Seeing Red by Graham Poll

Graham Poll is a referee. Actually Graham Poll was a referee. He retired after the 2006/2007 football season ended. Graham Poll spent 27 years being a referee. And all Graham Poll will ever be remembered for is that World Cup error in 2006. You know the one, where he showed Croatia player Josip Simunic three yellow cards before eventually giving him the red card. And, for me, that’s a shame because, actually, up until then Graham Poll was one of the best referee’s in England.

Seeing Red is Graham Poll’s take on his life as a referee. He didn’t write it himself, it was co-written, and it chronicles all his years as a referee. From the parks games he took charge over to the International games he refereed. It’s a very honest book, and Poll details many incidents that occured during his time as referee including the infamous Chelsea spat he had with John Terry. He doesn’t pull his punches either and details many refereeing encounters between other managers and players and gives his honest opinion on everything. I don’t think you’ll get a more honest footballing book, and especially not one about referees.

Graham denies the fact he’s arrogant, repeats it many times in fact and he may well not be arrogant, he may well be. Personally I saw a bit of it, but he’s hardly as arrogant as Jose Mourinho. I must admit I wasn’t fully into football in 2006, I watched it yes but not as avidly as I do these days, but I do remember that incident during the World Cup and it does make me said. What Graham did was obviously wrong, but the price he paid for it was much much higher, because it essentially cost him his career. The abuse he got for it made him lose his love for refereeing and that’s a shame because mistake or not, Graham was one of the top ref’s in England until that incident.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Seeing Red. I’ve probably bad-mouthed Graham at some point whilst watching Manchester United and I do sometimes blame referees when we lose these days, but it did make me realise that at the end of the day referees are human, too, and are just as capable of making mistakes as you, as me, as Sir Alex Ferguson. It’s not their fault the technology isn’t there for them to double check any decision and Graham’s right, they have to make split-second decisions based on instinct and the amount of abuse they get is shameful. From players, from managers, from the media. It has really shown referees in another light, and next time before thinking a referee is crap I’ll definitely remember that they’re humans and all humans make mistakes. Well, I’ll try to anyway.

Seeing Red is a book that will appeal to all fans of the beautiful game. Kids who want to referee ought to read it to see exactly what they’re getting themselves into, but also to know that it’s not all about being abused and that there are many good things to being a referee. One thing shines through from the book and that’s that Graham loved being a referee, was totally passionate about it and that’s what makes the book so enjoyable. Yes, it offers home truths about what managers and players can really be like but it also shows the good side to refereeing, what it’s like to referee Manchester United vs Arsenal or an International game. I’d definitely recommend football fans to read this book, and next time people want to berate a referee, try thinking how you would feel if the same happened to you!


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