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Johnny's Stay At Home Diary: Part Eight

Should managers be banished from the dug-out?

19 May 2020

Paul Cook

I have often wondered whether the personality of a referee can unintentionally influence a football match.

For instance, I had the pleasure of meeting referee Seb Stockbridge before our fixture at Wycombe back in September.

I was allocated a seat at the same table as him – at a time when such social niceties could still be observed – which is something he appeared to take exception to.

For those not conversant with the pre-match routines, they arrive with their two assistants, fourth official, assessor and a home club chaperone, drink copious amounts of tea and coffee, chomp on sandwiches and review whichever one of their colleagues is doing the early game on television.

I say ‘pleasure’ but given the haughty – and ultimately failed – attempts to dismiss me, it was anything but.

So it came as no surprise to me when the referee later brandished two red cards out on the pitch. Unlike me, the players had no choice but to leave the scene.

I haven’t had the chance to meet a lot of officials, but did come across Steve Martin prior to a game at Plymouth in 2015.

"It just goes to show that referees are, of course, only human and come in all different shapes and sizes."

Johnny Moore

On this occasions, he asked if he could join me, spoke about distant family connections to Portsmouth and was generally a delight to chat with.

It just goes to show that referees are, of course, only human and come in all different shapes and sizes.

And it is the same with managers. For instance, in both our meetings with Gillingham this term, Steve Evans and his sidekick Paul Raynor – by no means the exception – spent most of the 90 minutes haranguing the fourth official. This bizarrely remained the case even when they were awarded favourable decision.

Kenny Jackett, meanwhile, maintained his usual poker-faced composure – having got to know our boss, I can assure this is not down to a lack of passion.

Both matches ended all square, which poses the question of whether either manager was able to influence proceedings with their actions in the dug-out.

It is often said that once players cross that white line, they are on their own. Perhaps it is time for football to enforce that.

Rugby coaches sit in their own private box high up in the stands, with their cricket counterparts in the pavilion.

They are able to relay subtle messages down to the field of play if required, although these instances seem few and far between.

"Rugby coaches sit in their own private box high up in the stands, with their cricket counterparts in the pavilion."

Johnny Moore

In both sports, officials appear to be blissfully left to their own devices and free of what can often amount to intimidation.

A manager’s job is largely done on the training pitch during the week, with their final instructions delivered in the dressing room.

Does the director of a play stand on the stage with script in hand on opening night, having spent so much time fine-tuning their actors for the big moment under the spotlight? No, it is up to the performers once the curtain is raised.

I once stood next to Sam Allardyce in the South Stand when Bolton played at Fratton Park, while I was alongside Paul Cook when he was sent off in a play-off clash with Plymouth.

Bolton won 1-0, while Pompey’s performance picked up considerably following the dismissal, which tells you a lot about the importance of a manager at this point.

It must be repetitive for a player to listen to a boss and his coaches during the week, then endure it all over again throughout the game.

Unfortunately, the likes of Mr Stockbridge will always take centre stage. For everyone else, though, football should perhaps dictate who sits at the table.

The majority of Portsmouth FC staff have been furloughed as part of the government’s Job Retention Scheme. This column was written before those measures were implemented.

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