Alan Wright - It’s up to refs to cut out bad behaviour

ONE of the biggest oddities of our modern age is the ability to make things complicated when they are not.

Exhibit number one in my case is the recent row about the antics of one Wayne Rooney, millionaire footballer – sometimes gifted and often capable of acting like a yob.

As you probably heard, he hit the headlines for a foul-mouthed and aggressive rant into the Sky TV cameras just after he’d completed a hat trick for Manchester United.

I’ve seen a lot of hat tricks scored over the years, many at Pools, and the happy scorer usually celebrates in an outburst of delight and euphoria.

Why on earth Rooney needed to celebrate in the way he did is a question for those who have a much greater expertise in psychology than I do.

Actions like his, and many like them, have come about because of the failure of the authorities in football to do the simple things.

And the simple thing is to make the referees strong and always backed to the hilt.

The good thing about a small ground like Victoria Park is that you are close enough to the action to see and hear just about everything that goes on.

It’s amazed me over the years how referees have accepted foul language and disrespect aimed directly at them; perhaps they know that strong action would not be supported from the top end.

Rugby, for some reason, does it far better and, at any level, it’s rarer than hen’s teeth to see a referee having his judgement questioned, let alone challenged or insulted.

My big lessons about referees came from the age of 11 when I was learning low-level rugby on the Old Friarage at Henry Smith School.

The ultimate referee was the late Mr (Frank) Wilson.

He was affectionately known as Nodder (but always out of earshot) and was an excellent teacher, a top Hartlepool historian and a referee who brooked no dissent.

Very early on, we were taught that the ref was always right – even when wrong.

Mr Wilson was reffing a practice game when he blew his whistle and announced a penalty to the opposing side.

“But ….”, said a team-mate.

He said no more.

“Ah,” said Mr Wilson, “an expert!” Now go off and watch the game and we’ll have a chat at the end.

“But, sir,” said objector number two.

“Join him,” came the order, “and would anyone else like to comment?”

After that, decisions were respected in silence and we even learned the life lesson that, in the long run, decisions which go for or against you tend to balance themselves out in the end.

Modern football doesn’t need respect campaigns and acres of news print. It needs the spirit of Mr Wilson to show them how it’s done.