PETER CROUCH: 'Chicken killer' Mike Dean will be a HUGE loss to our game!

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Mike Dean slaughters chickens. Didn’t you know? Where have you been? He spent 16 years killing birds as a day job, refereeing part-time until going professional.

Becoming aware of that slog, the sacrifices (of his time, not chickens) he made to reach the very top of his preferred profession gave me a newfound respect for referees. Mike’s blowing his last whistle, theatrically brandishing his last card — celebrating his last goal from an advantage! — in May and the Premier League will be worse for his absence.

He is a bit of a one-off in modern football. Sure, the product is polished but it lacks characters like Mike and that is a major bugbear of mine. Where are the guys who will happily chat to me for a night in a pub, on a podcast, about gutting poultry? The game’s gone!

Peter Crouch says he gained a new respect for Mike Dean after he appeared on his podcast

Peter Crouch says he gained a new respect for Mike Dean after he appeared on his podcast

Seriously though, Mike went from those ridiculous long hours, doing work plenty of people would not even contemplate, to leading teams out in front of 90,000 at Wembley. You have to tip your hat to somebody like that. It’s a mad story and one I found so interesting when he was good enough to discuss it over a beer.

Now I can’t move for the banners. You see ‘Mike Dean slaughters chickens’ everywhere. At the darts, people on the news behind a reporter on camera. I wish I’d known he had killed chickens for a living during my career — it might have given me something to go back to him with when we went back and forth on the pitch. Because we really did have a few run-ins over the years.

As a player, you are caught up in the ‘us versus them’ with referees. I’ve given him plenty of grief and stick. Throughout my career, I didn’t feel as if I was given decisions. How I jump was always more obvious than my markers, so referees would have a go at me about my arms and backing in. I was constantly penalised and that is when I really bit at a ref.

I remember a few with Mike, shouting and screaming at decisions going against me, and he would happily wind me up with little smarmy things back. Little comments. Can you just shut up and referee the game, please? Or more specifically — ref it better.

The former Stoke player enjoyed Mike Dean's style of officiating looking back

The former Stoke player enjoyed Mike Dean’s style of officiating looking back

Yet looking back, I preferred that style of officiating. There were a couple I’d look at with dread. Not him, come on. The worst ones would never give you a reason for a decision, instead just run off. A bit like being at school. You can’t answer back.

I genuinely don’t know their names — I didn’t know Mike’s for over a decade! Knowing who the referee was just didn’t concern me.

Until I spent some proper time with Mike, I had no idea elite referees all train together full-time. I never knew they all sit down together watching clips of mistakes when assessing matches after the weekend and how daunting that can be. Watching those videos must be a nightmare. They are not so different to us players in battling to the top.

Mike always has a one-liner, a facial expression. Even when he’s doing his little gags — like hiding the ball from Sergio Aguero after he’d scored a hat-trick for Manchester City — you’re thinking, ‘Oh, just give him the ball, man’.

But take those little dummies he throws to avoid the ball, allowing it to roll through his legs. And who can forget the celebration at White Hart Lane, when Tottenham scored against Aston Villa in 2015 after Mike had played a decent advantage? He’s pumping his arms back at the halfway line. An absolute belter.

We want more of this panache. Patting Adnan Januzaj on the behind when he was coming on for Manchester United. Magic moments. Genuinely magic. For quite a while, Mike’s WhatsApp picture was apparently that shot of him walking out at the London Stadium, pulling a perplexed face when bombarded with bubbles out of the tunnel area.

Mike Dean is set to retire at the end of the season after over 500 games in the middle

Mike Dean is set to retire at the end of the season after over 500 games in the middle

Most fans have probably moaned about him more than once but we’ll miss him when he’s gone. To sustain this for as long as he has as well, 22 years in the Premier League, you’ve got to have admiration for him.

I’m not going to write that we got on like a house on fire, but then when he sat down with me that night, I got to thinking: ‘He’s all right.’ I found him to be a confident man, as you would expect. I’m Mike Dean, this is who I am. Great value, really open in how he spoke.

What do we want? We want people doing their jobs properly and to the best of their ability but you also want character. Mike Dean is one of those. He is a character, a pantomime villain when doing things people will always remember him for.

The panache of Mike Dean will be missed in the Premier League - it needs characters

The panache of Mike Dean will be missed in the Premier League – it needs characters

People might ask if we want that side of officiating — they are there to follow the rules and not be the focal point — but he’s added something.

Maybe he has taken traits from those before him. Mike would have walked into the refereeing circle that included Roger Milford, with the long curly perm, who answered back to players in a way Mike has done.

He wasn’t always this assured, he has relaxed and become himself. He can referee how he likes and we’ll see that on show at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday when City play Brighton. It’s sad there will not be too many more. Cheers, Mike.

Burnley’s owners are ripping the heart out of the club

I worked with Sean Dyche for the final six months of my career and was in shock at Burnley’s decision to sack him late last week.

The heart is being ripped out of that club, with Ian Woan, Billy Mercer and Steve Stone all leaving too. These are good people. 

They could have come straight back up with Sean. Who else would you rather have in charge in the Championship? It doesn’t make any sense. 

Burnley's owners are ripping the heart out of the club by sacking Sean Dyche

Burnley’s owners are ripping the heart out of the club by sacking Sean Dyche

He’s barely had any money over the last 10 years — the sum total is akin to the finance some rivals spend in one transfer window alone. 

To have what he has achieved disregarded makes me worry about the decision-making process at Turf Moor. I feared for Burnley when ALK Capital took over the club last year and the moves they have made since confirm that.

Why aren’t we playing padel here?

I’m out in Portugal at the moment and love padel — everybody in Europe plays it.

We are so far behind in this country. The kids really enjoy it and the beauty of padel is that it’s easier than tennis — a smaller court and you can bounce off the walls. It’s obviously harder when you’re given the runaround against a pro, which some mates of mine found out yesterday!

Joe Cole, Steve Sidwell, Bobby Zamora and John Terry — all part of our little padel school back home – are a more difficult proposition.

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