Ian Holloway: We are role models so we must not let fans think it is OK to be racist


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The Independent Football

One of the most depressing moments of my life was reading about the student in Salford who lost his life over Christmas. He was allegedly asked what the time was, then shot in the head.

He was an Indian boy and my first thought – apart from being utterly horrified – was whether football might have had a part to play in that.

We have had two high-profile incidents lately with Luis Suarez and John Terry. Can we link that with what happened to this lad?

What if people look at footballers and think, "well they're racists, so we can be as well"? What if that is what a minority of mindless people in this country think like and then someone loses their life because of that?

It might sound dramatic but we in football have a massive responsibility. Our actions are watched by millions and we are held up as role models. Our behaviour matters.

Suarez has got an eight-game ban and for me that is more than enough. I've read that the Kick It Out campaign have criticised Liverpool for backing their player, and had a pop at Suarez for not mentioning Patrice Evra in his apology.

But what do the Kick It Out people want? The FA looked at it, they decided not to accept what went on and dished out a severe punishment.

Eight games is huge. What more could they have done? Banned him for life? Would that be fair? Suarez is going to learn, and quite rightly so. He should never say that again.

It is interesting to see what will happen to Terry but whatever the powers-that-be decide, I just hope we never have any more incidents like this again. What has happened over the last couple of months is shocking and sad because I thought we had seen the back of this kind of behaviour and language.

I don't ever want to see it again, though unfortunately we probably will. But as long as we stand united and treat each other as human beings, we will beat it. There is no better sport than football to do that: a multi-cultural, multi-racial game which crosses more barriers than any other.

Referees can pass screen test

I am sick and tired of the endless criticism of referees. Us managers hate it when we get stick from a pundit or a crowd so imagine what it must be like for the officials. They get it both barrels from everyone.

It has reached a tipping point now, a new low. We must use technology or else no one will volunteer to be a referee, it is such a thankless task.

By technology I am not talking goal-line technology. It won't help at all. I'm talking about using TV coverage that everyone can see to enable the officials to get every decision right.

The reason Fifa won't allow this to happen is because they say it has to be consistent throughout football, and you won't be able to use TV coverage in Sunday League games. But who gives a stuff about Sunday League?

On Match of the Day on a Saturday night, every mistake a referee makes – and there are more and more these days – is highlighted. So the next morning the blokes who turn up to play on their local park look at the ref and think "he's an idiot". You label them that because of what you see on TV.

We need to get out of that cycle and we can't do it through this damn Respect campaign. We can't respect referees because the TV shows us they get it wrong so often. So what we have to do is change the system.

It needs only one thing to happen and I know for a fact that I would have the backing of every single manager and referee in the land.

It is simple. Remove the fourth official from the touchline, where he is doing nothing except being slaughtered by both managers, and sit him on his own in the stand watching the game on a monitor. He is wired up to the ref and can tell him the correct decision for any major incident.

I feel so strongly about this, it is untrue. It is my mission to get the FA to push for this and I won't rest until they do. It would solve everything. Managers wouldn't cause problems because they'd know every call is right.

Joey Barton is fuming this week and quite rightly so because he didn't headbutt anyone. I saw three or four challenges on Joey as he was running to the halfway line and he showed a lot of restraint. A fourth official watching that on a monitor could say "hang on, don't send him off, book the bloke who barged into him". It is easy and it would avoid a week's worth of the negative headlines that we've had.

It would also enable us to keep our best refs. They have to retire at 50 but we should get them to become fourth officials watching monitors. They don't have to run anywhere, and they can use their knowledge to help out the younger, inexperienced refs who, with all due respect, are still a bit wet behind the ears for my liking.

This is where the FA must be tough. They know we need change yet they are tied down by Fifa. But our League is the strongest in the world, we are unbelievably rich, and we have the power to say to Fifa "this is what we are doing". We could be a guinea pig for the world and everyone else will copy us because it will work.

It took a bit of guts from those in the tennis and rugby worlds to bring in video technology but look how effective it is. Times have changed and technology has changed but when it comes to refereeing, football is still the same as it was 100 years ago.

We need to evolve, otherwise the referees will continue to get crucified and that just isn't fair.

Budding career in acting is a case of beer today, gone tomorrow

You are about to have the pleasure of hearing my dulcet tones on an advert. I've done a voiceover for Budweiser as part of their sponsorship of the FA Cup. I may have got a bit carried away.

I had to go to a recording studio in London and they gave me a script. But I started ad-libbing and I don't want to blow my own trumpet but I think I've done a better job.

It is about a footballing team-talk in a pub and I invented a character called Jonesy, one of those fellas who never gets a round in.

I end up screaming: "go on, Jonesy son, break your duck, he's at the bar, oh my god, he's done it!"

The Budweiser people seemed to like it but you'll have to judge for yourself. It was good fun but it was definitely a one-off – I can't see myself taking up acting anytime soon.

Fergie's men are programmed to win

Having experienced what I did last year, let me say one thing: never write off Manchester United.

We played them twice in the Premier League and were beating them in both games. In each match, they scored three in the last 20 minutes and pinched victory from the jaws of defeat.

They are the past masters at getting out of a dirty hole. OK, so there are a couple of issues. Edwin van der Sar was always going to be hard to replace and the young lad David de Gea is still finding his feet. Then there's the enormous loss of Nemanja Vidic. He would have won every header against Newcastle. Without him they struggled.

But write United off at your peril. They have more points than they did at this stage last year, they've done it before – and Manchester City haven't. Don't just look at those two clubs, though – Tottenham have every chance.

They are playing some of the best football I've seen in recent years. How refreshing would it be if they could maintain their challenge and four or five teams were competing for the title? However, United are still the favourites in my book. Fergie's men are programmed to win, especially when the going gets tough.

Weather puts the wind up me

My dad was a sailor and he used to say there is no power like the power of the sea because the wind gets hold of it.

He was on a 150-ton ship once that was tossed around like a cork. But if he thought that was frightening, then he should have been at our training ground last week.

Our pitches are on a piece of land about 100 yards from the beach in Blackpool and there have been galeforce winds buffeting us all week.

We got sent a load of new FA Cup footballs which are a bit lighter than the normal League balls, and the first training session they all blew away.

It is also freezing. Our new player Danny Wilson, a defender on loan from Liverpool, turned up without a wet top. I'm expecting him to ring in sick with pneumonia next week. That'll take some explaining to Kenny Dalglish.