Respect will only go so far for refs and bosses

An impatient Mike Holden warns against giving too much respect to opponents... including officialsThe FA’s ‘Respect’ campaign was going rather well until the weekend.

OK, so the Football League season might have been less than an hour old when the first coach was sent to the stands. And gaffers might be getting their marching orders at a pretty noticeable rate, while the majority of post-match press conferences do contain some reference to the dubious decisions of match officials.

But, generally speaking, I think some bridges have been built. For example, I have yet to come across a single insult directed at a referee. Nobody has yet been referred to as a clown, a comedian, a cheat, or anything else beginning with C.

Indeed, it seems Football League managers have undergone a bit of a metamorphosis. If last season beaten managers approached the media with all the honourable intentions of Bernard Manning, this term they appear to have become the real-life equivalent of John Thomson’s alter-ego Bernard Right-On.

Right-On: "My mother-in-law... she's lovely"

The campaign began without too much direct criticism of individual officials; any grievances aired tended to be in reference to standards in general. So “the referee had a nightmare” was being cleverly disguised within phrases like “it’s early days yet but we’d expect the standard of refereeing to improve as the season progresses.” Diplomacy was definitely the name of the game in those first few weeks.

Then, inevitably, results started to get a grip, people’s jobs were on the line and things started to get personal. But still managers were trying desperately to employ a more subtle tack, the preferred method being to patronise any official who was deemed to have cost them valuable points.

So what was once the customary post-match summary along the lines of “the referee was clueless, he completely lost control, he’s not good enough for this level...” had now become “the referee might want to look at his own performance and ask himself could he have done better. If he does, I think he’ll be disappointed.”

"R.E.S.P.E.C.T., find out what it means to me"

However, something tells me the floodgates are about to open. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that all this pretence is already festering beneath the skin of those men who have shown admirable restraint by their own standards so far.

For me, the incident at Vicarage Road on Saturday will provide the tipping point. Suddenly now the managers have a ready-made example of outstanding incompetence to call an end to the peace process. I can almost sense the relief as they watch the incident back on television and sigh: “Well, we gave it our best shot – but how can you possibly respect these idiots?”

Indeed, if I was a certain Irish bookmaker who increasingly likes to be referred to as ‘a certain Irish bookmaker’ on breaking news stories, I’d be taking bets on which manager is the first to utter the words "He’s no better than that muppet at Watford last week".

Because let’s not be under any illusions, the last few weeks have been killing these managers. They’ve been biting their tongues until they bleed, all under some misguided moral sense of duty because our Sunday league pitches have become a breeding ground for ASBOs.

"Fingers on lips, children"

Don’t get me wrong, I realise players have a duty as role models to kids and their behaviour on the pitch seriously needs to be improved. But let’s not gag the gaffers. I want hear them letting rip at every opportunity. Football just isn’t the same without the after-match inquest turning into a pantomime of anger-mismanagement.

So, presuming my suspicions are correct, the only question that remains to be answered is: who will break first? Which manager will be unable to contain his vitriol any longer? Well, fourth from bottom, only five points from seven games, and a tense local derby lurking on the horizon... my money’s definitely on Neil Warnock!

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