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Room for improvement after Annan wake-up call

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Chris Jardine | 15:01 UK time, Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A draw and defeat in our last two league matches has brought us right back down to earth after our recent Scottish Cup win.

If ever we needed a wake up call then surely Saturday's defeat at Elgin has provided us with it. It wasn't just the defeat that was hard to take, but the performance was much worse.

After stepping off our team coach at the end of a six-hour journey (no excuse) we found ourselves 2-0 down inside the first 11 minutes.

Looking back we were probably lucky to get away with only a two-goal defeat because on the day there was certainly more than that between the sides. I was very impressed with Elgin on their earlier visit to our place this season and Saturday did nothing to change my opinion.

They were better than us in every department from start to finish and although I was disappointed to be substituted after an hour it wasn't at all pleasant to play in.

Elgin were strong enough at the back to limit us to one shot on target during the whole game, but it was especially middle to front where they impressed most of all. They have got some right good players in their team and Saturday seemed to be a day when they all clicked in to gear.

Elgin City were too strong for Annan at the weekend

Elgin City were too strong for Annan at the weekend

There is no doubt that we were disappointing and we won't hide from that fact but I can't help thinking that we aren't giving our opponents the credit they deserve.

It seems to be the norm in this league that when you lose a game then it is all down to the losing team being poor; well even at the top our game at the weekend I'm not sure if we would have won the match. That's how good I thought Elgin were.

We had the opportunity to get that one out of our system on Tuesday night with a home game against Montrose. We were very disappointed to only come away with a 2-2 draw, but on reflection it was probably a fair result.

The manager missed the first half of the game which was a shame because we played the best we have done in a while in that 45-minute spell.

We played at a really high tempo and maybe should have gone in more than 2-1 to the good at half-time. It wasn't to be and when Harry did arrive to see the second half, he saw us struggle and drop two points.

The players and coaching staff are all a bit down after the last two results but I think it's important to remember where we are. We are sitting in third position in the league table with a game in hand and a massive game against the leaders Stranraer to come on Saturday.

The team have also just came through their best first quarter of the season since entering the league and sit in the play-off places which is exactly the target set before us at the start of the season. Instead of the report card saying "must do better", perhaps a more appropriate one would be, "can do better"?

Away from things at Galabank and the referee's in the SPL are taking a bit of flak at the minute, one Dougie McDonald in particular. Now before you think I'm going to discuss the big story that's been in the headlines for the last few weeks, I was actually going to praise the referee's we have in the SFL.

As far as I'm concerned the officials have a really difficult job to do and they make mistakes; just as players and managers do.

The thing that I like about the majority of officials at our level is that you can talk to them and they will explain their decision, I've even heard them apologising because they might have got a decision wrong. For me, that's all you can really ask and this is one player that has great respect for the officials in our division.

Finally this week I just want to apologise to "jpannan" who left me a comment from last week's column. I usually check the comments on a Friday when I get home from work but my home internet access was down and I wasn't able to get on to reply over the weekend.

By the time I managed to gain access it was unfortunately, too late. So JP, I do have an answer for your question and if you manage to leave me a comment this week I'll make sure you get your reply.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    I agree that officials at all levels have a hard time, however the attitude towards refs has become institutional. Whilst watching a recent under 18's game, I was shocked by the treatment the ref's got, not only from the supporting fans (many of whom were parents supporting their kids), but also from the young players themselves. Respect from teh refs has to be earned and if players act like kids, they'll get treated like kids.

  • Comment number 2.

    I completely agree with the comments about refs. I was a ref in the US for about 7 years, working my way up from the entry level ranks to being certified for international youth matches, college, adult, and low-level professional leagues. I finally quit, partially due to multiple leg surgeries from doing too much officiating (at times around 10 games over 6 days a week), but mostly from getting too much flak from players, coaches, parents, and fans. Having played for 20+ years starting in Germany and then through college & PDL in the US, I can easily say that the respect shown to refs has dropped to almost nil. I never would have even thought about saying some of the things to refs as an adult that U-16 girls will say without a second thought! All of the comments directed at refs have a completely understated affect that most people do not realize is driving refs away from the sport. I can easily name a handful of nationally-certified refs that quit because it was not worth the impact on their personal lives, from tangible things like bricks thrown through their car windshields at weekend tournaments to the intangible things like feelings of inadequacy caused by throngs of people hurling insults and threats at them. Obviously refs get decisions wrong at times, just like players and coaches, but the lack of respect shown means multiple refs like myself finally say "enough is enough" and leave. And this means less refs in the game to choose from at the higher levels, which means fewer refs of top quality, which then means even more comments & criticism of ref quality. It is a vicious cycle that is getting worse over time, and if something is not done to change the way people (players & coaches especially) treat refs from the get-go, then there will be dire consequences in the years to come. I can name a couple of international youth tournaments in the US that went away because there were not enough refs willing to deal with the lack of respect and lack of support from the tourney organizers (such as following through on threats to expel coaches guilty of ruthlessly tormenting the assistant ref) and work those tourneys. So long-running tourneys went away because of the lack of officials, what will happen to the sport if this accelerates??

  • Comment number 3.

    Think its about time football went the same way as rugby, ie moving the free-kick forward ten yards/metres if players continue to mouth off look at south africa v ireland at the weekend, flanker mouths off, pen moved forward ten meters, if it means ten penalties a game so be it.

    Some players and managers need to get it through their heads that refs are a most important part of the game and that like all human beings will make errors especially when it comes to split-second decisions like goal-line decisions our penalty shouts. It would be nice for once to hear a player or manager stating that although they may have had a penalty/free kick/player sent off decision go against them, that on the day it wasnt the refs fault that they couldnt score/take adavantage of the decision/that the player sent off deserved the red card, instead of covering over their own and their teams shortcomings by continually blaming three men who do their job on a Saturday because they love the game and like all of us want it to thrive.

  • Comment number 4.

    What a breath of fresh air to hear a player admit that the opposition team were probably the better.
    It may be that managers should stay away from their own teams matches.
    I saw the game against Montrose and the first half display was a joy to watch.
    The comments from your manager to the players in the second half were all negative.Positive encouragement might be a better option.
    Ross Jack certainly does that at Elgin,in public and during the game anyway,and the results are there for all to see this season.

  • Comment number 5.

    Some really great and interesting points in these comments so far. I must admit to being a bit surprised that there seems to be a problem with respect towards referee's at such a young age. Why do you think this is? I would imagine it comes from them seeing the attitude and actions of their coaches on the sidelines; does it also come from seeing the top players getting away with verbally abusing referee's on a regular basis live in television? The way we are going just now the situation will get worse and the standard of officials will drop even further.

  • Comment number 6.

    As a former referee, I have to say that thre is little doubt the behaviour of top players is reflected in the parks. Players of all age groups copy the tricks, cheats and 'talkj-backs' they see on the television. Whenever anything unusual happens, you see it copied as early as Sunday morning in the local park.
    Coaches need to wake up and accept that referees do not commit fouls, they only punish as many as they see. Fouls are committed by players. Every player who cheats by diving, shirt-pulling on the blind side or pushing an opponent off-balance before the ball arrives, simply makes the referee's job harder and mistakes will be made.
    The golden rule of football coaches now seems to be the same as the playground, "It wisnea me, it wis him an a'....." - Hardly an adult approach.

  • Comment number 7.

    The attitude of alot (not all) of press, players, fans and coaches towards referees is generally nothing short of disgraceful. It's small wonder the referees in Scotland haven't decided to go on a unified strike until new laws of conduct for both officials and club representatives and it has to be used consistently. You can't have a striker, manager and leading board member come out and as good as call the referees cheats for example. No wonder referees want to cover things up. If they admitted to a mistake not only would they be slated by everyone around they would probably be relegated to lower games. It's time the SFA went hard on the issue.

    Use of foul and abusive language of any sort towards an official should result in a red and a 3 game suspension on top of any action taken, Coaches using such like should be hammered further. ie they've been sent off 3 games plus the red they earned. Dissent should result in 5 yards rescinded in a free kick situation. It sounds draconian but it seems the only way to get pro's to act in a responsible manner and get on with the game.

    Whilst players and other club officials should be held in check, I also think Referees would have to take some extra resonsibility. Should the captain or manager request in a dignified manner for a decision to be explained then the ref should do such, briefly during the game and then if required at length after. Take an example from rugby and mic them up. Let the fans hear what they see.

    And it's the managers who have to take check of their emotions in post match interviews. You don't have to agree with a decision but learning how to express that would be a start.

    I accept that football has softened up and perhaps trying to cover it all up with rules might make it seem more so but old school players were alot tougher than alot of the soft lumps on todays pitches and yet would often think twice about what they would say to the refs of days past. I've noticed this in my short 25 years and the alarming decrease in respect shown. It's only gonna get worse.

  • Comment number 8.

    Rather than introduce new rules & hammer folk for stepping out of line, can everyone not just make an effort to get along?

    I have played Junior & Amateur football in Scotland, and the ref's who get respect from the players are the ones who are a bit more relaxed & are approachable. The type who will have a casual word in passing to go a bit easy, or warn you after your first bad tackle. A bit of humour doesn't go amiss, either!

    Sadly, younger ref's are taught from an early stage to stamp their authority all over the game & that involves refusing all dialogue and dishing out bookings for the first tackles of the game, which puts pressure on everyone involved. Learn some basic human skills, guys. The SFA & the referee hierarchy are not doing these ref's any favours whatsoever by training them in this manner, it should be a key element to their training to make an effort to get both sides on board & to diffuse any situation rather than deal with it harshly when it arises.

    I actually felt sorry for Dougie McDonald; everyone makes mistakes and he did exactly what most Managers & coaches would ask for when an official makes a mistake - he admitted it & rectified it. Stupid in-house SFA rules & pressure of "the man in the stand" led him to believe that he was neither allowed to make a mistake nor rectify it on the park, and he came up with this stupid tale to appease his superiors. A completely avoidable situation.

    Respect is a two-way thing; I honestly believe that good, honest referee's respect good, honest players, and vice-versa. The problem arises when you get an arrogant player or an arrogant referee. Sadly, there are too many guys like this in the game.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nicely written blog Chris. On a similar note to giving credit to the opposition - from a fan's perspective, I find it difficult when fellow fans berate my team even when they were unlucky, the opposition scored with their only 2 shots to beat you etc. The main thing is that the players try their hardest, that should be all a fan needs from his team - and just hope for a bit of luck.

    I also find it odd that nobody takes into account when players are playing through bugs, colds etc. when a lot of fans would sometimes take a sickie from their job if they were "suffering" the same!

  • Comment number 10.

    Top marks for crediting the opposition Chris, surprisingly few in football do that.

    My first coach in football told me that you have to acknowledge your weaknesses before you can improve, which is absolutely right - how do top Manager's expect them & their players to progress if they blame a defeat on a ref or a decision? Baffling!

  • Comment number 11.

    Do you know something I would be really interested in hearing about Chris?

    Those that work behind the scenes at a football club. The people that work hard all day at work, to come straight to a club like Annan & work til late for little or no reward, other than the love of their club.

    I don't think football would survive was it not for people like this & I would love to hear about the people at Annan that fall into this category.

 

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