Amateur Scribe

(The Original)

Poll Inspires the Men in Black

Referee Rob Styles will not officiate in the Premier League next weekend following his performance in the Liverpool-Chelsea game on Sunday.


Styles was criticised for awarding a controversial penalty to Chelsea.


Referees' chief Keith Hackett told BBC Radio 5live: "It is just like with players, if they miss an open goal they are likely to be dropped."


BBC Website 20/8/07


Brilliant. Finally we have performance-based refereeing: Give a dodgy penalty and you’ll be warming the bench for the foreseeable future. Issue a swarthy Croatian three yellow cards and you can expect to be farmed out on loan to the Ryman League for the rest of your career.


And why not? Gone are the days when top level football officials were merely dour bankers from Sidcup looking for a run-out on a Saturday afternoon. The new breed are professional athletes with training camps, selection panels and high-level sponsorship from Top Man.  As a result, we demand excellence, consistency and glamorous signings from Latin America that nobody’s heard of.


And the marketing opportunities are endless: Why buy a Rooney replica shirt when you can strut your stuff in a Rob Styles-affiliated FIFA training top?


Styles: Now accountable for blunders

The Premier League refereeing pool is now, essentially, a finely-tuned squad of Galactico whistle-blowers, assembled at great cost and run with military precision by Hackett and co. But, clearly, every star-studded team needs a charismatic man at the helm.


We asked newly-appointed manager of “The Men in Black”, Graham Poll, to pen an exclusive diary for this website. I’ll be honest: It didn’t cost us much. Basically we just bought him a jazzy leather-bound journal and a Mourinho-esque trench coat from Debenhams and let him waffle on. Below are some excerpts – highly sanitized, and stripped of much of its self-serving eulogy - but you get the gist.

August 10


I can’t believe what an honour it is to be spearheading British refereeing into a new era. For too long, the players have been the centre of attention – but I feel this squad has what it takes to put refereeing firmly on the map.


What will my style be? Perhaps the determination of Ferguson, the flamboyance of Jose, and the technical nouse of Paul Durkin. I fiery combo, I think you’ll agree.


I like to think I’m the man for the job, but I’m under no illusions that it will be easy. Yes I’ve got two World Cups and an FA Cup Final under my belt. Yes I’m the poster-boy for 21st century refereeing. Yes, I won the Hertfordshire Gum-Chewer of the Year competition (1996-99 inclusive) – but it would be remiss of me to suggest I can dominate management, like I bestrode the centre circle and technical area … (Nauseating section on personal achievements in football deleted – Ed)


…Still, when I took the call from Keith, I admit it was a shock. I left the wife and kids in Magaluf and jetted back for pre-season training. Forward thinking, is Keith. I’d do anything for him. Back in the 90s we campaigned tirelessly for some kind of hi-tech electronic communication devices for refs, and look at us now – all wired up like blooming Britney Spears. Marvellous.


We really do have a great bunch of lads in the squad. I’ve introduced a few new faces - I particularly like the look of Andre Mariner who we brought in to freshen things up. He was pulling up trees in the Championship last year – a real box-to-box man, good engine. Not sure he’s right up there yet, but he’ll do a job at the Fratton Parks of this world, that’s for sure.  

Anyway, competition for places is always good.


It’ll keep the seasoned pros on their toes. Alan Wiley’s still the skipper though. Had him under my wing at the Wembley cup final in 2000 (Page-long anecdote about the laugh he had with Robberto DeMatteo after the game deleted – Ed) … he’s a man’s man is Alan. No nonsense.


Then there’s Webby (Howard Webb). We like to call him the “Enforcer”. Bigger biceps than Uriah “Kiss the Guns” Rennie – and that’s saying something, let me tell you. I caught Rennie in the showers once at a training conference in Alderley Edge. Made the eyes water.


We’ve got the bad boys too, of course. Step forward Mr. Mike Dean. He’s a great lad, Deano, but my God he’s a handful. I had him in my office the day I took the job and laid down the law. He’s been criticised for having a Liverpool bias and gambling too much. I swiftly put him straight on that - “Not on my watch, son.” I told him. Of course he likes a bet – the lad’s a scouser … (potentially defamatory section on the lawlessness of Liverpudlians deleted – Ed)


Anyway – it’s a new season, and that means a clean slate. At our state-of-the-art training facility in Datchett, my primary goal was to step up the fitness. Clatts (Mark Clattenburg) was always a perpetual under-achiever with that side of his game, but he aced the cardio session with an unprecedented 57 star-jumps. I think they’re all a bit scared of Uriah since I employed him to do the whole Louis Gossett Jr thing on the assault course. Poor old Phil Dowd was struggling on the rope swing and Uriah gave him the “steers and queers” speech from “an Officer and a Gentleman”. I love it when he’s masterful… (A bit more on Uriah Rennie’s showering habits deleted – this is a family website – Ed)


I suppose the only big problem we’ve had pre-season was that kerfuffle about MSI owning Steve Tanner’s registration.  It means he’ll have to miss the opening day while Keith takes Kia Joorabchian out to a Harvester to smooth things over. As a gaffer you can only work with the squad you have available so we’ve had to stick Andre in at the deep end at the Riverside – Ideally we’d have eased him in gently as a 4th Official at Derby, but, hey - what are you going to do?

Week 1

Arsenal            2-1     Fulham              Phil Dowd

Aston Villa     1-2     Liverpool          Mike Riley

Chelsea            3-2    Birmingham    Steve Bennet

M'boro               1-2    Blackburn         Andre Mariner

Bolton               1-3     Newcastle          Chris Foy

Derby                2-2     Portsmouth     Mike Dean

Everton            2-1      Wigan                Mark Clattenburg

West Ham       0-2      Man City         Peter Walton

Man Utd           0-0      Reading           Rob Styles

Sunderland    1-0      Tottenham     Alan Wiley


We've taken some training techniques from the Europeans...

August 13th


On the whole I was delighted with the lads after the opening day. Steve Bennet allowed the obligatory narrow Chelsea win against a plucky underdog; Alan avoided getting his head kicked in by Roy Keane by presiding over a last minute Sunderland winner, and Andre played a blinder by booking seven players at Middlesborough. Applying the letter of the law – that’s what it’s all about. He’s going to be very difficult to drop over the next few weeks.


August 12th


Ask any manager – squad rotation is part and parcel of today’s game. The Wednesday night fixtures offer some of the fringe officials a chance to shine. Take Lee Mason. Lee who? I hear you cry. Philistines. He’s the man who slam-dunked the Play-off Final in 2006 – That’s Lee Mason. Is he ready for the big time? You betcha. Straight in at Man City – bosh.


Bet old Sven didn’t see that one coming. He probably thought: “Ex-England manager – opening day victory – press all over the place – they’re certain to get Howard Webb in for this one.” But no. It’s a manager’s job to keep them guessing. Always keep them guessing.


Man City           1-0        Derby               Lee Mason

Reading             1-2        Chelsea           Mike Dean

Wigan                 1-0        M'boro             Steve Tanner

Portsmouth     1-1        Man Utd           Steve Bennet

Tottenham       1-3        Everton          Mark Halsey

Birmingham   2-2       Sunderland  Keith Stroud

Fulham              2-1        Bolton              Lee Probert

August 16th


Fire-fighting with the tabloids is not something I relish – but I’ve got used to it over my glittering career. They’ve always been jealous of my success. I’d like to be talking about the text-book advantage played by Mark Halsey in the Spurs game, or the way Keith Stroud applied my celebrated “talk to the hand” pose when red-faced Steve Bruce complained about Sunderland’s last minute leveller. But no – the papers are too busy banging on about Ronaldo to give my team the credit they deserve.

For the record, Steve Bennet got that one spot one – by the letter of the law, a head-butt from a petulant, baby-faced Portuguese prima dona who’s winking antics destroyed England’s chances at the last World Cup deserves a straight red. You’d have thought they’d be grateful, but they’re fickle sods, newspapermen.


At least it’s mainly onfield action providing the talking points thus far. Luckily I’ve yet to face the kind of scandal that simmers below the surface in this high-rolling world of Premier League officialdom. Last season there was apparently a notorious incident involving Jodie Marsh, a length of garden hose and an inebriated Chris Foy outside Boujis. That took some hushing up, so I’m told.


As for Lee Mason – superb. He’s keeping his place on Saturday, that’s a given. I predict great things for him at Craven Cottage. I can guarantee he won’t put a foot wrong.

Week 2

Blackburn          1-1          Arsenal            Alan Wiley

Liverpool            1-1          Chelsea             Rob Styles

Man City             1-0         Man Utd           Mark C'burg

Birmingham     0-1         West Ham       Mark Halsey

Fulham                1-2         M'boro                Lee Mason

Newcastle           0-0         Aston Villa     Howard Webb

Portsmouth        3-1         Bolton               Steve Tanner

Reading                1-0         Everton           Steve Bennet

Tottenham         4-0         Derby               Chris Foy

Wigan                   3-0         Sunderland   Mike Riley

27th August


OK – so it was never a penalty – in hindsight, as I told Rob afterwards: “Never give a penalty for Chelsea unless Terry’s got his massive ugly gob right in your face”. He’ll learn – if none of them are crowding round you, it usually means Drogba’s just fallen over again.


But I don’t see the point in hanging my key players out to dry. Do I have any regrets throwing Styles-y in at the deep end? None whatsoever. It’s a pressure cooker, Anfield, and Rob turned up the heat to nuclear and got his goolies singed. That’s Premier League refereeing, right there



As for Lee Mason – yes, he’s raw. Yes, he made a mistake, but don’t blame him for the whole TV goal-line technology debate. Hawk-eye may work in the more genteel surroundings of Lords or Wimbledon, but you try bringing it into a situation where Lawrie Sanchez is nigh-on throttling the 4th Official. That said, if Mason cocks up again, he’ll be back at Griffin Park faster than his legs will carry him.


I’m happy with the start to the season. OK – we’ve had a bit of a rough ride this week, but I think we’ll be fine. On a personal note, I’ve got a three page spread in Nuts magazine and a spot on the Inside Sport sofa with Gabby Logan and Linford Christie, so I’m delighted.


Jeff Winter may have retired to the after-dinner circuit, but a man like me can’t walk away from football – it’s in my blood. The taste of that half-time cuppa, the whiff of Deep Heat and hair gel in the referee’s room – the adrenaline rush of that first cautionary word to Wayne Rooney followed by a fatherly pat on the buttock as he trots away. It is my duty to pass my experience on to the next generation – and, my God, that’s exactly what I intend to do.


August 2007