Howard Webb’s bog roll shame

The for­mer cop­per and World Cup fi­nal whistle­blower on nick­ing toi­let rolls and talk­ing like Adele

FourFourTwo - - CONTENTS - In­ter­view Nick Moore Il­lus­tra­tion Bill Mc­conkey

Hi Howard. Would you take this deal: you get to live for an ex­tra 10 years, but must talk like Adele un­til you die?

Hi pal. That’s an in­ter­est­ing one. I’d have to con­tex­tu­alise it. If I was go­ing to die next week, at 45, I’d have Adele’s voice like a shot to give me the ex­tra 10 years. But if you’re talk­ing about ex­tend­ing from 85 to 95, I don’t think I’d bother. It’d be good for singing, though, right?

In­deed. You were a po­lice­man as well as a ref­eree. What was the cra­zi­est ar­rest you were ever in­volved in?

I got called out to a naked guy chained to a fence. His wife had found out he was hav­ing an af­fair. On the way back from the pub, she had sug­gested they have some… what shall I say… a bit of… ‘sex­ual ac­tiv­ity’. He got naked, then she tied him up to get her re­venge. He was kick­ing off, so we had to ar­rest him.

Have you ever com­mit­ted a petty crime your­self? A Freddo into the jacket pocket in Asda, per­haps?

I’ve nicked a few toi­let rolls from ho­tels. When you’re run­ning low at home, you might slip a cou­ple into your suit­case. The way I jus­tify it is: it’s not my fault I didn’t get the s**ts dur­ing my stay. It is le­git­i­mately my toi­let roll to use.

Thief! Who are more child­ish: drunk peo­ple be­ing ar­rested, or petu­lant wingers moan­ing about a free-kick?

They’re sim­i­lar. The dif­fer­ence is that, as a ref­eree, you can’t re­strain peo­ple. Some­times you will in­stinc­tively grab a player to get them out of a sit­u­a­tion, but we’re ad­vised not to make con­tact. Be­ing 6ft 2in isn’t really ad­van­ta­geous. In both sit­u­a­tions you have to just calm peo­ple down and try to man­age them.

Did you ever nearly snap and get a player in a vas­cu­lar neck re­straint?

Ev­ery time Craig Bel­lamy was on the pitch! He was a great foot­baller, but it’d al­ways be a psy­cho­log­i­cally tough af­ter­noon when­ever Craig was about. What’s the best bit of cop­per’s kit? Riot shield? The mighty trun­cheon?

I al­ways liked the Bobby’s hel­met. When I was in my mid-20s I thought I looked good in it, es­pe­cially as my hair was crap. It was thin­ning, which I hated, so the hel­met cov­ered it up. I thought I looked sexy, young and tough. But then I’d take it off and I’d be a mess.

Why are all the best ref­er­ees bald?

Good ques­tion. [Pier­luigi] Col­lina was the great­est, un­doubt­edly – an iconic fig­ure. When he was an as­ses­sor, he’d give you that look and then you would just start con­fess­ing to things that you hadn’t done. I’d love to come up with a sci­en­tific rea­son why bald-headed peo­ple do well as ref­er­ees, but it’s not due to bul­ly­ing or be­ing tough­ened up by hair loss. It’s purely a co­in­ci­dence.

So who is his­tory’s great­est baldy?

For me it’s Mikhail Gor­bachev. It must have been tough for him be­cause, as well as hav­ing a re­ced­ing hair­line, the process re­vealed that birth­mark of his – a dou­ble whammy for Mikhail. But I guess per­e­stroika did come out of it.

Very true. The last ref­eree we spoke to, Gra­ham Poll, claims that Uriah Ren­nie would be able to de­feat you in one-on-one com­bat. Do you agree?

Yeah, prob­a­bly. He’s cer­tainly the ref I’d be most wary of – though I sus­pect all that stuff about him be­ing a black belt is a myth he’s just re­fused to deny.

Do you think run­ning back­wards is an un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated skill? Could you beat Jess En­nis in a back­wards race?

It is, but I’d only beat Jess if I was on a mo­tor­bike! It’s weird, though – some refs can run as fast back­wards as they can for­wards. I know an as­sis­tant who runs faster side­ways than I do for­wards.

What’s the odd­est dream you’ve had?

I dreamt I was look­ing on the Sh­effield Wed­nes­day home­page, but I heard my wife com­ing so I switched it over to porn to save the em­bar­rass­ment!

Nicely done. Cheers for chat­ting. No prob­lem.


Man in the Mid­dle: The Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy of the World Cup Fi­nal Ref­eree – pub­lished by Si­mon & Schus­ter – is avail­able now

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