Monday, June 04, 2012

Clattenburg and me all the way to Poland

As I queued to get on the bus to take me to my plane bound for Poland, the first face I recognised was the distinctive one of former referee and now referees' chief David Elleray. Then I noticed he was chatting to another refereeing legend, Scotland's Hugh Dallas, who braved many an Old Firm derby and now mixes with the FIFA elite.
And then I noticed some cheeky young shaver coming up to stand next to me. Well bugger me if it wasn't Mark Clattenburg, who ended up sharing row 3 of the Airbus A320 with me to Warsaw.
I made a joke to Elleray about the contrast between this humble Level 6 parks ref and the man tipped to take over Howard Webb's mantle as England's top ref. Looking a decade younger than his 37 years, Clattenburg was a charming companion. Although at radically different ends of the refereeing spectrums, we shared the same opinions on most of the footballing subjects we chatted about: simulation, language, respect: there seemed to be a lot of similarities between the problems he faces on the pitch and the ones I face on the playing fields of Kent every Saturday afternoon.
I'd told him I was a journalist, so he should perhaps have been cautious in what he said. But his views were straightforwards and honest. He was in favour of players being honest themselves, while being fully aware that those days were long gone.
We had a good laugh about his support for a well-known northeastern club while the Fat Ref's family tends to support that team's arch enemy. I don't think it's a huge secret who Clattenburg supports, but I don't want to cause problems.
In Poland, he'll be one of Howard Webb's team of assistants, standing on the goal-line and being prepared to make key rulings, especially the ones about the ball crossing the line.
Mark, by the way, one secret I have to give away is that I don't think Gateshead will ever win on FIFA2012. 

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