Graham Poll is no longer a referee, and perhaps for that we should be thankful. He now writes a regular column for the Daily Mail, and his latest deals with Jose Mourinho’s influence on referees.
I was in charge of his very first Premier League match, a 1-0 victory over Manchester United. He asked me afterwards if everything was OK for me and I flippantly replied that the referee’s room needed a lick of paint to say the least!
Five weeks later I returned. The referee’s room had two new showers, complimentary toiletries and a flat-screen TV.
But at the end of his second season, I was also in charge when Chelsea were beaten 2-1 in an FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool at Old Trafford. He was less than charming in the tunnel afterwards. He stood there shaking his head at me and looking disappointed.
He made one comment: ‘I thought you were my friend’. You can make your own inference from that, but I chose to ignore it.
Hello influence peddling! And then we get Sir Alex’s MO:
Ferguson is different. He doesn’t bother with the charm. He isn’t unpleasant, he just leaves you alone. But when he talks about referees in the media you’d like to think it doesn’t affect you, but it can.
A current Premier League referee was travelling up to his first match at Old Trafford to take charge of United at home. He called me from the car and said: ‘I could do with a 2-0 home win and a quiet night’.
I don’t quite know what to make of this. Influence peddling is a bit detestable, but it’s not as if Chelsea isn’t within its rights to spruce up the refs quarters if it wants. Although, “I thought we were friends” is kind of insane, even if Poll is probably exaggerating.
As for Sir Alex Ferguson’s behaviour, clearly the FA fines, which have totaled 80,000 pounds or something in the last ten years, aren’t working as a deterrent to referee intimidation. But then the coin flip here is a system in which managers cannot question the referee, which hardly seems ideal either.