Gary Johnson: Linesman has hardest job on football pitch

Who’d be a football linesman?, asks Gary Johnson

Whod be a football linesman?, asks Gary Johnson - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

If there's one harder job on a football pitch than being a referee, I always reckon it's the linesman.

I don't know how many of you have ever tried it, but it's damn difficult. There's so many tight calls, and lots of people who are quick to say you've got it wrong the whole time.

There used to be officials who seemed to be linesmen for most of their careers, and I never thought that was a bad thing. It's a specialist job - even more so, now that 'offside' is such a nightmare.

It can't be a coincidence that 'offside' causes so many arguments these days. And that's after the authorities have thrown more rule changes, guidelines and technology at it than ever before!

They still haven't got it right. Far from it.

Whatever rule you bring in for any sport, people will try and get round it. That's what players and coaches do.

With all the 'first' and 'second phase' business in offside, and whether players are 'active' or 'inactive', teams now actually coach their forwards to stand offside.

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Of course, it means defenders have to be aware of them but apparently that doesn't mean the forward is influencing the play.

I know, I'll leave you to work that one out!

Then, all of a sudden, the ball goes out wide to a winger, so the offside lad in the middle is not 'active', and by the time the cross comes in, he's nipped back onside again - it's happening all the time.

They've given themselves an even bigger problem with the intricacies of the system.

Now your fingernail can be offside, and they can prove it with a replay machine covered with lines across the pitch.

Surely, football is about goals. There are some fantastic ones being scored, everyone is celebrating and then it's all being stopped in full flow.

I think the rule-makers should get in a few top coaches and ask them 'What you would do to get round this rule?'

I remember playing in a Football Combination game at Watford one day. Our coach, the late Mike Keen, was a lovely fella, but I was bit narked that he played me at right-back instead of midfield.

At half-time we were losing 4-0, and three of the goals had come from crosses by their left-winger.

At half-time Mike came over, put his arms round my shoulder and said to me: 'Will you please stop the crosses in the second half?'. Or words to that effect.

I still had the hump, so I insisted it was nothing to do with me and it was their centre-forward who was scoring all the goals.

So Mike said: 'Well in that case, please mark the bloke with the flag in his hand, because someone out there is crossing the bloody ball!'

Who'd be a linesman?!

Stay safe, everyone...