Gary Johnson: Come on England - help me keep Mr Downes quiet!

Aaron Downes, Assistant Manager of Torquay United

Aaron Downes - Credit: James Fearn/PPAUK

THERE'S NO MORE passionate Aussie than my assistant and friend Aaron Downes, and I'm bracing myself for a month or two of serious banter as this winter's Ashes Series unfolds 'Down Under'.

I think I mentioned a few weeks ago about my love of cricket, playing for Middlesex Schools with Mike Gatting and how I was a half-decent batsman - or should I say 'batter' these days - as a teenager.

I'm not quite as passionate about the game as I used to be, but Downsey, who also played a bit in his youth, definitely is.

He can get a bit bleary-eyed some mornings, if he's been up in the night watching the live stuff, but I'll stick to the highlights.

If the Aussies are doing well, we all hear about it, and I know he fancies them bigtime for this series.

I'll be cheering for England, of course, and hoping to keep him quiet at least some of the time, but the Aussies are odds-on favourites to win, so I think it's a case of 'fingers crossed'!

Downsey and I pride ourselves on putting a lot of thought and planning into every week's training.  Mainly because you never want to look back on a Saturday and say 'We should have done this' or 'I wish we'd done that'.

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But when the skies open, as it has done this week, or the weather really closes in, you have to get a little creative sometimes.

This Tuesday, our regular base at Seale Hayne was too wet, and the wind and rain was just too much to get a decent session on at the all-weather pitch at South Devon College.

Paignton Community College came to our rescue with their big covered pitch area, and we thank them very much for that.  And we also have a great new link with AnyTime Fitness, who have a gym in Paignton.

I remember one year at Yeovil Town, when there was a desperate winter of rain and floods, it seemed like we spent almost the whole season training indoors.

We still won the league that year.  So you mustn't allow your players to start making excuses, and you never say to the lads 'Do you fancy training today?'

Safety is a deciding factor, of course, and I always say that, if the forecasters give the weather a name, you probably need to have a rethink.  I'm still waiting for them to come up with a 'Storm Gary'!

Last weekend's Premier League programme included an incident in the Aston Villa-Leicester City game which got everyone talking.

Villa had a goal disallowed because the officials, with some help from the VAR ref, ruled that Kasper Schmeichel had one hand on the ball on the ground, so it was called 'under his control' and couldn't be kicked out of it.

The decision surprised a lot of people in the game and outside it, and it only underlined what a job it is to keep up with all the changes that seem to be brought in every season.

We all have to go to a referees-managers meeting every close season, and clubs get fined £10,000 if they don't attend.  The refs do their best to tell us all the new rules and interpretations, but it can be a job to remember it all.

The use of VAR in the Premier League has improved the chances of getting decisions right, whether you agree with the rules or not.

And I also think it's taken the pressure off the match refs, because they have the option of going to VAR, and people don't give them the verbal blasting they used to because of that.

At our level they still have to make all the decisions in a split-second and, if 'dissent' has reduced, it's because only two players at any one time, including the captain, are strictly allowed to approach the ref about any incident.

You do get a couple of warnings, but after that you're fined retrospectively for 'failing to control your players'.  That's happened to several clubs already this season, and it's not something you want to try and explain to your chairman when the letter drops in.

We have another big game at home to Stockport County this Saturday - I thought all the players upped their game at Weymouth (2-1) last weekend, and we have to hit those levels again, or even higher…