One thing I’m not missing is controversial refereeing! I’m taking some time out after being in management virtually non-stop since Gainsborough in 1980 and the biggest advantage is not having to put up with bad decisions.
There’s so little room for what I call common sense and I’m a strong advocate of getting people other than former referees into the coaching of officials. What about ex-coaches, managers and players having an input? Referees need to look at the game from the other side to get a better understanding of it.
Cameron Jerome netted a great overhead kick for Norwich on the opening day of the season, only to have it ruled out for dangerous play because his foot was high. Of course, it was high! That’s because we’re talking about one of the great spectacles of football.
Denis Law and Mark Hughes used to trade on spectacular goals like that. I didn’t just feel sorry for Alex Neil, the Norwich manager, over that decision – I felt sorry for the game.
Oh, and Norwich lost, by the way. I’ve always felt that the smaller teams don’t get the big decisions in the Premier League. I’ve had that view going all the way back to 2006, when Rob Styles gave a penalty for Liverpool against my Sheffield United team at Bramall Lane. Steven Gerrard wasn’t touched but Styles said it was a foul by ‘intent’ – which doesn’t exist in the laws!
Another bugbear is that petty things get punished – a tug of a shirt or a player throwing the ball down in protest – but when it comes to vicious tackles, often nothing happens. I’m amazed referees don’t pick up some of these potential leg-breaking challenges.
There have been red cards going begging in the Premier League. Maybe it’s because referees don’t have enough experience of playing. They are manufacturing them these days, in my opinion.
Common sense used to be an unwritten law when I played, but now it seems the officials are all frightened about how they are going to be marked.
I’ll tell you something that might surprise you here. There were times when referees got better marks from me than their assessors! For all the criticism I’ve had for being the way I am on the touchline, my reports on referees have been some of the best written and the most constructive. I’ve always tried to make helpful comments.
Referees get respect from the way they treat players, too. Look at Pierluigi Collina and the respect he commanded. In this country you know that Mike Dean will get it right nine times out of 10, although he had a torrid time last weekend.
And Mark Clattenburg, too, even though he cost me a win with Crystal Palace at West Brom last season, where one of their goals in the 2-2 draw came after our keeper was virtually assaulted. Despite that, Mark is one of the best. Michael Oliver is coming through really well, too.
But I can’t help feeling that officials generally should get coaching from another angle to see the playing side, the devious things players get up to. It’s a difficult job for them, certainly, but let’s also see them looking a bit more like they’re enjoying it!