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Accrington referee David Richardson talks about his experiences
EVEN the most respected referees have the popularity of a man towing a caravan down a narrow road on a Bank Holiday weekend.
David Richardson is a modest and affable gentleman, who lives in quiet retirement with his wife Katharine, a three wood strike away from Nelson Golf Club.
Certainly not the sort of person you would expect to be reviled, as he and his profession sometimes were on Saturdays, by 40,000 passionate Geordies, Koppites or Evertonians.
“I’ve been around the world with a little whistle, and I loved it,” said the former FIFA referee.
“I’d encourage any lad to have a go, but you’ve got to have the temperament to succeed.
“I’m a very calm man - I wasn’t a showman referee.
“It always took a lot to rile me and of course that helps in man-management, dealing with the pressures of making split-second decisions.
“You just have to use your common sense.
“You got things right and you got things wrong, but I still think it is one of the best jobs in the world, though.”
When I ask him about the great games, he rolls back the clock three decades to when he took charge of the 1980 League Cup final between Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Wembley.
“Forest lost, but afterwards Brian Clough sought me out.
“He came in to the officials’ room and said, ‘Well David, I can’t even blame you today.
“I thought you reffed the game well.”
‘Do you know, David’, Clough added, ‘You’re a players’ referee. That’s what I like about you.
“I never forgot Clough’s words.
“They still mean a heck of a lot to me because Clough was a special manager.”
The status of the referee has changed beyond recognition since Richardson hung up his whistle nearly thirty years ago.
Premier League refs are full-time now, cossetted in five-star hotels and ferried to stadiums in luxury vehicles.
When Richardson retired he was picking up £90 a game plus expenses and would drive to games in his car with a spare kit in the boot.
“I learned from Jack Taylor, Neil Midgeley and George Courtney, great characters, but they are trying to make today’s referees robots.
“Their personalities have been taken away haven’t they?
“You look at the game and money has ruined it.
“We live in a world where it is common to rebel against discipline and that happens on local football pitches up and down the country which is a shame to see.
“Some professional players have no respect for their team mates, never mind the referee.
“It is unbelievable now really.”
Richardson recalls his first league game, Newport County versus Northampton Town on a cold and wet Tuesday evening at the old Somerton Park.
But as he moved up the divisions, the crowds became bigger and the surroundings more spectacular.
“I ran the line at Manchester United in my first season and I could feel the heat from the crowd,” he recalled.
“In all my time, I never booked more than five players in a game, although I did have to send off Terry McDermott and and Gary Stanley in the Merseyside derby.
“The hardest game, perhaps, was a friendly between Scotland and Uruguay at Hampden Park.
“That Uruguay team were evil. A horrible lot. Kicking and spitting, using very intimidatory tactics.
“I gave a penalty to Scotland and one of their guys kicked me in the ankle and I had to send him off.”
Working in Europe, he discovered that visiting referees were treated with splendid generosity, which sometimes only lasted only so long as the home team won.
“I reffed a UEFA Cup tie between Utrecht and Hamburg, with the game staged at Vitesse Arnhem’s ground.
“Hamburg scored twice in the first few minutes and the home crowd erupted.
“It was like the wild west. There was fighting everywhere and when the police let the dogs off I had to stop play.
“The linesman, David Scott, from Burnley, was hit by a missile and the trouble continued in the second half.
“I sent a Hamburg player off, although they won 5-2, and I ended up running the line in the final between Hamburg and Gothenburg that same season.
“One of the strangest games was a World Cup qualifier between Nigeria and Tunisia in Lagos.
“We got to the ground at 9am and there was 90,000 people in the stadium - five hours before kick-off and it was 100 degrees in the shade.”
He laughs out loud when he recalls one of the funniest incidents of his career, adding: “A lady streaker came on to the pitch during the Liverpool v Everton game.
“She raced past me and Ray Clemence, the Liverpool goalkeeper said, “Hey Dave, I hope you are going to book her for that.
“It turned out she had something to do with the Mooneys religion.”
Born in Accrington, he has always maintained his strong links to grassroots football and has been president of the Hyndburn and District Boys League since 1985.
Richardson, also deputy president of the Lancashire Football Association, was last month awarded a service medal for 30 years service on the council.
“Local football is very important to me,” said Richardson.
“I’ve always supported it because that is where the new David Dunns and Richard Chaplows of this world come from.
“We have 3,500 lads playing in The East Lancashire Football Alliance, and that’s a marvellous effort.
“I would love to see more footballers become referees but it is difficult to persuade them that it is the right choice to make.
“But I say pick up a whistle and give it a go.
“If you get on the ladder early enough and start to progress to the top then the world is your oyster.”
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