Christmas and New Year have, from a Watford point of view, been very, very
miserable. I've been to four games: Gillingham, Notts County, Torquay and
Oxford. Gillingham and Notts County were just pathetic, miserable, awful,
dire, dire, dire. Why is it, incidentally, that you always persuade your
friend the Man Utd. supporter to come along to the worst game of the
entire season? Can anyone explain?
Then came Torquay. At this point
I should recommend everyone who reads this never, never to rely on a
non-football supporting friend to give you a lift to a game. Don't do
it. It'll only end in tears. He turned up at my house ten minutes
after kick-off and whined about how cold it was, and we only actually
reached the ground about ten minutes before half-time, when they had, of
course, shut all the gates. I went home to sulk.
Then we have the
delight of the Oxford game. Being back up at university, I persuaded two
more non-Watford supporting friends (no danger of the Man Utd fan ever
coming to see another game) to come down for the Oxford game. We got on
our bus at five, got down in plenty of time, settled into our seats, waited
for kickoff and were told, a little after the scheduled start time, that
the referee had decided it was too cold for him to ref the game and so he
was off home for a nice cup of tea and he'd see us all sometime in f*cking
July when we finally get rid of our backlog of games and play the tie.
While we were waiting to get back out of the ground it occurred to me that
the referees in this division are, in fact, all rather shit.
I struggle to think of a single competent ref that I've seen all season in
this poxy godforsaken miserable division. My grievances are as follows:
(1) They don't know the rules, especially the one about players who aren't
interfering with play not being offside.
(2) They tend to award decisions
based more on the amount of noise made by the crowd/players/pa
system/traffic than on whether or not an offence was actually committed.
(3) They're just plain weird, as when in the - I think it was the
Gillingham game (it was Gillingham or Notts County, but they both sort of
blurred into one long four hour stretch of misery and being cold, so I'm
not sure which) - when the ref blew his whistle near the edge of our area,
gave us a free kick, and then booked one of our players for no apparent
reason. At all. And, just to prove that this works both ways, I give
you the example of Richard Johnson, who tends (most notably this season
against Gillingham, when he actually chased someone to the touch line in
order physically to assault them. This was actually probably the most
entertaining part of the whole game) to produce a spectacular succession
of blatant fouls, and then get booked for, say, kicking the ball rather
than the opponent's shins.
(4) They're very easily bullied/browbeaten into
overlooking unacceptable behaviour on the pitch. The best example of this
was when Connolly missed his penalty against Walsall and some defender
about twice his size came up and started mouthing off at him. They
actually showed this on Endsleigh league extra with a little aside by one
of the commentators along the lines of "and the Walsall captain there
telling Connolly what he thought about that". Not a thing about the
professionalism Connolly showed in ignoring this, nor about how this is
just possibly at the very least worthy of a talking to by the ref as
ungentlemanly conduct, but a cheap shot at the international who missed
the penalty. Bastards. Anyway, I was busy moaning a lot.
never, ever give fouls on our strikers. The best illustration I have
of this point comes from the Wycombe home page, where the match report for
our game with them earlier in the season contains the following lines:
"he [Noel-Williams] caused problems for Crossley and McCarthy [two
Wycombe defenders], who all seemed to be having a competition on who could
remove the opponents shirt without the referee noticing - which judging
by Mr Lynch's decisions throughout the game, was quite easy."
Take a look for yourself,
if you think I'm making this up.
(6) We hardly ever win games.
While this may not strictly speaking be the referee's fault, I don't like
them, so it must be. And if I spend four hours going to Watford and back
for the Oxford replay, I expect to see some football, Mr.Richards.