble opinion. Trust in the future.

The present, indeed, Dave, they’ve both done it in the Premier League and look comfortable at international level, so it’s no gamble to pin your hopes on them. What we don’t want is Roy going soft and playing Rooney through the middle with one or both of them on the flanks. Okay, the old boy scored a good one against Australia and looked  like the experienced campaigner he is. But it’s a new dawn and if anyone is going to standing back, letting the other boys play, it’s got to be him.

You’re right, Dave, it does get me agitated. And there’s nothing you or I can do about it, but it’s what being a fan is all about. We’re interested, we have  a certain amount of knowledge and we want to see the boss do the right thing. And the right thing right now is to give it to the youth. All of a sudden they’re queueing up, whereas some years there’s nobody knocking on the door. But you’ve got all the Spurs boys looking the part – all except Kyle Walker, Dave, I agree. He should be the reserve and we play Nathanial Clyne as first choice right back.

Cheers, Gary, I feel like a spirit. Some “fancy foreign muck”, as Baz would say. Well, you did, Baz, in that Italian restaurant where they had Juventus on the telly in the corner. What did we have that night? Grappa, that’s right. Like brandy strained through an old sock. I’ll have one of them, Gary. If they’ve got it, yes. Otherwise, whatever’s the dustiest on the top shelf.

My prediction? Too early to predict the tournament, but this time I reckon we’ll win the group at least. Well, no, that’s a lot bolder than I was two years ago with the World Cup, when I didn’t even think we’d get out of the group. And I was right, wasn’t I? We were rubbish. All changed now. All we need is for the centre backs to get their act together, and one good game could do that. Stones gets his confidence back and Roy gets either Cahill or Smalling going as the cool head, the voice of experience.

Joe Hart at the back. Somebody suddenly grows up and starts running the midfield – not Milner. I don’t know who, no, but there’s plenty of them there or thereabouts. You can’t predict, you can only hope. But I don’t know: I’ve just got a good feeling about this. And if the best team should win the tournament and we’re not that yet, well, we can grow into it. That’s what Hodgson’s good at. He picked Vardy when everybody thought he was just a flash in the pan, he’s made Kane feel like he owns the shirt – in a good way. I don’t know. I haven’t been this excited since 1990. In a football sense, Dave. For gawd’s sake don’t tell Jody I said that.

Cheers Gary. Down the hatch. Wallop! Yeah, grappa. Fancy foreign muck. Doesn’t half repeat on you too.



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.


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! On Rooney and regeneration

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


Evening, gents, anyone want to suggest a topic to kick off with? Okay, Dave, what? The Wayne Rooney problem. As in… the fact that he’s scoring goals again. And that’s a problem because it was nice having him out of the England picture?

Well, I know what you mean, mate, and I agree with you up to a point. In the bad old days a year or so ago, Rooney was the first name on the team sheet for both Man U and England. Record goalscorer and all that. Then he was out injured for a bit and the youngsters stepped in and did well and when he was fit again, he couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo, so it looked like the young guns could get a clear run at it.

Yes, I’m concerned about it more from an England point of view. Not being a United supporter, and none of us here are, are we, they can do what they like and if Van Gaal wants to persevere with Rooney up front he is free to do so. Doesn’t bother me one bit.

But England, then that is our problem, because we’re all on England’s side. And without the snarling scouser the side looks more balanced, more promising, than it does with him.

Roy Hodgson’s got plenty to choose from now, with Harry Kane settled in and Jamie Vardy looking less like a flash in the pan than he did at one point. And Berahino and one or two others on the fringes.

So to go back to relying on Rooney would seem like a backward step.

Cheers, Gary, bottle of Pils please, I’m watching my weight . Yeah, so sometimes fate does you a favour by clearing out the dead wood and more or less forcing you to do what you were a bit worried about. Like the old Gerrard-Lampard conundrum. The two best midfielders in the country but it didn’t work when they played together. And it went on for years, didn’t it? Only ceased to be a problem when Lampard went over the hill a bit and it was clearly time for the new generation. And eventually Gerrard went too and bingo: daylight for Barkley and Delph and Dele Alli etc.

And all without the manager being the bad guy in anyone’s eyes. Marvellous, really. Of course, you’ve got to hope the new lot are going to be better than what you had before, but you’ll never know until you try, because sometimes people unconsciously hold themselves back without realizing it – yes, Baz, I suppose it could be subconsciously, but when did you become an authority on words of more than one syllable? Like Leighton Baines – he was as good as Ashley Cole for several years, but he didn’t feel he could make a takeover bid because he was probably a Cole fan too.

But in Baines’s case, Luke Shaw came along and disrupted the natural handover and I don’t think Baines has got the confidence now. He seems happy to be the reliable second choice.

Cheers, Gary, you’re always the first choice when it comes to going to the bar, aren’t you? You’ve got style, mate, you’ve got persistence, you’ve got a way of attracting the barmaid’s attention. If only you were a footballer.





Ref! On Van Gaal and Ferguson

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


I know what you’re saying, Dave, but being at or near the top of the table is an end in itself. An end in itself, Baz: it means it’s something worth achieving, however it is done. And it applies to Manchester United because they’re getting stick even though they’re actually up there, doing well.

I’m not sure Louis Van Gaal knew what he was getting himself into, despite all his travels and experience. United hadn’t been crowing about how positive and attack-minded they were under Alex Ferguson, they just got on and did it. And they happened to have some exceptional attacking players. When Beckham and Giggs and Scholes came through, that just happened to be what the grocer delivered, mate. Sure, Fergie bought well too, but basically he was just allowing these exciting players to be themselves, and he made sure he had the back door locked up tight.

Van Gaal, for a start he hasn’t had a settled back four all the time he’s been there. He’s got a mix of expensive foreigners and young local lads, but you couldn’t pick four and say these are his first choice. Could you? And without that basis, there isn’t the confidence further forward.

It’s like Gary here going to get the drinks. He knows he can get three pints in that solid group between his fingers. And a bottle in each jacket pocket and maybe one down the back of his jeans. But he couldn’t do all that fancy stuff if the central trio wasn’t solid. One of those goes a bit wobbly and the whole set-up suddenly becomes a worry.

Cheers, Gary, pint of Jaap Stam, please.

So, David, if I’m not stretching the analogy too far, if you’ve got Daley Blind – who I like – with Paddy McNair and Claudia Winkelman, you’re in trouble, aren’t you? Because, Baz, you don’t need Claudia, you need big ugly Nemaja Matic. I know it’s obvious, that’s why I put it in those terms, so it was clear to someone of your ability.

If Van Gaal – or David Moyes, for that matter – had Gary Neville, Rio, Matic and Patrice Evra at the back, he would get more out of the likes of Memphis Depay and Antony Martial, who are both quite young. And don’t forget you’ve got Rooney up there complicating matters like an old potato going soft and sprouty.

No, I don’t like Van Gaal either. He’s a great big spoilt kid who’d run to the teacher if you grabbed his crisps and squashed them, but he’s tried a few things and they haven’t really worked. If they had worked, they couldn’t be much further up the table but people would feel good about them.

All I ask of the top teams is that they do okay for us in Europe. You don’t have to love Liverpool to enjoy seeing them win the Champions League. We used to complain about Ferguson and fergie time and all that, but I’d rather see him breaking into his annual grin than the current Barcelona manager, wouldn’t you?


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.


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.



Siobhan Kennedy-Clarke’s klasic films: Jerry Maguire

Jerry Maguire

I really like him that Tom Cruise. He makes my knees go trembly. And he’s only short while I’m quite tall for a girl so a knee-trembler might suit him. Sorry what am I like?

It’s quite a complercated story mind based on some sort of sport that they call football only it’s not because they don’t kick the ball along the ground and Wayne Rooney’s not in it.

It’s got that Renee Zellweger in it too you know the one that had a facelift and doesn’t look like herself no more. It just goes to show don’t it? What was the serjin thinking? He must of been drunk.

I’d never go to an alkerholic plastic serjin myself personally. And anyway why bother it’s only superfishal and if her bf really loved her he wouldn’t care and wouldn’t of made her do it. U don’t look at the manterlpeace when ur stoking the fire my dad said and he should know he’s been married three times. I don’t understand the expreshun mind cos it’s before my time I’m an 80s girl.

Jerry Maguire come out when I was a teenager and I seen it once down the cinema remember them big barns and it’s all dark inside. Sitting there with a bag of cheesy Wotsits and Kelvin’s hand down me drawers. No wonder I liked the film eh?

Ah those were the days. I’m a romantic that’s why I loved the film and she says You had me at hello which wasn’t true he had her earlier in the film and he never touched her at that point there was other people in the room.

I’d never do it with other people there it’s creepy but maybe if it was Tom Cruise and it was some of his mates and my mates and we’d been on the razz then I might of forgot I was a lady and that.