Rep call-up separates the men from the boys


Rep team manager Jamie Cole let off some steam after he was forced to postpone the trials ahead of selecting the squad to compete in the London Inter-League Cup. The date at Rowley Lane had been pencilled in for several weeks but Cole, who also joint-manages North West Neasden A, was let down by late withdrawals from players who cried off through illness, simchas or holidays.

Jamie and his team were looking forward to seeing some of the leading lights from the lower leagues as, over the years, some felt that the rep team squad has been something of a closed shop in terms of only players from the top teams getting in.

But it appears that the very same players who have been making these accusations withdrew at the 11th hour. The players must learn that they cannot have their cake and eat it.

They might be good players in their own right but qualifying for the rep team squad does not just come down to talent. Commitment, desire and the correct attitude are also key characteristics and quite clearly, some of the boys don’t have them.

Cole is well aware who the top players are. The fact that Neasden, Hendon, Redbridge, Lions and Faithfold have dominated in terms of silverware, European Maccabi Games and even Maccabiah squads in recent times tells him everything he needs to know.

As the squad has learnt over the years, the Inter-League competition is not for everyone. It is a very different game to the Maccabi League as the team comes up against Ryman League players who are big, quick, strong and physical.

In short, not the kind of boys who would drop out with a sniffle. So it’s time for Jamie, his assistant Andrew Myers and coach Darren Yarlett, to separate the boys from the men.

Who would be a referee? £30 to get shouted at, sworn at and return to your car after a game to have your tyres slashed. It doesn’t appeal to many, and I’m not surprised that more and more men in black are dropping out of the game.

As joint-manager of North London Raiders A, I remind my players before the game that bad behaviour and dissent towards officials won’t be tolerated.

I tell them no-one ever wins an argument with a referee and emphasise that they have a better chance of winning with 11 men on the pitch. Stating the obvious, it’s better to play against 11 than 12.

This is an approach more managers should follow to ensure that teams have enough officials to cover their games. Without the men in black, there would be no league.

I’ve been booked twice in 19 years as an MSFL player and would be proud if my team finished high up the Fairplay table. There is no reason why a successful team cannot also be the most sporting.

The best refs speak to both teams before kick-off. It’s the most sensible method and ensures the players are clear about what will and won’t be tolerated.

As Martin Fox, the MSFL’s referee’s chief, said: “They should speak to players before in a firm but nice manner. There needs to be respect between the two.” Respect is the key word. It works both ways. If the ref respects the players, the players will respect the referee.

I believe there are some excellent referees in the Maccabi League. Gary Silver, Warwick Blake, Laurie Benson, Andy Myerson and Paul Gelernter are among my favourites. They turn up to do the job and are not interested in being the main man.

Having also played non-Jewish football, I don’t believe that the MSFL is the worst in terms of abusive players.

For example, I’ve played in games on Hackney Marshes where flashpoints have resulted in players getting knives out, attacking people after the game and even full-scale riots in the car park.

Often, the worst thing you will see in Jewish football is one player challenging an opponent by yelling: “If you say one more thing …”

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