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WINTERS WORLD FEATURING THE START OF THE SEASON FOR MIDDLESBROUGH AND RANGERS
11th August 2014

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Sunday and another reason to get out of bed early apart form peeling the veg for dinner as Oliver has started swimming lessons. After an initial lack of confidence he soon started to enjoy himself. On the afternoon it was back to Victoria Park to watch England Ladies entertain Sweden Ladies.

It is over thirty years since I first refereed a ladies game for Middlesbrough, I was amazed how much the girl's game has come on since then. In 1995 on the same day as Boro played Luton Town in the last ever League game at Ayresome Park I was at Prenton Park reffing the Women's FA Cup final between Liverpool and Arsenal. I was taken aback not only by the quality, but also by the pace of the game.

Unlike the male version, the players don't roll around as if shot by snipers, feign injury or dive to try and con the ref, they just get on with it. Sunday was just the same, never the likelihood of a yellow card and it was enjoyable to watch.

The game didn't pass though without any controversy though, even if the players, match officials and the 4,500 crowd didn't realise it. The Dutch international referee awarded England a penalty kick when the game was goalless and Karen Carney saw her shot hit an upright but she responded quickly and her follow up shot snook under the Swedish goalkeeper and over the line. The ref pointed to the centre and the players and crowd celebrated. There was no reaction from any player or indeed the Swedish bench.

I started to doubt my eyesight, has the keeper got a touch on it? Had a defender played it before Carney got her shot in? At half time I noticed a Swedish coach approach the Referee and question the goal, I then saw a replay and my eyes had not deceived me, the England goal scorer has clearly played the ball a second time and therefore the goal should not have stood and an indirect free kick should have been awarded to Sweden from the point where she played it a second time.

jeff winter
Lee McCulloch unfurls the Division Two champions flag before Sunday's game against Hearts.

At least my presence helped some of the journalists there who were also oblivious to the mistake. It was a bit like the beach ball incident at Sunderland a few seasons ago, when something unusual happens you doubt what you've witnessed and also then don't react as you should.

No excuse for the match officials though, they should have seen it and made the correct decision. The fact that others don't know the Laws of the game doesn't really surprise me. England went on to win comfortably by 4-0, had it of been the only gaol in a competitive match I think the Swedes might have had good reason to be aggrieved.

Monday and Samantha's birthday so my son craig was taking her out to dinner, that meant I had the little fellah even longer. A good 14 hour stretch of child minding, glorious evening so down to Saltburn for a run on the beach and a fish and chip restaurant. He ate half of my fish the greedy little bugger.

jeff winter
The Barcelona Bears are recognised by the Ibrox faithful.

Tuesday and my first visit of the season to Ibrox, good thing too as my HP sauce supplies were running low!! Passengers today were Kenny and Cameron so 400 miles of listening to them talk shite to look forward to.

As we headed north the weather worsened and with Cameron and myself in shorts, our dress choice may have been unwise. It seems to be a different Cameron this season, quieter more sensible bourne out by only four bottles consumed on the entire journey. Mind you he might have been put off drinking by Kenny's almost orgasmic description of his morning's bramble picking and his preparation techniques of preparing and freezing said fruits along with apples from his garden to have an ample such of frozen fruits ready to make pies and crumbles.

Its not all rock and roll on these journeys you know! Wonder if we'll ever see any of said produce supplied for our consumption on the trips north to watch the Rangers?

jeff winter
A special day for a special man. The Govan Stand will now be known as the Sandy Jardine Stand.

A pee stop near Gretna saw the Harry Krishna barmy army out in force. Wonder who they support? Never seen them at Ibrox.

Parked up easily near Rolls Royce club at 6.15pm so you could tell there wasn't going to be a big crowd. Sussed out the club shop bumping into Teesside Neil and his family then upstairs to Ibrox bar for pre match beverages. The Leven lads were waiting outside with our tickets. As they have given up their season tickets it looks like we're going to be nomadic around Ibrox this season. Tonight it was going to be the back of the Copland front.

Ibrox sparsely populated though away end full - no doubt the Hibs fans taking the chance to see the Rangers. Strange loyalties with the tricolour being displayed whilst they sang 'Flower Of Scotland'!!

Nice reception for commonwealth heroine Lindsay Sharp, a Scottish star, well until some people found out she was a Rangers fan. Don't really understand why that lessens her achievements - perhaps some will attempt to have her stripped of her medal because of her allegiance to Rangers!!

jeff winter
On Tuesday our pee/poo stop at Gretna services saw us bump into a few Harry Krisna's. On Sunday morning we saw a Celtic fan having his breakfast.

Two up front that would please some, also three at the back, experimental, perhaps it should have been tested more pre season. At least no Moshni, thank God, saw him in the car park, being pestered for photos and autographs. Hope he was also politely asked to get away to fuck.

It could have been a Hibs managed by my mate Mark Venus but instead it was Alan Stubbs' charges. He's certainly got them playing football and they knocked the ball round with ease. Our lack of numbers in midfield and lack of mobility up front gave them the run of the park and it was perhaps against the run of play that Rangers took the lead, a disallowed goal for Boydy denied a more comfortable if undeserved score line.

We could read of the unbelievable introduction late in the game of Jon Daly to replace Kris Boyd up front to add some more pace!! You know what you get with Boydy, very little other than goals.

Hibs got an equaliser and that was no surprise. It momentarily silenced their gobby though efficient number 10. Three at the back abandoned and the introduction of Templeton, taking the pressure off Black as the visitors had someone new to kick. One went too far and was sent off.

That changed the game, but not sympathetic to our long journey home Rangers failed to kill them of in normal time. That's all I needed. Alls well that ends well though and a game against Clyde was guaranteed with Nicky Laws' added time winner.

jeff winter
Tuesday night's match ticket. 21 for the Hibs game - the tickets for last season's final were only 20!! With kids off school, surely 10 and a fiver for kids would have attracted a much bigger gate and with food sales, more income!

I know the detractors will still whinge, Hibs are likely to be our main rivals this season and were beaten, eventually, with an experimental system and what's more it was an enjoyable game. They came to play rather than put eleven men behind the ball. Amazingly some on the message boards continue to slag rather than support.

On the road by 10.30 and Kenny is in loud argumentative mood, fuck me 200 miles of this. Cameron decides sleep is the best option and I wish I could join him.

As well as that his arse is on fire, not so much farts and turds being laid in his jeans at regular intervals. Both front windows wide open helped the breathing, no good to the stained and soiled passenger seat that probably needs burning rather than cleaning.

I don't know if it's the excessive consumption of brambles but this man's guts are rotten. His insides must be destroyed, there is absolutely no point whatever of him donating his organs when he goes, the stench from Teesside crematorium when he goes up will kill wildlife and humans. Perhaps burying him at Sellafield would be a wise option.

The use of that facility may be denied to an independent Scotland, along with the use of the pound sterling however reports suggested that Salmond had his arse kicked on TV in the live debate. More good news!! Back home by 2.00am knackered but satisfied.

jeff winter
The SFA come up with a novel approach to preventing Rangers from winning games and gaining promotion back to where they should never have been demoted from!

Wednesday and our close friends and neighbours in Champions League qualification action. Before that though came the breaking news that my friend and former colleague Howard Webb had announced his retirement from refereeing. Not a total surprise to me as I know him very well.

When he was promoted to the Premier League in 2002 he was allocated as my room mate at our fortnightly training camps at Staverton Park in Northampton. I got to know him as a person as well as a colleague and it was no surprise to me to see the rapid progress he made culminating in refereeing the FA Cup Final, Champions League Final then the ultimate - the 2010 World Cup Final in South Africa.

He achieved these accolades purely on his own ability but never forgot those who helped him in his early years.

jeff winter
A Rangers fan, Lyndsay Sharp, a Scottish/British Commonwealth star receives the acknowledgement of the fans at Ibrox on Tuesday night.

He is renowned the world over for his firm but fair control of games but being a referee that didn't make him universally popular. I know from bitter personal experience that years later fans will always remember a certain incident in a particular game and in the eyes of the keyboard cowards of social media that makes you a rubbish referee.

There was the long standing suggestion that because it was perceived that he and come to think of it every referee were Manchester United fans and scared of Fergie. Someone even went to the lengths of amending the Wikipedia details of all refs showing Manchester as their place of birth!

Well Howard is a United fan, Rotherham United. The only time I have ever accused him of bias was last year when he officiated his home town team's friendly at the New York Stadium against Boro when he awarded the Millers a very, very soft penalty!

jeff winter
Saturday afternoon and an enthusiastic and optimistic Riverside Stadium greets the opening day of the season fixture between Boro and Birmingham City.

His decision to retire saddens me but was always likely. I have previously suggested that refs should not stay on too long and deny the next generation the chance to get promotion but Howard is still a young man and could have continued refereeing for more than another ten years. There just isn't enough quality and experience in the game that can afford the loss of someone like him at the moment.

He has been a newly created role as Technical Director Of Refereeing in the domestic game, what that entails time will tell but it's a strange one, a bit like when a Director Of Football is appointed at a club; where does that leave the manager? Mike Riley must be looking over his shoulder. I know who the active match officials would rather have as their boss!!

Any former footballer will tell you that there is no substitute to playing and it's the same with refereeing, the problem is with reffing is that whilst it is only an unwritten rule, you never get to ref a Cup Final twice. Webb has therefore achieved virtually everything possible in the game. That being said I hope that he doesn't live to regret his decision to hang up his whistle because there will be no going back.

jeff winter
Sunday afternoon at Victoria Park and Sweden Ladies prepare to kick off in their friendly international against England.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, Celtic take another beating and their Champions League dreams lay in tatters. It's not their fault though, such a great side as them shouldn't have to face inferior clubs in qualifying rounds. Evidently their fans took defeat well with sporadic fighting with each other; nice!!

Back to more important matters and another home draw in the Cup should we beat Queens Park, pity as I prefer away games more, but a tough task against a team that outclassed us the last we played them. It will be good to see how much progress we have made.

Hang on - hold the back page, in the thrashing by the Poles they played an ineligible player for the last four minutes, he obviously made a massive difference in stopping Celtic score the required six goals they needed to win!! Rules are rules though and for the second time in recent seasons Celtic get reprieved which means even if they get trashed in the play off round they will automatically qualify for the group stages of the Europa League. Europe must be quaking in their boots.

By the way - congratulations to Liewell and Doncaster for their secret promotion to UEFA's Cup Competitions Committee.

jeff winter
Only here to see the Rangers, Hibs section is full as Rangers and Hibs prepare to start the first competitive game of the season at Ibrox on Tuesday night.

At least on Thursday and Friday night I had my grandson to look after rather than get overly concerned at the luck of the Irish!!! Lovely afternoon at the park with the little fellah and my youngest son Mark, then as his Mam was out with friends and Dad was training and extended session of child minding featuring a long walk which tired me out don't know about him.

Friday and more of the same, this time he was staying over so took him to the pub for his tea. He polished off a fair share of my parmo. He's definitely a Boro lad. Saturday morning a pre match trip to the swings then off to the Boro.

In a quandary as our trainer had cleverly entered Lady Ibrox to run at Redcar ten miles from the Riverside at 4.55. Toyed with doing the first half of Boro match then nipping off to the races to see her run. The game was that enjoyable though I decided to stay at the match. Phone battery died so was able to get home to watch the racing without knowing any results.

Boro won comfortably against what in fairness was a poor Birmingham City outfit, decent crowd, good atmosphere and plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the season ahead. Met Big Eck after the game who was up from London to cover the game for talkSPORT; a quick catch up on Rangers a Bear hug then away.

My decision to stay at the football rather than go to the races was certainly a wise one, I managed to get home without knowing and racing results, our horse showed her usual early speed but whether it was the distance or the going she quickly faded at the business end of the race. I await the trainer's latest explanation/excuses!!

jeff winter
Kike, Kike, born is the King Of Ayresome Park, (well Riverside) but it doesn't really rhyme!! A standing ovation after the Spaniard's goal scoring debut on Saturday afternoon against Birmingham City.

Sunday and back up to Glasgow for Rangers first league game of the season against Hearts. Young Simon and the newly sensible Cameron my passengers. Simon hadn't got in until 4.15am from the Boro match, well you have to celebrate don't you?

Cameron and I were sensibly dressed in shorts, oblivious to Hurricane Bertha's imminent arrival. The journey was going to be boring without Kenny, whose wife doesn't let him go to too many games!! No brambling stories or his marking of the wind turbines on the synchronisation of their movements, look it's a long journey and you have to do something to relieve the monotony.

Cameron had bought the cheap almost out of date chicken for his sarnies and it was fucking well out of date judging by the smell of it. Simon had the remnants of last night's pizza for his breakfast. Reminds me I'm going to have to get a new air freshener for the car - a pig will do it.

Approaching Ibrox it was clear parking wasn't going to be that easy, headed for WRC and managed to shoe horn the car in the car park, wasn't so easy inside with queues twenty minutes deep, so headed for Ibrox Bar and managed to get five drinks for 12. Don't think the barman was that good at adding up!!

Seats today were for the Copland Rear, well actually the roof, needed oxygen to get to them three rows from the back. Got a bet on Templeton to score anytime but I'd forgot he doesn't have the balls to head the ball. I'd backed a late goal as well and Laws shot won me the money so I didn't really need the extra one seconds later.

jeff winter
Life just doesn't get any better, Thursday afternoon and another trip to Stewarts Park with my other son Mark and his nephew, my grandson Oliver.

Now to be controversial for a change and offer a slightly different view to the one that is spouted on FF. Rangers in my uneducated opinion played well in the first half. Hearts weren't in the game, we missed chances, had bad luck and they defended well. It could very easily have been two or three nil at the break.

The second half wasn't as clever, a goal from their first real effort meant we had to chase the game and appeared to have got out of jail with Man of the Match (not my opinion) Nicky Law's last gasp equaliser.

We'd have settled for a point but got hit by the sucker punch. The boos and victimisation of our own players is totally unnecessary and not consistent with the loyal support we pride ourselves on. Our first league defeat in what, 18 months!!

There is an arrogance amongst some supporters that believes that Rangers should not only win every game, but should never concede and never misplace a pass. Get real, it might have been the case in days of yore, actually it wasn't, but we played as good a game in the first half as we probably have, Motherwell apart, since our unjust demotion.

It's getting quite tedious sat near people who just moan for 90 minutes. At least I only had Jimmy Bucket to contend with, he's a ready made replacement for Ally if some of the whingers eventually get their way. His knowledge is unbelievable, he plays every ball himself and if only the players could hear his advice we'd win every game 10-0. The poor linesman couldn't get his flag up as quick as Jimmy's advice told him that the ball was a millimetre out of play. Come to think of it you've probably got a Jimmy sat next to you.

Remarkably quickly away from WRC and Cameron didn't speak till Carlisle; he doesn't take defeat well!!

One aspect of amusement was the radio report of Legia Warsaw appealing to Celtic to let them go through or at least have a replay. Evidently they'd had to go public because the phone connection to the ground wasn't working!! I was driving into the wind, they were pissing against it!!

As we headed home the weather worsened, that's probably Ally's fault as well, FFS cheer up, we'll still win this Division!!

jeff winter
That's the message from Boro's Red Faction, maybe just maybe this could be our year!

THE WEEK AHEAD

Tuesday off to Oldham to watch Boro's Capital One Cup tie, Friday night up to Falkirk for Rangers game, then after a few hours sleep up and off to Leeds for Boro's televised lunchtime game.

Have a good week.





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