I was an avid supporter of Buckley Wanderers and Buckley Rovers and they played at home on alternate Saturdays.
I used to go down in my adapted football kit, a roll neck jumper, a passed down pair of shorts, some school socks and my football boots with nailed on studs. I spent much of the year kicking a ball into the goals before and after games enthused by the goal nets missing from all my other football games.
In the 1959 season, at the age of 7, I became a linesman for Wanderers’ home games. My instructions were very clear … I was to put my flag up whenever an opponent entered the Wanderers’ half. If asked I was to say “the player was clearly offside”. Fortunately the referees in the Wrexham Area League had to deal with this tactic every week and so usually waved play on and signalled to thank me for my flag. The players carried on too in an unspoken pact that the referee was on his own.
There was very little dissent about refereeing decisions although the sparse group of spectators took great pleasure in moaning about any decision other than a home goal. I was always thanked for being a linesman notwithstanding my average of twenty offside flags per game. I was given a hot cup of tea at half time and confirmed at the end of each game for the next home game.
These were very local games. The results were shared verbally and appeared a week later in The Wrexham Leader or The Chester Chronicle (North Wales edition). There were no photographs of action from the games.
These memories came flooding back yesterday as I wrote a post for The Conversation about officiating. They prompted me to think even more carefully about integrity and fallibility.
I do think officials are remarkable and deserve all the support we can give them … in and out of the public spotlight.