In my younger days as a manager I acquired a reputation for criticising referees that follows me even though I have mellowed over the years. Regular readers will know I rarely mention officials in the column, and when I do it is often to praise them. However, there are times when you cannot bite your tongue.
I did not see the infamous dismissal of Nani on Tuesday night. When it happened, I was on the touchline at Leicester City. By the time I saw it I was already thinking of Bill Shankly's immortal words about "referees who know the laws but don't know the game". Sir Alex Ferguson had one of those at Old Trafford, and so did I at Leicester, Paul Tierney.
These referees are the ones I call "manufactured". They are often young ones who hardly ever played the game, not even as teenagers, who have been brought up with referees as their tutors and have not received any input from people who have played the game. They know every rule inside out, they know exactly where they should be on the pitch, but problems arise when something happens that you have to have played to understand. Like Nani stretching for a ball in open play and not seeing a player coming in on his blindside.
In every game these manufactured referees will make a decision they honestly believe to be right, but everyone who played – apart from Roy Keane – knows is wrong.
We had a few at Leicester. One that really infuriated me was in injury time when we were winning 1-0. We had a throw-in in front of the dugouts. Stephen Warnock gained four or five metres and threw down the line. The crowd, tense at the prospect of their team dropping out of the play-off places, bayed. What does the referee do? He gave a foul throw. The crowd loved it. He was almost a hero. That was where we lost possession in the build-up to their late equaliser – though there was still time for the ref to miss a blatant foul.
You can imagine my feelings at full-time, especially as there were several occasions when Leicester stole even more ground – one instance was so obvious it was untrue. Did the ref give a foul throw? Of course not. Is there any wonder I was angry?
When you suffer a decision like that you almost feel hatred at the injustice of it. I think Sir Alex did the right thing in not going on the television because it takes more than half an hour to calm your thoughts and with reporters being so clever in their questioning you are always likely to say something that gets you into trouble.
In an ideal world we would have ex-players becoming referees but I don't see it happening in my lifetime. The next best thing would be to have somebody on the coaching side who has played the game going through videos with them. Young refs today can so easily be conned by clever professionals.
In the Championship we get the refs on the way up. A couple of years ago there was an influx of quality refs but now we are getting a lot of manufactured robots and there were several managers lamenting the refereeing in midweek.
Every game we write a report on the ref. It is how we are supposed to get rid of our frustrations! I take this seriously and try to be constructive though my missus thinks I am absolutely daft. As she says, "They will never change." On Thursday I spent an hour of my life writing the report, it was a three-page essay full of advice for Mr Tierney. These are supposed to be confidential yet I know of cases where my criticisms have been passed on, which is bound to affect the referee when he next does a game with my team. This time I put at the end, "Please pass a copy on to him."
Will it make any difference? The head of referees is Mike Riley who was exactly the same when he was a ref, so what do you think?
2. Oldies are golden
Obviously the players' good performance at Leicester was down to the Tamla Motown I played in the dressing room before the game. The lads are really getting into it right now, and I am sure they will enjoy some more this afternoon at Crystal Palace. My old club had a fabulous 4-2 victory over Hull City in midweek, but we have to try to come away with a result today to set us up for a run-in that features six home matches out of 10.
Kevin Phillips scored a hat-trick for Palace. I remember watching him play when he came into the game and thinking, "He's not quick, so he can't be a threat." Then my Bury team played Sunderland and I'd never seen anyone like him. His speed of thought and awareness made him five yards quicker than anyone on the pitch. I am not surprised he is still playing – and playing as well as he is. I just hope he has used his week's quota of goals.
Kevin's five months older than Ryan Giggs, who is also 39. I have to take my hat off to them. It would be so easy to pack it in, put their feet up and savour the fruits of their achievements. Instead, every day, they continue to do what is required physically to play at this level. It shows what good professionals they have been. Players like these have got to be encouraged to stay in the game. Jamie Carragher is another one. It has to be possible to create a role for them to pass on their knowledge of how they have lasted all that time, what they have had to give up to get their rewards. It would be criminal to let people like this go to waste.
The same applies to managers. If we don't get promotion I think everyone knows I will be moving back to Cornwall with the family, but I'd still like to do a couple of days a week and become that buffer between directors and the manager. I don't think there is enough help for young managers and they need it more than ever.
This week York City became the 49th club to change manager since the end of last season. Gary Mills played under me at Notts County. He was a studious, meticulous player and I imagine he is the same as a manager. Last season he took York to Wembley twice, winning the FA Trophy and Conference play-offs. This week, after his first bad run, they fired him. It is the usual story: the more success you get the more they crave and expect.
Of the 72 Football League clubs only seven have the same manager as this time three years ago. I had seven years at Sheffield United but those days seem long gone.
3. Don Valley is a big loss
As a Sheffield lad I am very disappointed the Don Valley Stadium is closing. Surely it could have been made viable if someone had been given the opportunity to run it a few years ago? What a shame for Jessica Ennis to lose the place where she did all the groundwork for her Olympic success.
4. Hockey heroics
I've never played hockey, but I have enjoyed watching William play it. He scored a hat-trick in a 10-2 win against local rivals Kelly College from Tavistock this week – which helped make up for a 3-0 defeat last weekend at football.
5. Clean sheets kept
I can never sleep after a game, and especially not after what felt like a defeat at Leicester. So what did I do when I got home on Tuesday? I got my mop and bucket out and did the kitchen floor. Anyone looking in must have thought I was daft. It did occur to me that not many Championship managers would be doing the same but living on my own here I can't justify having a cleaner in. I then did a white wash. I guess that referee did me a favour. If we had won I would have gone straight to sleep, or had a bottle of champagne and woken with a hangover.