Saturday, September 20, 2008

Graham Poll looks back in anger

Picked up Graham Poll's book last weekend and read it pretty quickly, mainly to get it out of the way and finished. While the subject matter was fascinating, I found Poll to be a desperately insecure character from start to finish, constantly in search of confirmation of his abilities and -- quite understandably - crushed by the appalling mistake of handing out three yellow cards during the World Cup.
That incident has been picked over time and time again. Poll doesn't say this, but I think I know why he made the mistake of writing in his notebook that he booked Australia's number three instead of Croatia's Simunic. The match - a nasty, dirty affair in which Poll was constantly being berated by the Croaitians - put Poll under more pressure than he had ever experienced.
But the book is not a pleasant read. Poll finds enemies, real and imaginary, at every turn. Everyone's out to get him, the media, fellow refs, footballers, managers, and he retreats into a defensive shell.
That said, I thought Poll was a fine referee, one of the best in the world. It was just a shame he reached that peak by developing an unpleasant arrogance.
I met Poll once at a World Cup press day in 2006. he mentions the day in his book. He doesn't mention that while I chatted to him as a journalist I mentioned I was a lowly park referee. His reaction: to laugh and indicate clearly that I was a bit of a joke because I'm overweight. Graham, I may be fat but at least I don't hate the world.

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