Premier League referee Kevin Friend reflects on FCV Academy visit
Kevin Friend, one of England's top referees, visited Borderville to give the FCV players a talk on refereeing and career progression, before officiating a friendly match between the Academy and New College Stamford.
The Select Group official spoke of his journey to the top of English football, shared some amusing anecdotes from along the way, and took questions from the students in attendance.
It was a successful event with plenty of positive interaction, and Friend felt that he got the message across that referees are more than just a man with a whistle.
“It was really good, there was great interaction with the lads,” reflected Friend. “I think when you start talking to them and opening up to them, they realise that you're a normal person, you're actually real and not a robot.
“A referee is sometimes perceived like a policeman, but when you look at what we do, we give decisions for a reason. We're not always going to be the most popular of people on the pitch, but we've got a human element to us. We do feel for the game, we do get upset when we make wrong decisions and we are normal.”
Friend discussed some of those incorrect calls he made on his way up the footballing ladder, and how he overcame those setbacks to reach the very top.
From Sunday morning games, to now leading out the teams in a Wembley cup final, to officiating the world's finest footballers in European competition, the 45-year-old has seen it all.
There would be no Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Luis Suarez in action in the afternoon though, when Friend took the whistle for the friendly match between FCV and New College Stamford at the Borderville complex.
Wembley it may not be, but the referee was still looking forward to getting out and taking charge of the match, while hoping to give the players extra insight throughout the duration of the game.
“Regardless of the game, I will give 100 per cent. I will always referee to the best of my ability, because I'm duty bound to do so. The players are playing to the best of their abilities, so if I drop my standards because it's a lower level then that's not right.
“I'll let them get away with a fair bit, I'll let the game breathe, but if there are certain players that stand out for the wrong reason then I'll be strong with them. There are a couple of players that stood out from the talk, and I'll keep my eye on them and manage them in the right way.
“There will be decisions that they probably disagree with which is natural in football, but I'll talk to them along the way and explain why I've given it, because of X, Y and Z. They might still disagree and that's the beauty of football, opinions will differ, but let's just move on.
“It's about trying to give them that education throughout the 90 minutes and that's something they can take forward..”
The friendly finished 2-1 to New College Stamford, but we won't blame it on the ref!