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  • Writer's pictureAlastair Blair

Which referee is this?

This is another excerpt from my new book, "Stop the Game, we are going to arrest the goalkeeper!" - available on Amazon. The first 100 or so pages of the book consist principally of interviews with former referees, many with very entertaining stories from their time in the game. Accordingly, I though it might be fun for people to guess (without checking online!) who this is...

“One Rangers’ match I especially remember was the 1998-99 League Cup final against St Johnstone at Parkhead. I was fourth official and at one point the Rangers’ manager Dick Advocaat and his assistant Bert Van Lingen wanted me to stop the game. What happened was that St Johnstone had got a corner early on and when the Rangers players went to mark their opponents they discovered Saints didn’t have their squad numbers on their shirts, but instead were numbered one to 11. Consequently, the Rangers players didn’t know who to mark. Dick shouted to me that they wanted the game halted, but I pointed out that in the League Cup the teams were allowed to be numbered one to 11. He wasn’t happy...

“Dick was always shouting about something. We’d fall out from time to time but when the game was over we respected each other. Once, at Ibrox, I was checking the boots before the game and then approached Dick. I took my wee black book out of my pocket and said, ‘Mr Advocaat, if you’ll give me an approximate time when you will be shouting and bawling at me, I’ll make a note to come across then.’ ‘Ah,’ said Dick, ‘you do realise the shouting is not for you? It’s for the spectators so they can see I’m committed.’

“Some players were more problematic than others: some had too much to say while others tried to con you on occasions, which I hated. Sometimes you have to make a statement, make a stand as it were. I recall once booking four players for simulation in a Hibs vs Dundee match. Probably every decision wasn’t 100% correct, but I was putting down a marker and the players and managers responded as I hoped and the nonsense stopped.

“Not many managers confront you after a match, most calm down and realise that it’s all done and dusted during the heat of the game. Few would nurse their grievances for weeks; instead, you usually got an apology when they next saw you. One manager called me for everything during a game in which there was a penalty - and then again afterwards during the press conference. A day later, I was driving my car and he called up to say he’d seen the penalty and he wanted to apologise. That was fine, because for me it was just water under the bridge. Referees can’t carry their feelings from one game to the next and neither should managers and players.”

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