When Saturday Doesn’t Come.
Everything a football player encounters emotionally on their “Game Day” a ref will encounter to. The emotion and the love of football is no greater for a player than it is for a ref. It’s just different, very different.
The book, then the film called “When Saturday Comes“ is a football story of a dream that sort of came true for a gritty Sunday league player from Yorkshire. The tale follows a talented but disinterested footballer Called Jimmy. He spends his days working in a Sheffield brewery and spends his evenings either getting drunk or chasing women.
Years later, in real life, a player breaks into the top flight of Football late and ends up winning the Premier League with Leicester City. Jamie Vardy’s journey is more successful than Jimmy’s and I am sure one day there will be a movie made about his journey to as Jamie’s is a true tale, a true dream come true.
I know many players who could have “made it”, I’m sure we all can name many who, at certain ages in their life, were absolute certs to be working as a professional footballer with all the riches a big-time player has stowed nicely in the back of his Maserati. I bet you don’t know many who actually did make it.
Many referees will be able to say similar about other refs who, for one reason or another, didn’t make it to the professional level even though many “experts” predicted they would.
Just like Jimmy, many get their shot but miss. Some miss because of injury, some miss because their work commitments and some miss because they just can’t give up a well-paid job for the chance of the big time that would be paid less, some faces just don’t fit.
The salary of a Premier League ref isn’t eye watering in the big schemes of Premier League Football so many don’t chase that dream like Jimmy would. Believe it or not some do chase that dream and make it, but football needs to realise that the commitment levels are very much on a par with any player, but they also operate in a very solitary environment to make it to the top of the refereeing ladder.
The solitude of a ref is something that isn’t normally recognised. During this Lockdown many top footballers are posting on various social media platforms, their fitness regimes and almost every one of them are saying how difficult it is not to have their team mates around. Really?? Try doing this solitary training on you own as the norm, like refs do. Premier League refs have their “get togethers” regularly however, their everyday training is done in solitude, not at a state-of-the-art training complex with world class facilities, dedicated nutritionists, Michelin star chefs and their team mates.
Now that Saturday hasn’t come, a window has opened up on how participants of football are keeping fit in the lockdown.
Sergio Ramos posted a video recently of his amazing fitness session in his gym at home, not an average home granted, but nevertheless his home. Liverpool FC have posted lots of training sessions on line. Jurgen Klopp and the lad’s singing happy birthday in many different languages was a great insight to their camaraderie. A video posted of Oxlade Chamberlain and his little mix girlfriend Perrie Edwards dancing in lockdown went viral.
The principle of training in isolation is the norm for refs, training alone with no team mates. Most refs live miles away from each other, often training alone is their only option.
This got me thinking. Where were the videos of Premier League Refs doing their training? Are they not training? I’m not for one moment suggesting that Mike Riley gets all the select group together on Zoom and sing happy birthday to Mike Dean, as funny as that may be, it won’t happen. I am certainly not asking for Michael and Lucy Olivier to post a video of themselves doing the “Tango” at home either.
Are they training? Of course they are training, I’m pretty sure most Premier League Refs haven’t changed their routines much in relation to training alone, it’s the nature of the beast. The road to the top of the Refereeing ladder is a lonely one and certainly the road less travelled.
Many fans think we are all one “Barmy Army of Refs” who all get along at every level. Sorry to disappoint but they don’t or very few do however, their commitment, their desire to perform well, their passion and the professionalism of Premier League Refs is on Par with most premier league footballers, just ask Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher who trained with them last year.
When the lockdown ends many will ask questions of all participants of football and some may ask “How did the refs prepare during Lockdown?” “are the players and refs match fit both mentally and physically?” Let’s answer that now and let’s be open. Refs at the top will be ready, but is a trick being missed by not releasing information publicly showing how well prepared they will be.
Wouldn’t it just be great to get an insight now, during lockdown, on how refs got prepared for when Saturday comes.