Dave Jones admits he “wouldn’t be a referee.” Hands up who would?
Ah, I do see a few hands rather timidly raised. A very few. And unless I’m much mistaken none of them belongs to any of the 92 League managers.
Which arguably gives them an obligation to be constructive and a little more restrained in their post-match assessment of match officials. And that applies to not as many as perhaps it should.
But the Respect campaign, which managers have a duty to support, does cut both ways. It doesn’t mean referees should be immune from criticism of the non-abusive sort - and it’s hard to escape the feeling that we have a problem on our hands.
Sheffield Wednesday’s Jones is compiling and forwarding a dossier of flashpoints from recent matches while trying to temper his public comments, albeit that the episode started with his scathing attack on a referee at Crystal Palace a few weeks ago and continued with his condemnation of Andy D’Urso only this week.
I must confess I didn’t, at the time, see Michail Antonio’s tumble in the box as the “stonewall penalty” Jones asserted after admitting he had the benefit of checking the replay at half-time. But D’Urso, a referee cut adrift from the Premiership some years ago, was only five yards from an incident the media - and the Owls boss - viewed from more than fifty.
Perception is everything and standards seem to be falling rather than rising. The experienced D’Urso is the exception in that too many officials I’ve seen at Championship level seem to be much younger and, to coin a phrase, “chasing the game” in struggling to command respect from players.
Danny Wilson across the way might well say the same. The common denominator - and this particularly applies to Sheffield United in League One - could be that the newer breed of referee is a little awestruck and over-eager to impress at grounds like Hillsborough and Bramall Lane.
Such venues demand better. But there is a fine line on how we should approach it. The one thing nobody in the game can afford to do - including those who cover it - is drive away the minority who are prepared to blow a whistle or raise a flag.
Their numbers are dwindling and without match officials there is no game. Yet it’s hardly a time to go to the Churchillian extremes of “never has so much been owed by so many to so few.”
True to say, though, that never have so few owed more in the eyes of so many. Encouragement is one answer. Education another. Managers and players should be enlisted to take more of a lead in that process. Without both “E” words - and a fair dollop of patience - it’s hard to see how football can crack a problem that’s fundamental to its future.
Quinn’s a steal for ambitious Tigers
There is nothing more likely to provoke curiosity than the word “undisclosed” - as used in the majority of fee-paying transfers these days.
It’s partly because wages have become paramount, which was certainly the case when Sheffield United offloaded top-earning midfielder Stephen Quinn to Hull City.
So the issue of how the price came to be leaked is of considerably less interest than what it appears to show.
Namely that the bottom has fallen out of the fee-paying market at all but the highest levels of the game.
Here you have a contracted quality player in his prime at 26 and with a proven Premier League pedigree.
That he’s apparently only worth up to a maximum of £100,000 - after 50 Hull appearances at £2,000 per game - may well reflect the Blades’ inability to keep paying his salary (in five figures a week).
But it’s also a frightening sign of how assets have been diminished.
Not so long ago Quinn would have had a £1m bounty on his head.
Of course, there will be a sell-on clause and some extras if Hull are promoted, but he’s an absolute steal at the basic figures mentioned.
Patient Blades are in rude health
When was the last time a team scored just 19 goals in 16 games and sat proudly in the automatic promotion positions? Sheffield United have cornered the economy market in League One after a stalemate at Swindon.
Does it mean they will catch a cold when their immune system breaks? Or will the flu jab last the distance?
What is certain is that Danny Wilson has established the healthiest possible position from which to provide a “cure” (!) that will make the Blades well nigh unstoppable.
Fitting new home for forward thinking Millers
It hits you smack between the eyes from the A630. How many motorists have done a double take when passing the palatial new home of Rotherham United?
And I dare not add a question about the accident figures! As first impressions go, the New York Stadium makes a mighty big one.
No disrespect to Rotherham as a town... hopefully you’ll forgive the observation that the headquarters of the football team look somewhat out of place.
That’s why there is no credit high enough for chairman Tony Stewart, the architects and the borough planners for making it all happen. My recent and overdue first visit was an eye-opener, even as a self-declared supporter of a rival club who also play in impressive new surroundings.
What makes it all the more laudable is the historical background... administration, homeless after Millmoor, squatting over the border in Sheffield at the desolate Don Valley Stadium.
Wealthy businessman and supporter Stewart lifted a club off its knees and restored its pride to unimaginable levels. There will be those who question some of his football decisions, arguably with every justification, but the fact is that Rotherham now have a set-up that would grace the Championship.
On the other side of track - literally as it’s just across the railway - lies Millmoor, approximately 400 yards and maybe 400 million light years away. In distance terms, that still represents the journey to the Premiership. But Millers fans can dream again, as reflected in the beaming faces of those who kindly gave me the grand tour.
If the football takes you back to reality a touch, there is every sign of Steve Evans’ team punching the full weight of some £4,000-a-week playing contracts in the months to come.
Gaining momentum is more than half the battle. Once up from League Two and with the chairman’s money behind them, it would be no surprise to see Rotherham again scale the heights achieved under Ronnie Moore. And what wouldn’t he have given to to play in a stadium like this one?