A Referees View

image

 

An interesting piece which has been submitted to the blog by one of our serving amateur referees. 

While driving home from today’s fixture, I don’t know why, but I thought about The Gaffers View page. It got me thinking…why has a referee not stuck one in? Why have none of us fired in an opinion on the amateur game?

Who knows?

Well here is my view

All said and done, I’m a referee now and I love it! I’m fortunate even if I do say so myself because I’m decent at it,  I know I am because I take a mental note every time a team and coaching staff tell me “your the best ref we’ve had” and hand on heart there’s far more of those shouts than negative ones. Does that make me big headed? No, because I’d never tell my league or anyone for that matter of the praise I receive, I let teams make their own mind up.

I played youth football and dabbled with amateur all my life and I was good, very good. Sadly, illness put paid to my proper playing days.

I took a good few years out, I fell away from it and it didn’t bother me. I always played fives and I’d regularly get the same questions from the boys there,

“why are you not playing 11’s”

“come down on Tuesday mate”

“it’s a joke your sitting in the house”

One guy said to me one night “your winding me up man, are you a ref in disguise?”

It got me thinking though. The truth was that I couldn’t commit time to an amateur side, it had passed me by, teams were far too serious now. It’s fantastic for the boys involved but at the level I think I was at, I couldn’t justify it to my personal life. Two training sessions a week and the game every Saturday meant I just couldn’t do it. I’m full throttle when I am part of something and attending here and there was no good.

I then said to myself “I’m going to batter this ref’s course.”

I sent the email and waited…
and waited…
I then got a reply The course starts next Monday.
Ooft! We’re in!

What did I have to lose now? This will give me a wee look at what the ref’s get up to, I’ll hate it no doubt but the course won’t cost that much so feck it, I just won’t go back if it’s not for me.

Three weeks in and I was hooked.
It kept me involved, it was steeped in knowledge of the game and I loved every scenario we spoke about. Football, football, football.
I knew I’d be good at it. The course was full of young men that had never kicked a ball in their lives. They were shouting out answers to questions that would get you hung on a Saturday afternoon in Drumchapel!

I could see it though, feel it, I knew it.
Refereeing is simple, it’s all common sense. Football refereeing though, for all involved is hard. I’ve thought about the next line before I post it and I decided I’m going to say it, don’t get too shocked players….

Refereeing the amateur game is a human impossibility.

There, I said it. I’ll explain that bold comment shortly.

When your ref arrives, standard things always happen.
There is a quick hello to both teams

“any trialist?”
“What colour is your keeper in?”
“Give me a shout when your teamlines are done” the usual stuff.

The game then begins.

Let’s get it going, you toss the coin, count the body’s, start your watch, we’re off.

It’s a game of football, I’ve played, I’ve scored, I’ve won, I’ve lost, tackled and I’ve been tackled so I call it as I see it. Every thought possible runs wild in your head but you know it’s early days, just stay alert, try and pass the first ten minutes with no drama and call the first throw in right, lovely.

As the game loosens up, I feel it’s important I get a few things across. I don’t know how many amateur players will read this but if one player takes notice and in the next game he plays, he cuts his ref some slack, I’d be delighted.

Please, give this a thought….

EVERY SINGLE TIME I blow my whistle, HALF, YES HALF of the people there won’t agree. Please note, I didn’t say players, I didn’t say coaches, I said PEOPLE. Football is split, the ref can’t win. Nearly an exact half of every single human in attendance of that match will not agree with me, even though I may know I’m right. Why? Cause you want your f****** team to win! It’s natural guys, I’m a football fan, I want my team to win, it’s human nature.

This however, is where refereeing is explained…I hope.

I don’t care who wins. I may know a lot of the boys involved but I couldn’t give a monkeys who scores more goals and I don’t care who I’ve booked because I’m busy, I’m busy hoping my next decision does me, as a ref, justice.

So yes…

I know “there’s two teams on the park”
I know “I’m letting him speak to me like that”
I know “I’ve not given you anything today”
I know “I’m having a fucking laugh”
I know ” I’m having a fucking nightmare”
I know “I’m being paid for this”
I know ” he’s offside”
I know “that’s a fucking foul”

I’ve heard them all. We all have.

But lads, can you please let me remind you…

I’m concentrating hard and trying to be the best ref I can be.

You want an offside call right?

Ok, well here it is, what I mentioned earlier…

I’m watching the line, OK, I know your right back has the ball, OK, I know the opposition left winger is closing the right back down, OK, so when your right back lumps to your centre forward….

You want me to keep looking at your right back after he has played the long ball, you want me too keep looking because we all know the nippy wee left winger is going to lunge at him don’t we? However as well as catching that lunge, the opposition want me to call an offside against the rapid centre forward bearing in on goal don’t they?

Remember what I said about half and half.
I can’t, I just can’t see everything. I don’t have two pairs of eyes, I’m not super human but I tell you what I am, I’m a referee. I’m trying my best and I’ll be more specific on what I’m doing. I’m taking a punt. There, I just said that, I’m taking a punt.

Refereeing in amateur football and getting EVERY SINGLE CALL spot on, is IMPOSSIBLE.

Unless it’s slow and unless it’s as clear as the nose on your face, then yes, your ref is taking a punt lads. An educated and experienced call, yes, but it’s sometimes a total guess.

Why?

Because he’s pals with the other side?

Nah, he’s human and he’s alone.
He’s trying his very best, trust me.
It’s hard enough to quickly remember what way a team is shooting when awarding a throw in never mind calling an offside and a lunge at the same time.

I’m confident in my ability as a ref but, aye, I’ve had it all…

“That’s an embarrassing decision”
“You’ve never played the game”
“That’s why your a ref”

All this coming from someone, who I wouldn’t let borrow my old boots.

I take it though, we all tend to. Why? Because we’ve usually been there before. Not because we’re weak or because “I’ve bottled it” It’s because we’ve been there and we appreciate the passion in the heat of the moment.

Listen, I’m not stupid and I’m certainly not blinkered, I know we’ve a few belters, a few that might be in the latter stages of a glittering career and a few who might be shooting to the juniors and senior list in a fashion that defies belief but hey, we’re not all 6 stone and can referee 15 games a week but that’s not why I’ve written this. I’ve written this contribution because I want a favour.

I want you to go out in your next game and I want you to enjoy it. I want you to challenge the referees decisions in an adult fashion. I want you to accept what he says, where he points and how he sees it, why?

Because he’s the referee, it’s me, it’s your ref for the day. He started your game and he’ll finish it.

If he’s having a nightmare game then trust me lads, he won’t need reminding. Your criticism won’t help him. Suck it up, it’s not intentional or a personal attack on you.

It’s a thankless task and we all know that but please remember this…

The next time you feel the urge to chase the ref 30 yards up the park to contest a throw in on the half way line? Have a word with yourself.

Don’t let it ruin your game and remember one thing…

Yer man’s job is impossible.

IMPOSSIBLE.

Enjoy your season.

The Referee

 

 

The Perfect Substitute

image

No Manager in amateur football will tell you that he wants a player that is happy to be a sub for his team.

Players deal with being on a substitute’s bench on a match day in a variety of ways. In my experience the majority of the time it’s not in the way I would like them to. When you decide your team you take in a variety of factors. Obviously you want to put out a side that is going to win you the game. That goes without saying. You then have to consider who played in the last match and if they did enough for a start the following week as well as how they performed at training. I think I touched on this in my “I’m not going to beat about the bush” blog so I won’t cover old ground. Ultimately you choose your fairest and best team as a Manager.

How a player deals with being named amongst the subs says a lot about how valuable he is as a team player. I have had instances where boys have been subs for the majority of a season, however, they have continued to work hard at training and waited for the opportunity to claim their place in the starting eleven. These guys probably accept that there are better players in the squad than them and that they must be patient. The rest of this blog does not refer to these types of players.

What really irks me is a player, who nine times out of ten is a first team player, finds himself out of the team one week for whatever reason. I’m sure we have all been there. You name the team and make eye contact with him to tell him he isn’t in it. His head goes down and the shin guards get thrown onto the floor. He switches off and doesn’t listen to another word of your team talk. He is last out of the changing room and doesn’t give himself a proper warm up. He watches the game with his arms folded, blatantly in a huff until he is told he is going on. When he does get his chance he doesn’t play to the game plan and would rather concentrate on taking his anger out on opposition players by kicking them than trying to win. The game then ends and he showers and drives home without speaking to you. You then get a text about three hours later to say that if he is going to be a sub then he will find another team who will play him every game. What can you even say to that other than the obvious? Who do these guys think they are? The easy option is to let them move on but teams are loaded with players with this attitude these days. Most boys now think they have the God given right to start every match and how dare the Manager even consider leaving them out.

If you think this applies to you then let me educate you a bit.

You play most games for your team therefore your Manager trusts you and believes in your ability. You should never take this for granted though because you aren’t always going to have that good a game that your place is guaranteed. You need to keep working hard in games and at training in order that you keep your place. If the gaffer leaves you out of the team then maybe it isn’t because he has suddenly decided he thinks you are a poor player. Maybe he wants to have a look at another player or give one of your team mates who pays the same money as you every week his opportunity to play a bit. Maybe you had a bad game last week and he has dropped you because he wants the right type of reaction from you. Or maybe it is because he is the Manager of the team and it is his job to keep his squad happy. When he does tell you that you aren’t starting don’t take the huff about it and throw the toys out of the pram. Get out onto the park and do the full warm up with the team. Be vocal and let your Manager know you are up for this game. When the match starts keep warming up and run regularly so that you are at least close to the speed of play. Get involved in helping your team on the park by encouraging the boys and prove your commitment. When you get the nod to get stripped you need to make sure that you stamp your mark on the game for all the right reasons. Harass the opposition, make runs, tackle hard and play your part in the win. This is your chance to show that you didn’t deserve to be on the bench. When the game is over speak to your Manager face to face rather than texting him hours later and tell him you were frustrated about being left out but that you hope you have done enough in the minutes you did get to merit a start the next week. Nobody expects you to be happy but don’t let yourself or your team mates down by having a bad attitude because that has a tendency to run right through the team. It isn’t embarrassing being a substitute because it happens to everyone and that is why we have big squads for long hard seasons. Take it on the chin and work harder to show the Manager up rather than showing yourself up. There is a bigger picture in amateur football that sometimes I think players need to have a better appreciation of.

Prove him wrong.

The Gaffer

The weekend referee

image

Everyone has their own way of dealing with referees on match day. I like to think that I’m seen as one of the easier Managers that officials have to deal with in my league. I’ve always been a big believer that no matter what has happened in matches involving this ref in previous games, if you are civil and do what you have to do before the game without issue, then you are both starting with a clean slate. If there is any chance I can get a ref onside before a game though I will take it. I always try to get a laugh with them or ask them if they want a cup of tea before the game and throw them over a bottle of water or juice at halftime or if I am really on the ball speak about their favourite football team and pretend they are mines too. These little details might reduce that straight red to a yellow or be the difference between the ball being over the goal line at the oppositions end. Is it cheating? I don’t think so, being nice to a ref is part and parcel of amateur football for me.

I would never criticise someone who gets out of their bed on a Saturday for £40 a match given the amount of abuse that they take and occasional pressure they are under. I think the money they get isn’t that much when you take into consideration they have to buy their own kit, travel to games as far away as Oban and Dunoon or further and pay postage on all of the reports they must submit every week. If it wasn’t for these guys we couldn’t play football.

I am concerned sometimes to hear of referees getting fed up with the game and leaving it altogether. There is definitely a shortage of good refs at the moment and the leagues should be doing their bit to try and keep the good ones as well as encouraging the young guys through. We could do with a cull of the guys only interested in taking the money. We all know the types, they turn up like a bag of washing wearing all of the old kit, standing in the centre circle the whole match going through the motions having never played football in their life to inspect a park that should never be played on and call the game on at the risk of players gaining injuries. We all have these guys in our associations and if we had more young quality refs we could cut some of these guys loose.

I try to remind my players at every opportunity that referees do this as a hobby, albeit a paid hobby. There is never anything to be gained by abusing a referee or constantly berating his decisions. In any walk of life if you spoke to someone the way some players and spectators speak to our referees there would be a totally different outcome as to what you get on a football park. Sometimes the balance of a match can hang on who pisses of a referee most. I know a few refs on a personal level and socialise with some of them. I was shocked when I first heard one of them say that they had (team name) on Saturday and if (player name) is playing he is on a card as soon as I hear his voice because I can’t stand him. That’s the harsh reality of it. Refs are just normal guys doing a hobby they enjoy on a weekend. As soon as someone sticks their head above the parapet to spoil their enjoyment then its game on for them. I try to hammer that message home to my players regularly but sometimes guys just get caught up in the emotion of it all and can’t help themselves. If a player abuses you on the park then he annoys you, you try your best to beat him or to put a decent tackle in on him or make sure you celebrate your next goal with gusto. It motivates you to win. For referees it’s the same thing. If you are out of order towards him it motivates him to beat you, to give you a showing up and to think twice about giving you the next decision. That might not sit right with some people, especially referees who will tell you that every ref is impartial and every decision is made with a balanced and neutral mind set. That’s not the case at our level though where there are no tv cameras to show replays or pundits to reflect on a poor decision. At amateur level the referee is boss whether we like that or not.

There is a ref in my league whom I know for a fact has a real problem with my team. I have no idea why but every match seems to pass with some sort of incident involving him and with him making decisions against us that even baffle the opposition. He once told one of my players to “shut the fuck up” and when the player swore back at him conversationally he booked him. What chance do you have when this is going on. I have always resisted the urge to complain about him to the league as there is always the chance that he would find out about the complaint and who it came from and that we would no doubt see him as our ref on a more frequent basis, plus I think he is seen as one of the better refs in the league as he always seems to be appointed to bigger matches and finals etc. Referees also speak to each other on a regular basis, especially when they attend at their league meetings and share changing rooms at the centres with a few parks so the risk is that my club would gain a bit of a reputation in these circles and other refs might turn against us for making the complaint. Regardless of this guy’s issue I always make sure I am hospitable to him when he arrives on the day of the game and always speak politely to him over the phone. He may have an issue with the club but I have never given him the chance to say a bad word about me which might stand in my favour if we ever have to go down the official line of complaining about him. Hopefully it never comes to that and we can just get on with our football.

Let the game flow

The Gaffer

“I’m not going to beat about the bush mate”

I wanted to make my first proper post something that would catch your attention, when I thought about it I realised this is actually one of the worst parts of managing a team and maybe something that isn’t given a lot of thought unless your actually having to do it yourself. Giving someone the dreaded phone call the night before a game…

I usually have my team in mind from the following weeks game and if they perform at training then I will know they will be in the 11 come Saturday. The next job is choosing five subs for the bench. This is when the big decisions come in because choosing a team to start the match is usually more than easy. There are so many factors to take into consideration as a manager that players don’t even think about or want to hear about for that matter.

It’s easy to say if you weren’t at training you won’t be in the squad but the reality for most teams is that players work shifts, have kids, needy partners or other commitments away from their club. You do begin to see through the excuses though, especially when it’s the same players saying the same poor reasons. I always have a few of my trusted players who let me know exactly why certain others didn’t turn up! Either that or I use their own social media to let them know that I saw that they were watching a Champions League game when they were supposedly at their Grannies wake or that their wife checked them into IKEA for a “wee wander” when he told me that he wasn’t feeling well.

Other factors to consider are was he there last week, do I need someone in that position, would I put him on, when did he last train, is he on form, and how will he react. You may wonder about the strength of my character with that last one but it really does come down to that sometimes. I admit that I have left someone in a squad because I knew that leaving him out would result in the toys being thrown from the pram and him no doubt quitting the team. A manager and a club don’t need players with that type of attitude but when you throw into the mix that his best mate who is your top scorer or his brother are in your team and would be influenced to leave with him then you really are in dangerous territory. Or he could be the guy with the contact with the kit supplier that gets you a huge discount. It’s a fickle job and sometimes there really is no right answer in doing what is best for the team.

Players aren’t interested that your trying to win a game. They don’t want to hear that your right back played a blinder last week while the other one was on holiday. The modern day player is all about himself these days. If he’s not playing then he doesn’t care about your reasons. You do however get a total gem of a player on occasion that already knows the phone call is coming for whatever reason and stops you mid call before you can get it out to tell you that he knew he wouldn’t be included and he will see you in the morning at the game. These guys are worth their weight in gold and if you have a player like that, do your best to keep him. That kind of attitude usually meant that I would go out my way next time to make sure he wasn’t left out purely based on the fact that we would still come and support the guys who were playing. These guys are the real team players and there aren’t many of them around now.

My total pet hate of football and something that I always deal with strongly is a player being included in the squad when others have been left out and then going out on a Friday night bender and missing the game. There is no chance in hell of the guy you phoned the night before stepping up to play because as soon as you phone him he suddenly has a million things to do on the Saturday as soon as you have hung up. These Friday night booze bags can sometimes destroy morale and the credibility of a manager and everyone should be wary of them.

The last point I want to make for now is the manner of leaving someone out. I see text messages as a cop out. The best way is for a face to face however this is almost impossible at amateur level on a Friday night so the next best thing is to phone them and do it. This has two affects the first being that the player can gauge how sincere you are and hear it from your mouth and not misjudge the wording in a text, and it also lets you hear the players first reaction to the decision without him having the opportunity to ponder it over before replying. It really is a horrible thing to do but unfortunately it’s part of the role we have taken on.

Nobody comes to tell you that you made the right decision but there will be a few who will say you made the wrong one. Sometimes it’s best as a manager to keep your counsel because after all your are the only one with all the knowledge and the one holding all the aces, always.

Good luck in the weekends games

The Gaffer