When whistlers arrived by bike

A colourful Dave Allison in November 1993 trying to maintain order in the Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur game at the Dell that was won by the home side 1-0.
A colourful Dave Allison in November 1993 trying to maintain order in the Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur game at the Dell that was won by the home side 1-0.

It shouldn’t happen to a referee but it does...tales of the brave men in black by football historian Terry Ainsworth.

Maybe it is time that we record our gratitude and appreciation of this much maligned group who unfailingly maintain the tradition and standards of the game despite every manager blaming them for their own shortcomings.

St Martin's College football team pictured in November 1967 finished in third place in Division III of the North Lancs League.'Back Row L-R: Joe Coates, Keith Moody, Joe Cox, Alan Snape, Tony Adamson, Pete Rogers'Front Row L-R: Paul Lockwood, Barry Sharp, Stan Barraclough (captain), Dave Allison, Paul Howarth, Malcolm Sammons

St Martin's College football team pictured in November 1967 finished in third place in Division III of the North Lancs League.'Back Row L-R: Joe Coates, Keith Moody, Joe Cox, Alan Snape, Tony Adamson, Pete Rogers'Front Row L-R: Paul Lockwood, Barry Sharp, Stan Barraclough (captain), Dave Allison, Paul Howarth, Malcolm Sammons

Gerry Jones was a highly respected referee more than 50 years ago and he fondly remembers going to Liverpool to officiate in an Everton Reserves game at Goodison Park.

He travelled there on his motorbike and on arrival wondered if he would still have transport for the return journey if he left his bike outside the ground.

After a little thought he knocked on the door of one of the terraced houses that surrounded Goodison Park and asked the young lady who answered the door if he could leave his bike in their back yard.

She asked him to wait and brought her father to the door who said, “as long as the “Toffees” win of course you can leave your bike son”. Gerry went off and completed the game but can’t remember who won.

He returned to the terraced house to collect his bike and make the long trek home but was pleasantly surprised when the family invited him in for tea and whenever Gerry had a game at Goodison Park he would call in to see them and this friendship was maintained over many years.

Dave Allison played in the North Lancs League for St Martin’s College and then Dry Dock United, whose manager was the indomitable Jimmy Brown.

Dave Allison is a football man through and through whether it is Far Moor or Wembley Stadium and this story of his typifies the man who refereed more than 600 first class games.

“Although I refereed on the Premier League or Football League most weeks, once a month I was on ‘stand by’ in case other referees were injured or ill.

If I was not required by them, I always used to offer the date to Lawrie Postlethwaite on the Saturday morning and would referee one of the games which did not have an official referee appointed in the North Lancashire League.

On one such Saturday, I rang Lawrie and he told me to report to Tewitfield who were then in the league (but not now) and who played near the Longlands Hotel, Carnforth.

I arrived at 1pm for the 2pm kick off and was met by a club official who was about to put out the corner flags.

I told him I was the referee. He replied that I wouldn’t be needed as they had been told there was no appointed referee and they had sourced their own.

I didn’t ask whether he was qualified or not.

There is an old adage that you are only as good as your last game – well in one week, I went from the Premier League to being ‘sacked’

by Tewitfield.”

From the top of the Premier League to those fearing the sack at the bottom, they have a common trait – if in doubt, blame the referee.

Too often, they become the focal point for the mind games, justifications and obfuscations that are professional football’s basest currency.

Inevitably, behaviour seen on Match of the Day and Sky Sports filters down to lower levels and referees of Sunday league and junior football

report increasing hostility, rising to outright violence, from players and supporters alike. Referees are incredibly valuable public servants who are soft targets of a dumb, unthinking sheep-like consensus but referees are crucial to the very existence of the sport.

Undermine the authority of the officials and the entire structure of the sport collapses.

Only the referee remains pure of motive and entirely dedicated to the fundamentals of the game which is why the Respect campaign never went far enough.

The referee should be omnipotent and beyond question. Even when the referee is wrong — totally wrong, magnificently wrong — the referee is right.

We need to instill a culture where to challenge a referee’s authority is considered the sporting equivalent of picking one’s nose in front the Queen.