Actions speak louder than words, but not in the MSFL
I have to admit that the first few months of football management been something of a learning curve. As a player, I pride myself on great sportsmanship. I’ve been booked only twice in 20 years. It’s a message I send across to my players before every match. I remind them that we are here to play football, and that I don’t want to see them arguing with each other, their opponents and especially the referee, regardless of how the other team behaves. In short, we try to do things the right way on and off the pitch.
Win, lose or draw, I will always shake hands with the referee at the end of the game. I know that they have a thankless task, but it appears that some officials are hotter on dealing with lip than dangerous play. This frustrates me. I’m a great believer that, when necessary, an early caution can aid a referee’s management of a football match. Having grown up watching the likes of Julian Dicks, Vinnie Jones, Graeme Souness and Stuart Pearce, I’m a great believer that it’s a man’s game.
I’m all for the RESPECT campaign and realise that referees have a tough job, but it has to work both ways. Many people manage for the love of the game. For many, it’s a voluntary position that takes up many hours a week, planning, organising, training and trying to build a squad.
Managing a predominantly young team, along with Adam Fegan, we are at our wits end about some of our rivals adopting heavy-handed tactics. We’ve had a substitute running the line attacked. A red card offence you’d think. Wrong. Nothing was done. Our captain physically assaulted. Red card? No. Just the offender told to calm down. A professional foul. Red card, surely. No. Just a yellow. And we ask ourselves, why are more and more boys dropping out of the game?
Sunday’s 5-1 defeat against title rivals North West Neasden B was hard to take but believe me, this certainly isn’t a case of sour grapes. Adam said: “Every week we get kicked off the park. Then after an hour of abuse, we complain about it and we get booked for dissent.”
So I asked Martin Fox, the referee’s secretary, for his take on some of our issues. He said: “Dissent and foul and abusive language and reckless tackles are all red card offences. The problem is that some officials are stronger than others. This all stems from the professional game. You will never get consistency as every offence has to be taken on its merits.
“I believe that all MSFL refs are honest but no-one is perfect. Overall, refs this season have been given good marks which leads me to believe that they are doing a good job.”
I can promise that we will continue to play the game in the right spirit and the right way but it’s no surprise that numbers are declining through fear of suffering serious injuries and not being able to go to work the next day.
The MSFL Forum has been a hive of activity with topics ranging from the future of the league to players dropping down. I could not believe my eyes when I read that Faithfold B “worked the system” after three players did not surface ahead of their match. By pure coincidence, their A team was playing at the same venue and the Bs, who had 11 players, named three A team players on the bench. With the A team game in the bag, the trio, two of whom are B team regulars, then took part in the B team match on the adjoining pitch. It mattered not in the end as the B team lost.
Faithfold B’s Simon Beresford said: “We have not cheated. We have simply worked the system correctly. We are a Club and it is our privilege to do this.” How this is in the rules I will never know but it’s something that must be addressed at the end of season meeting.