WOULD you mind if I shock you? I really like Mike Dean and so do most footballers.
Dean seems to have this image as being egotistical — ‘it’s all about him’ people always say.
Mike Dean was heavily criticised for sending off Tomas SoucekCredit: Reuters
Well, there are one or two other referees I would say that about but not Dean — and not the vast majority of match officials either.
When Dean is in charge of a match, what strikes you is how much he enjoys the game.
He is a proper football fan, supporting Tranmere Rovers, who is living the dream in the Premier League.
He’s a good ref too, with 20 years of experience handling top matches and top players.
So when Dean received death threats after sending off West Ham’s Tomas Soucek the other week, most players would have felt for him.
Part of the reason why is that we know Dean wouldn’t have wanted to dismiss Soucek after his off-the-ball coming together with Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic.
You know refs don’t agree with the way certain laws are being interpreted — such as with handballs earlier this season — but they have to follow the guidelines.
And when he’s got a VAR official in his ear telling him to look at the monitor, well we all know that’s going to lead to him overturning his decision.
Ref Darren Drysdale hit the headlines for squaring up to Alan Judge
Troy Deeney has defended the actions of referees after weeks of controversyCredit: PA:Press Association
When Football League ref Darren Drysdale — another solid bloke who has taken charge of several Watford games down the years — hit the headlines for squaring up to Ipswich player Alan Judge this week, there was a fair bit of sympathy from players too.
That incident, in Ipswich’s 0-0 draw with Northampton on Tuesday, was being discussed a lot on players’ WhatsApp groups.
Many were saying they didn’t blame him and that it was good to see a ref showing a bit of emotion.
They’re humans not robots, as they may often seem.
Drysdale has been charged with improper conduct and given this weekend off.
But Judge himself said he didn’t want an apology or sanctions — and that it was just a ‘heat-of-the- moment’ incident.
That probably suggests the Ipswich player knows he wasn’t entirely innocent when he argued after being booked for diving.
And I haven’t heard any players suggesting Drysdale should be strung up for it.
Referees usually understand that football is an emotional game. They tend to give players a bit of leeway. So players want Drysdale to be shown some understanding too.
Soucek had his red card overturned after accidentally elbowing MitrovicCredit: Enterprise News and Pictures
Mike Dean received death threats after sending off SoucekCredit: PA:Press Association
Under the letter of the law, refs could send us off every time we swear, but they don’t. Unless it’s in an aggressive and abusive context, they let things go. Many will even swear back at you.
Again, if it’s in the right context, that is fine too.
I’ve never been sent off for bad language and I don’t speak to refs like I’m Mary Poppins, I can assure you.
Football needs referees. There is always a shortage at grassroots level and I think it would help if they did more interviews.
I bet hearing or reading an interview with Dean would be a good advert for refereeing because of his enthusiasm for the game.
I’m not talking about post-match interviews to explain their decisions, although occasionally an apology wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Just allowing the public to get to know them better would help more people get into refereeing. They have a tough job, we all appreciate that. I’ve been asked to referee kids’ matches once or twice and have always said no. I would never want to.
I’m not saying players couldn’t do more to help make refereeing easier.
Yes, we’re always trying to gain advantages, that is part of the game.
But generally the relationship between players and referees is pretty good.
As captain, I tend to have a lot of dialogue with referees.
I’ll often try to convince him he is having a ’mare and then if I miss a chance a ref might tell you, ‘Well, you’re not improving with age’ or something like that.
You can probably hear refs and players talking a lot more in this behind-closed-doors era and most of the conversation, or banter, is good. There is a lot of mutual respect.
Of course, there are times when things get more serious and you have a go.
And though I’ve never had a referee get into my face like Drysdale did with Judge, it wouldn’t seriously offend me if it did happen.
It’s an emotional game and I don’t see anything wrong with referees showing emotion too.
TOFFEES WILL DOU FINE
THERE was bad blood between Watford and Everton after our boss Marco Silva left three years ago, then went to Goodison Park.
But I never felt animosity towards them. In fact, I’m delighted to see they are heading in the right direction under Carlo Ancelotti.
Everton are a proper, down-to-earth club with a wonderful, soulful old stadium and a great support base. They even run out to the Z Cars theme tune, like Watford.
Two of my old team-mates, Richarlison and Abdoulaye Doucoure, have played a big part in Everton’s progression this season.
And even though they have been stuttering of late, they are capable of winning their first Merseyside derby in more than a decade today. Appointing a three-time Champions League winner in Ancelotti was a game-changer for them — it changed the way top players will regard them.
Marco Silva didn’t get a warm reception when he went back to WatfordCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
They had been spending a lot of money but Ancelotti’s appointment has really galvanised them into a club capable of making the top four.
The signing of James Rodriguez was an eye-catcher last summer and Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s development into a top-class centre-forward has captured headlines.
But Doucoure, who left Vicarage Road for the Toffees last summer, is an outstanding professional, loved by his team-mates.
Every team needs a Doucoure — a player with no ego, who runs 12km a game, who does whatever his team needs of him. You often hear about ‘the ultimate team man’ — well, that is Abdoulaye.
There were some managers at Watford who didn’t rate him at first but he proved them wrong with his extraordinary work-rate and ability.
He has been playing deeper for Everton than he did at Watford but he is still able to arrive late in the box and cause problems.
Richarlison is top class when coming in from the left — and that is his best position for me.
Everton will feel this is their best chance for years to beat Liverpool because of their rivals’ defensive injury crisis.
And although I still fancy Jurgen Klopp’s team to finish second in the league, Everton are due a derby win.
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