Football: My fleeting minutes of fame with flag in hand

IN THE Black Country derby between West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers a week ago, the referee Kevin Lynch had to leave the field injured. There was quite a delay while a linesman assumed the referee's duties and the standby took the line.

I once acted as an emergency linesman myself. This was many years ago, when I was assistant secretary of the Football League. The venue was Deepdale, where Brighton and Hove Albion were holding out for a creditable point against Preston North End.

With 10 minutes to play, referee Don Shaw was laid low and I answered the call to assist linesman Kevin Kiely, who took Mr Shaw's whistle. Then a Class 3 referee, I was confident I had the qualifications.

Poor Mr Kiely must have had mixed emotions. Here was his big moment to show that his talents were sorely wasted in the Central League. However, what if he overlooked a signal and a League official were left flagging forlornly? In one moment he could be slithering down the refereeing snake rather than climbing the ladder to stardom.

Sensibly, he put me on the far side, away from the trainers' benches and in charge of the Preston offside trap. This was unlikely to be sprung as the visitors had only ventured into the opposing half on two occasions since the interval.

Unlike the occasion when Jimmy Hill had earlier taken the line at Highbury, there were no Match of the Day cameras to record my performance. There were no cameras at all in fact, so I was unable to conduct the self-appraisal which is so popular among officials nowadays.

Suffice it to say that I don't recall actually flagging at all during my fleeting minutes of fame. Not because I made no decisions, however. I did, in fact, consciously decide not to flag twice. As a dedicated Blackpool supporter, there was no way I was going to give any opponents of North End offside.

After a hasty shower I left Mr Kiely and a downcast Mr Shaw to their curled-up sandwiches and returned upstairs for a refreshing drink with the Preston directors who little realised how close they had been to seeing their team's efforts sabotaged by a ringer from the seaside.

Like Mr Hill, I didn't claim the pounds 5 which the League usually sent to watching referees who stepped into the breach in those circumstances. Jim did, however, complain bitterly to me many years later about his non- remuneration and the resultant cheque is still proudly displayed, uncashed, in the smallest room of his house. The likelihood of him receiving anything of value from the then League boss, Alan Hardaker, with whom he disagreed on virtually everything, was as high as Alan Sugar sending Terry Venables a Christmas card.

These days all top matches feature the ubiquitous fourth official, a referee of equal qualification to the man in the middle. His, or her, duties are laid down by the International Board, the body responsible for the laws of the game and comprising four representatives of Fifa along with the four British associations.

He assists with administrative duties as determined by the referee. For example, it is the fourth official's job to collect the team sheets before the match indicating the players' names and the functions of those officials on the bench. In international games the teams have to fill in the form 75 minutes before kick-off. Many's the time I've waited in a corridor as a Uefa delegate while a coach pored for ages over the task as the deadline passed and the assorted media clamoured increasingly frantically for the line-ups before the fourth official emerged clutching the precious piece of paper.

The fourth official also supervises the replacement footballs in grounds where the multiple-ball system is not employed. In the second half of one World Cup match in the United States in 1994 I realised that there were only two instead of three balls under the fourth official's table. The gentleman concerned feigned innocence so I trudged back to the dressing rooms some hundreds of yards away. The missing ball turned up in his locker, a valuable but unauthorised memento for him.

Whenever you see a Premiership fourth official on television, he will, in fact, be just that - the fourth official. However, the standby in a Nationwide fixture will usually not be the `fourth official' but the `reserve official', perhaps a local referee who is not attached to the stipulated authority and will find it more difficult to exert control over the benches.

The task which most frequently brings the standby official to our attention is that of supervising the technical areas. This must be the worst job in football.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing