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I think I’m now in the minority in that I still want VAR but it has to be massively improved. I believe if it’s abolished now it’s not likely to be reintroduced in a generation or two. The concept is completely right but the execution is so poor. What people forget is that decisions on the whole that VAR have got wrong would still of been wrong with the ref (as they hadn’t overruled) so therefore we have parity. What I’d like to see with offside would be clear offside and what I mean by that is daylight between the players to overrule (as the attacker should be given any element of doubt). For example in cricket it goes to ‘umpires call’ if the ball is partially hitting the stumps. It could therefore be linesman’s call unless there is a clear error (daylight between the players). The problem with most other decisions is that it’s open to interpretation. For example the sky survey on whether City should have had a penalty against Liverpool was around 53% 47% it should have been given. I was convinced it was  a penalty but that shows others thought differently. I just want the ref to go to the monitor and to explain decisions better and inform me at the ground what’s going on. 
 

I think it’s time we had a separate VAR thread.

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I agree mostly Barryj, other than parity.

Lots of these decisions have been made after the fact. The Brighton penalty being a great example. If it wasn’t for VAR, the referee didn’t stop the game, he played on not thinking anything as wrong.

There have been goals that have been disallowed after the referee has had the ball on the centre circle. This is where it’s major flaw is. It should be being used for when the referee questions an incident. 

At the moment it’s being used to check every decision.

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1 hour ago, Shukes said:

I agree mostly Barryj, other than parity.

Lots of these decisions have been made after the fact. The Brighton penalty being a great example. If it wasn’t for VAR, the referee didn’t stop the game, he played on not thinking anything as wrong.

There have been goals that have been disallowed after the referee has had the ball on the centre circle. This is where it’s major flaw is. It should be being used for when the referee questions an incident. 

At the moment it’s being used to check every decision.

Absolutely. In rugby it's only ever used when the ref asks for something to be checked, should be the same.

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10 minutes ago, MikeO said:

Absolutely. In rugby it's only ever used when the ref asks for something to be checked, should be the same.

In the NFL coaches have what are called "challenges." They can challenge a call on a play and the ref will review, and if they're right then obviously the call/play is overturned; if they're wrong then they lose a timeout. I don't know how that would work in the PL, but it let's the coach have some input at least and holds the ref accountable. I think video review is used correctly in the NFL, but it just feels so wrong in the PL.

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10 minutes ago, Sibdane said:

In the NFL coaches have what are called "challenges." They can challenge a call on a play and the ref will review, and if they're right then obviously the call/play is overturned; if they're wrong then they lose a timeout. I don't know how that would work in the PL, but it let's the coach have some input at least and holds the ref accountable. I think video review is used correctly in the NFL, but it just feels so wrong in the PL.

Same as tennis/cricket; the difficulty with that system  in football is, I think, that certainly in tennis and cricket the replay results are 100% definitive, there's no grey area. In rugby the ref may ask things like whether there's an obvious reason not to award a score like a forward pass or an off ball obstruction that hampered the defence or even whether the ball has actually been touched down (strange as it may seem to you Yanks, in rugby the ball has to be touched down for it to be a touch down, how daft is that?:P); that's the model I'd like used in football.

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9 hours ago, Shukes said:

I agree mostly Barryj, other than parity.

Lots of these decisions have been made after the fact. The Brighton penalty being a great example. If it wasn’t for VAR, the referee didn’t stop the game, he played on not thinking anything as wrong.

There have been goals that have been disallowed after the referee has had the ball on the centre circle. This is where it’s major flaw is. It should be being used for when the referee questions an incident. 

At the moment it’s being used to check every decision.

There were none overturned prior to the last international break and people complained (& rightly as there were in my opinion some clear penalties not given). What happened then is the VAR committee met and agreed more should have been overturned. Following this I think they were looking to make a statement and overturn a decision and as per usual Everton were on the wrong side with that ridiculous penalty at Brighton. The technology works it’s just the way they’re implementing it that doesn’t. 

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15 hours ago, Shukes said:

I agree mostly Barryj, other than parity.

Lots of these decisions have been made after the fact. The Brighton penalty being a great example. If it wasn’t for VAR, the referee didn’t stop the game, he played on not thinking anything as wrong.

There have been goals that have been disallowed after the referee has had the ball on the centre circle. This is where it’s major flaw is. It should be being used for when the referee questions an incident. 

At the moment it’s being used to check every decision.

So what you are saying is no situation should be looked at unless the ref requests it, which is a great idea, but I really don’t think that he wouldn’t be influenced to look at incidents that he may not have requested help with. 
I personally think that the ref watching the VAR will be advising and prompting the ref on the field through his ear piece when ever he thinks something has been missed, basically leaving us in the same position as we are now. 
Bad decisions will not be accepted if the ref got it wrong and never asked for assistance, and if they got it wrong and assistance wasn’t offered. 
I personally think we should get rid of it, it is evident that it has to many flaws, and human errors will always come into play whether using VAR or just the the 3 officials, so for flow of the game and stopping the long pauses whilst we wait for decisions that are as wrong as they are right, I would rather we went back to just the match officials making honest decisions there and then, after all I think it hasn’t worked to badly for the last 140 years or so. 

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On 15/11/2019 at 01:22, barryj said:

I think it’s time we had a separate VAR thread.

I'd move the existing comments but don't want to risk losing any. Anyway, enjoy!

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2 hours ago, Palfy said:

So what you are saying is no situation should be looked at unless the ref requests it, which is a great idea, but I really don’t think that he wouldn’t be influenced to look at incidents that he may not have requested help with. 
I personally think that the ref watching the VAR will be advising and prompting the ref on the field through his ear piece when ever he thinks something has been missed, basically leaving us in the same position as we are now. 
Bad decisions will not be accepted if the ref got it wrong and never asked for assistance, and if they got it wrong and assistance wasn’t offered. 
I personally think we should get rid of it, it is evident that it has to many flaws, and human errors will always come into play whether using VAR or just the the 3 officials, so for flow of the game and stopping the long pauses whilst we wait for decisions that are as wrong as they are right, I would rather we went back to just the match officials making honest decisions there and then, after all I think it hasn’t worked to badly for the last 140 years or so. 

I don’t think we should get rid of it as it is a step forward. 

Lets put this into some logic. VAR isn’t the issue here. There is nothing wrong with the tech, it’s the people using it.

I do want the referee to keep making decisions and o let use it when needed.... like other sports. It shouldn’t be used for every incident. It shouldn’t be used so some ego can say they discovered that a forward was 0.1 mm offside. It shouldn’t used to show that a player was offside in the first phase when a goal was scored in the third.

It should be used when the referee thinks he saw an issue but wants to check. 

It should be used for wrongful dismissals.

The people making the decisions from watching VAR are where the issue is.

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3 hours ago, Palfy said:

So what you are saying is no situation should be looked at unless the ref requests it, which is a great idea, but I really don’t think that he wouldn’t be influenced to look at incidents that he may not have requested help with. 
I personally think that the ref watching the VAR will be advising and prompting the ref on the field through his ear piece when ever he thinks something has been missed, basically leaving us in the same position as we are now. 
Bad decisions will not be accepted if the ref got it wrong and never asked for assistance, and if they got it wrong and assistance wasn’t offered. 
I personally think we should get rid of it, it is evident that it has to many flaws, and human errors will always come into play whether using VAR or just the the 3 officials, so for flow of the game and stopping the long pauses whilst we wait for decisions that are as wrong as they are right, I would rather we went back to just the match officials making honest decisions there and then, after all I think it hasn’t worked to badly for the last 140 years or so. 

I don’t agree - we have the technology to overturn blatant wrong decisions so we should use it. Take us at Milwall last year. We were awful but knocked out of the cup due to clear errors. At the time I couldn’t see us winning the thing but if you look at our end of season form we may well of had another piece of silverware recorded in our history books. Would you take back goal line technology? Everyone excepts that the ball was or wasn’t over the line even by mm’s and it is certainly better than we had before. I just want more right decisions being made and that they are consistent. 
 

.......& I can’t see the ref spending more time viewing the VAR monitor a game than I sit watching Richarlison get treatment for a phantom injury! 

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2 hours ago, Shukes said:

The people making the decisions from watching VAR are where the issue is.

I did say that human error will always be involved with VAR, that’s why I don’t want it, I agree there’s nothing wrong with the technology, but the technology isn’t making the decision. 

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2 hours ago, barryj said:

I don’t agree - we have the technology to overturn blatant wrong decisions so we should use it. Take us at Milwall last year. We were awful but knocked out of the cup due to clear errors. At the time I couldn’t see us winning the thing but if you look at our end of season form we may well of had another piece of silverware recorded in our history books. Would you take back goal line technology? Everyone excepts that the ball was or wasn’t over the line even by mm’s and it is certainly better than we had before. I just want more right decisions being made and that they are consistent. 
 

.......& I can’t see the ref spending more time viewing the VAR monitor a game than I sit watching Richarlison get treatment for a phantom injury! 

The Millwall game is irrelevant to VAR it is only being used in the PL, but for every decision that goes against you just as many go for you, that’s how it’s always been, now we’re stopping the game for 2-3 minutes and still coming up with the wrong decision. 

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12 hours ago, Palfy said:

The Millwall game is irrelevant to VAR it is only being used in the PL, but for every decision that goes against you just as many go for you, that’s how it’s always been, now we’re stopping the game for 2-3 minutes and still coming up with the wrong decision. 

It’s not irrelevant it was a wrong decision that could have been corrected by VAR should it have been in use. I think you’ll find VAR was being used at premier league home matches in the cup. 

To answer the other statement. We wait 2-3 mins a few times a game waiting for Richarlison (or others) to get treatment for dubious injuries. This 2/3 mins I agree is too long but get the ref to view the monitor and that’ll cut the time in half. I don’t mind waiting the time if the decision is correct.

I also truly believe (& I think it’s been proved in stats someone provide a season or two ago on here) that these decisions don’t in fact even themselves up and it’s a complete myth. If you say it enough times people believe it! 

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5 hours ago, barryj said:

It’s not irrelevant it was a wrong decision that could have been corrected by VAR should it have been in use. I think you’ll find VAR was being used at premier league home matches in the cup. 

To answer the other statement. We wait 2-3 mins a few times a game waiting for Richarlison (or others) to get treatment for dubious injuries. This 2/3 mins I agree is too long but get the ref to view the monitor and that’ll cut the time in half. I don’t mind waiting the time if the decision is correct.

I also truly believe (& I think it’s been proved in stats someone provide a season or two ago on here) that these decisions don’t in fact even themselves up and it’s a complete myth. If you say it enough times people believe it! 

I’ve never seen that stat but if a wrong decision is given then someone has had to gain and someone has had to lose by said decision, that is why they generally even themselves out over a season, I agree it’s not a complete science, and some may slightly benefit more than others, but neither is VAR a complete science although it was meant to be, it is still plagued with wrong decisions and long pauses in play. 
 

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Many have put out tables with VAR decisions being corrected. There have been loads of threads in the net with them. 

Didn't the last one put us 6th with decisions going the right way? Can’t remember if it was posted on here or linked to another post. 

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15 minutes ago, Shukes said:

Many have put out tables with VAR decisions being corrected. There have been loads of threads in the net with them. 

Didn't the last one put us 6th with decisions going the right way? Can’t remember if it was posted on here or linked to another post. 

Well you’ve just proven my point if VAR decisions aren’t going the right way then it doesn’t work. 
Also I suspect they only take into account decisions that went against you and don’t include the ones that went for you, because that would add a counter balance that doesn’t suit there argument. 
Let’s face it VAR doesn’t make the game better or fairer, because if it did we wouldn’t be having these discussions. 

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8 minutes ago, Palfy said:

Well you’ve just proven my point if VAR decisions aren’t going the right way then it doesn’t work. 
Also I suspect they only take into account decisions that went against you and don’t include the ones that went for you, because that would add a counter balance that doesn’t suit there argument. 
Let’s face it VAR doesn’t make the game better or fairer, because if it did we wouldn’t be having these discussions. 

Well no, I’ve proved my point haven’t I? 

Video evidence is factual Palf. It’s a bunch of stills is actual events. My point is that the tech works as it should. It’s the people looking at the replays and still getting it wrong where the problem is.

This is something that can be easily remedied. Let the referees look at the video and make the decision. Make clear guidelines when it is to be used. Make the actual laws of the game clear.

Again it’s a new technology in the premier league, it needs to learn the language of the game, it needs to learn the rules. It needs time.

Oh and the post that I was talking about went through all VAR decisions for all teams, and made a call on wether the decision was correct or incorrect. The conclusion for us, was that we had lost points due to bad decisions.

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9 minutes ago, Shukes said:

Well no, I’ve proved my point haven’t I? 

Video evidence is factual Palf. It’s a bunch of stills is actual events. My point is that the tech works as it should. It’s the people looking at the replays and still getting it wrong where the problem is.

This is something that can be easily remedied. Let the referees look at the video and make the decision. Make clear guidelines when it is to be used. Make the actual laws of the game clear.

Again it’s a new technology in the premier league, it needs to learn the language of the game, it needs to learn the rules. It needs time.

Oh and the post that I was talking about went through all VAR decisions for all teams, and made a call on wether the decision was correct or incorrect. The conclusion for us, was that we had lost points due to bad decisions.

Referees look at the video evidence, why would the ref on the pitch be less likely to make human errors? 
Wasn't that happening in the World Cup and they still made the wrong decision, and killed the momentum of the game doing so. 
Also you get player pressure on the ref to stop the game and review video evidence as we witnessed especially by teams under pressure who want to take the steam out of the game. 

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1 hour ago, Palfy said:

Referees look at the video evidence, why would the ref on the pitch be less likely to make human errors? 
Wasn't that happening in the World Cup and they still made the wrong decision, and killed the momentum of the game doing so. 
Also you get player pressure on the ref to stop the game and review video evidence as we witnessed especially by teams under pressure who want to take the steam out of the game. 

Whenever you have a human decision or room for interpretation there can be a mistake. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. VAR or no VAR there will be decisions people find questionable but all I want is the clear errors omitted. If I have to 30 seconds to rule out a goal that’s offside by 2-3 feet then so be it.  As I’ve said before I have to wait that long for some goal kicks (when time wasting) substitutions or injury treatment. 

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11 minutes ago, barryj said:

Whenever you have a human decision or room for interpretation there can be a mistake. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. VAR or no VAR there will be decisions people find questionable but all I want is the clear errors omitted. If I have to 30 seconds to rule out a goal that’s offside by 2-3 feet then so be it.  As I’ve said before I have to wait that long for some goal kicks (when time wasting) substitutions or injury treatment. 

I agree with you, but that is not how VAR is being used, every goal is being scrutinised every time the ball enters the area it’s been scrutinised for a possible handball, to award a penalty or disallow a goal, most goals that have been disallowed for offside have been farcical. 
 

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3 hours ago, Palfy said:

Referees look at the video evidence, why would the ref on the pitch be less likely to make human errors? 
Wasn't that happening in the World Cup and they still made the wrong decision, and killed the momentum of the game doing so. 
Also you get player pressure on the ref to stop the game and review video evidence as we witnessed especially by teams under pressure who want to take the steam out of the game. 

Because he uses his instinct and only uses VAR to confirm or correct his decision. 

Have you even watched any of them in the VAR room making a decision? They use it as a way to prove their ego at the moment, where an on field referee would use it to confirm the instinctual decision, or show them they got to wrong.

And I definitely disagree in the World Cup. Most of the decisions were correct there. No it wasn’t perfect but it was a hell of a lot better than its use on the premier league.

Palf, you need to see how it’s implemented in Rugby to see how it should be used. The Referee asks them to confirm his decision, or asks to confirm his suspicions. They don’t make the decision, the referee does.

Thats how it would be used.   

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1 minute ago, Shukes said:

Because he uses his instinct and only uses VAR to confirm or correct his decision. 

Have you even watched any of them in the VAR room making a decision? They use it as a way to prove their ego at the moment, where an on field referee would use it to confirm the instinctual decision, or show them they got to wrong.

And I definitely disagree in the World Cup. Most of the decisions were correct there. No it wasn’t perfect but it was a hell of a lot better than its use on the premier league.

Palf, you need to see how it’s implemented in Rugby to see how it should be used. The Referee asks them to confirm his decision, or asks to confirm his suspicions. They don’t make the decision, the referee does.

Thats how it would be used.   

And in Rugby you don’t get players surrounding the ref to refer to VAR like you do in football, the World Cup was the proof that that was what was happening, with players demanding he go to the screen to review a decision, with teams trying to take advantage of getting the game stopped so they could regain their shape when things were going against them. 
But you’re biggest problem it isn’t implemented like in Rugby and isn’t going to be. 

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1 minute ago, Palfy said:

And in Rugby you don’t get players surrounding the ref to refer to VAR like you do in football, the World Cup was the proof that that was what was happening, with players demanding he go to the screen to review a decision, with teams trying to take advantage of getting the game stopped so they could regain their shape when things were going against them. 
But you’re biggest problem it isn’t implemented like in Rugby and isn’t going to be. 

? That’s why you improve it and give the refs the tools to deal with it! Serious Palf, this is where it needs to be managed.

To he fair I see it a different way as I have had the benefit of holding a few managers positions in a few large company’s. If you can’t manage that, then your in the wrong position. This is where FIFA and UEFA, and our own FA, need to manage the situation. And they have the tools to do it.

You ever had a new system implemented at work? If you have then I’m not sure why we are still discussing this same argument haha.

It needs time and it needs work. Just like Kean, Gbamin, and Everton. 

Im good with you disagreeing mate. Don’t think we’ll get anywhere discussing anymore though.

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8 minutes ago, Shukes said:

? That’s why you improve it and give the refs the tools to deal with it! Serious Palf, this is where it needs to be managed.

To he fair I see it a different way as I have had the benefit of holding a few managers positions in a few large company’s. If you can’t manage that, then your in the wrong position. This is where FIFA and UEFA, and our own FA, need to manage the situation. And they have the tools to do it.

You ever had a new system implemented at work? If you have then I’m not sure why we are still discussing this same argument haha.

It needs time and it needs work. Just like Kean, Gbamin, and Everton. 

Im good with you disagreeing mate. Don’t think we’ll get anywhere discussing anymore though.

Fair enough. 

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My wife and I are big rugby league fans since we are from St Helen's. So we have been used to the big screen for a long time. It particularly frustrates my wife to watch VAR being used in football as there are quite a lot of restrictions for screen use in rugby.

The whole concept is not to disrupt the flow of the game but to get big decisions correct. Therefore the refs in rugby cannot use the screen to assess a forward pass and other minor infringements. It's the job of the linesman to get those calls correct, that's why they are there.

Again, in rugby, they have also got procedures for restarting the game. Whilst rugby is more suited to stop/start gameplay than football they still have rules in place for this.

In football, if the ref stops play to look at a penalty claim, they need to have a procedure to restart the game should it not be a penalty. It should be pretty simple as the ball should be considered out of play when stopped for the screen and then an appropriate corner/goalkick/freekick used to restart play.

VAR needs to have clear use procedures. Refs, players and fans all need to know when and where to expect to see VAR used. In my opinion it should ONLY be used to confirm if the ball crossed the line (tech already in use anyway) or if a penalty should be given.

Offsides, off the ball incidents, open play outside of the area etc should all be done to the referee and assistant's decisions on field

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The big problem ultimately with VAR is that the Premier League has applied a different rule set compared to the rest of the world.

The conspiracy theorist in me would say they have deliberately left the rules to be ambiguous so that they can easily manipulate the results of matches. When nobody can truly decide what is or isn't a handball then it leave the rules open for interpretation and manipulation.

For me, if the player has his arms in an unusual position then it is handball. The Dele Alli incident is exactly one of those. He had no business having his arm above his head and so contact was an infringement, deliberate or not. That, by the way, is EXACTLY how the rest of the world views the handball rule.

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3 hours ago, TallPaul1878 said:

The big problem ultimately with VAR is that the Premier League has applied a different rule set compared to the rest of the world.

The conspiracy theorist in me would say they have deliberately left the rules to be ambiguous so that they can easily manipulate the results of matches. When nobody can truly decide what is or isn't a handball then it leave the rules open for interpretation and manipulation.

For me, if the player has his arms in an unusual position then it is handball. The Dele Alli incident is exactly one of those. He had no business having his arm above his head and so contact was an infringement, deliberate or not. That, by the way, is EXACTLY how the rest of the world views the handball rule.

Spot on.  This article states the same, different rules and setup to everyone else is the reason it’s so poor.

 

https://www.espn.com/soccer/blog-marcottis-musings/story/3989588/var-has-become-a-hot-mess-in-the-premier-league-heres-how-to-fix-it

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20 hours ago, TallPaul1878 said:

Offsides, off the ball incidents, open play outside of the area etc should all be done to the referee and assistant's decisions on field

Agree with a lot of what you’ve said but I can’t agree on offsides. I couldn’t care less about one by 2 or 3 mm as I think there has to be a level of common sense but I do want technology used to rule a goal that’s offside where there is clear daylight between the defender and attacker. You can’t get any more clear cut than that and it’s not open to interpretation. 

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22 hours ago, barryj said:

Agree with a lot of what you’ve said but I can’t agree on offsides. I couldn’t care less about one by 2 or 3 mm as I think there has to be a level of common sense but I do want technology used to rule a goal that’s offside where there is clear daylight between the defender and attacker. You can’t get any more clear cut than that and it’s not open to interpretation. 

The linesman should be able to spot blatant offsides. Marginal offsides are often given the benefit of the doubt to the attacker. I don't think we have had that many issues that offside needs to be checked by VAR. Certainly not if it means stopping play. That's why I propose penalty box incidents only

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32 minutes ago, duncanmckenzieismagic said:

Behind paywall so...

There were times when Michael Branch craved anonymity as he tried to escape a past in which he had gone from being hailed as Everton’s answer to Robbie Fowler to serving 3½ years in prison for supplying drugs. “I was thinking of going back to my christening name — Paul Michael Branch — because I just wanted to forget about everything else,” he says. “I didn’t want people to judge me for one mistake. I thought it would help me move on. When I first came out of jail, I wouldn’t leave the house. I wouldn’t want to come to the game and the odd time I did, I would try and hide by wearing a cap.”

But Branch, now 41, has stuck with the middle name that earned him the right kind of fame when he burst on to the scene in the 1990s before his career crashed and burned. And now he is forging a new identity as a trainee accountant, counsellor, confidant and mentor. His story is powerful and poignant, but his determination to grasp his shot at redemption also uplifting.

Branch is back at Everton, working as part of their community team on a range of projects, from helping teenagers excluded from school back into mainstream education to doing 24-hour shifts at the club’s Home Is Where The Heart Is homeless facility.

The first time Branch submitted his CV for the position, he was overlooked for the job. But, having undertaken voluntary work at the club since May, he has now earned a full-time role. “This has saved me,” he says. “It is not just about me trying to help other people.”

He did not initially tell any of the youngsters — or, indeed, his staff colleagues — about his background, but let them find out naturally, by which time he had already built up a level of trust. Even without his time behind bars, Aigburth-born Branch’s rise and fall ensures he is well placed to pass on advice. He joined Everton aged nine with expectation swirling around the jet-heeled forward and spent time at Lilleshall, the FA’s one-time national school.

He made his debut aged 17 as a substitute against Manchester United at Old Trafford in February 1996, scored his first senior goal the next December in a 2-2 draw away to Chelsea and rumour has it that Wayne Rooney had posters of him on his bedroom wall.

Yet Branch’s last appearance for the club came in April 1999 when he started a 3-2 Merseyside derby defeat by Liverpool at Anfield, with the pressure of living up to his billing swallowing up a talent who could not turn to the sort of support network now in place at clubs for youngsters. A drop down through the leagues followed with moves to Wolverhampton Wanderers, Reading, Hull City, Bradford City, Chester City and Halifax Town.

He brings authenticity to his new job because of those experiences and has had an impact in preventing some youngsters from making wrong choices in their own lives. In the summer, after a Premier League “Kicks” session at Everton’s hub near Goodison Park, Branch was walking home when he came across two groups of lads threatening to stab each other. He managed to defuse the stand-off because of the relationships he had built up with some of those involved and the next day the situation was de-escalated further at a meeting at Everton.

“They just want to know about the football at first and then they will go home and google and find out about the other stuff then,” Branch, who has barely changed since his time in an unforgiving spotlight two decades ago, says. “They are just shocked. Shocked that I am here: ‘You played football, why are you doing this?’

“You speak to a lot of them and they say, ‘I just want to graft. I just want to sell drugs.’ They think there is nothing else out there for them. One of the toughest kids was screaming about wanting to harm staff here. I got talking to him, listening and slowly and surely he found out about me and then he was saying how his grandad used to watch me play.

“He is a good kid. I can see a change in him. He is no angel, but he has exited the programme and he has my work number if he ever needs to speak to anyone. He has been in a young offenders’ unit and he was talking to me about prison but not in a big, macho way. He is scared of going to prison and I’ve said, ‘Yes, you should be.’ My mistakes have helped me with these young kids because I am sure they are going to listen to me rather than someone who hasn’t been to prison.”

It was July 2012 when Branch’s world caved in. After a spell living in Australia, he had fallen into debt, the house he shared with his now former wife and three children was under threat of repossession and a downward spiral led to what he terms “the biggest mistake of his life” and one that would be played out in public. A court case heard how, in an effort to pay off his debts, he agreed to deliver amphetamines to a man in a pub car park. The drugs were later intercepted by the police and Branch said that as a result he was threatened into storing a block of cocaine worth £160,000 at his house. The police discovered it and he was sentenced to seven years at HM Prison Altcourse in Fazackerley, Merseyside.

“I know it is not right but unless someone is in that situation with a young family, you don’t know what you are capable of doing,” he says. “That’s the honest truth. On the day I was sentenced the prison van took a different route to normal. It stopped by the traffic lights outside the club shop. The side of the stand at Goodison was all lit up. Through the window of the van, I was looking up, thinking, ‘Where did it all go wrong?’ I was so gutted.

“Prison is the hardest thing in the world without a doubt. Scary. At first I am being asked, ‘Do I want to go on the numbers?’ [a section of the prison for those at risk of attack]. I don’t even know what ‘the numbers’ is. It is like with all the vulnerable people and I’m thinking, ‘Why am I going to be vulnerable?’

“It is in case you are targeted. That’s when it hit home. It gave me a lot of time to think. I got help for my mental health which I needed at a much younger age. Football was a different beast then. Old school. The wellbeing of the academy kids comes to the forefront now.

“I enjoyed Lilleshall and then I am supposed to be the next Robbie Fowler and it didn’t work out. I started to hate football. You wish you had never played football because it very quickly becomes negative if you are not scoring.”

Henry Mooney, from Everton In The Community, offered unflinching support and Sue Gregory, director of youth engagement, has been a source of constant encouragement.

Branch had once thought of quitting football altogether when falling out of favour at Wolves under Dave Jones and going into accountancy.

The PFA talked him out of it, suggesting he should pursue it at the end of his career, and just before his sentencing he had enrolled on a course and so continued with his plans.

“I had two ways,” he says. “I had to do 3½ years so I could either fight it, ‘Poor old me. I’m the victim. I shouldn’t be here. They only gave me this long because I played football’.

“Or, ‘OK, how can I make the best use of my time here? What can I do so that when I get out I don’t end up in that situation.’ I studied. While lads were on PlayStations, I studied. I got no trouble for it. If anything I got more respect off them. I remember doing my coursework and prison guards coming in and saying what are you doing that for, as if you are ever going to be an accountant. I was just like, ‘OK, we will see.’

“I also had counselling while I was away and loved it. I started reading counselling books and the counsellor said I should try it. I spoke to the PFA and did a course when I came out and it went from there. I just felt as though I hadn’t gone through everything to throw it away and not use it. Even coming out I have struggled massively with personal stuff, and financial stuff, but I would never go back into that now.”

Those skills are being put to everyday use. Branch is qualified to Association of Accounting Technicians level in accountancy, and is on day release from the club to top up his qualifications. He is putting together a programme of ten sessions on finance, for those in Everton’s house for the homeless.

Setting foot in Walton Prison to coach football to those prisoners on good behaviour has proved surreal. “It feels strange,” he says. “But in a good way because I have moved on.”

Next month Everton are taking a staff team to play there and when the fixture was arranged there was no shortage of comments. “One of the prisoners said, ‘Who are you playing for? Are you taking a half for us and a half for them?’ ”

His journey is far from complete. Branch wants to mentor at Everton’s academy, for example, but that he volunteered that comment shows how far he has come.

 

 

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36 minutes ago, duncanmckenzieismagic said:

I met Micheal at one of the schools nearby once. My 15 year old Niece asked if she could give him her number and he took it 😳 he was only young himself, but she was in uniform at the time. 

I was pretty disappointed.

 

edit: he was at wolves at the time.

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6 minutes ago, Shukes said:

I met Micheal at one of the schools nearby once. My 15 year old Niece asked if she could give him her number and he took it 😳 he was only young himself, but she was in uniform at the time. 

I was pretty disappointed.

 

edit: he was at wolves at the time.

That’s shocking to honest. 

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2 minutes ago, Palfy said:

That’s shocking to honest. 

Fifteen years ago, well before social media took hold and nasty stuff became commonplace. Maybe he just took the number because the lass asked him to (as a hero) and he binned it the moment he left with no intention of ever calling it; if he followed up and called her that's different obviously.....but Shukes made no mention of that happening.

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10 minutes ago, MikeO said:

Fifteen years ago, well before social media took hold and nasty stuff became commonplace. Maybe he just took the number because the lass asked him to (as a hero) and he binned it the moment he left with no intention of ever calling it; if he followed up and called her that's different obviously.....but Shukes made no mention of that happening.

I did ask her about the next time I saw her and she said he never rang.

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37 minutes ago, MikeO said:

Fifteen years ago, well before social media took hold and nasty stuff became commonplace. Maybe he just took the number because the lass asked him to (as a hero) and he binned it the moment he left with no intention of ever calling it; if he followed up and called her that's different obviously.....but Shukes made no mention of that happening.

Yeah maybe he didn’t want to upset her. 
And as Shukes confirmed no contact was made. 
Rightly or wrongly people have to be careful how they conduct themselves around children, if for their own protection against misunderstandings. 
I have a friend who’s daughter was in a swimming club about 4-5 years ago, and going there with his daughter on a regular basis he was asked if he would volunteer to help at training, he agreed had to have a check by the police to make sure he was of good character which he passed, then he had to attend 3 classes to teach him what he could do and not, signs to watch out for in certain situations. 
In the end he weighed up the pitfalls and didn’t help, because he felt it wasn’t risk worth taking, if some kid or the parents aimed a false accusation against him. 

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15 hours ago, TallPaul1878 said:

The linesman should be able to spot blatant offsides. Marginal offsides are often given the benefit of the doubt to the attacker. I don't think we have had that many issues that offside needs to be checked by VAR. Certainly not if it means stopping play. That's why I propose penalty box incidents only

That’s why we have VAR now they’ve been making mistakes for years. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking pre VAR there were no absolute shocking decisions.    

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6 hours ago, barryj said:

That’s why we have VAR now they’ve been making mistakes for years. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking pre VAR there were no absolute shocking decisions.    

Yes there were we know that, but VAR is more controversial in the way it makes it’s bad decisions. 
It’s so bad it’s been suggested we give it it’s own thread, I don’t recall people asking for a refereeing or linesman thread in the past, maybe because it worked better?

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8 hours ago, Palfy said:

Yes there were we know that, but VAR is more controversial in the way it makes it’s bad decisions. 
It’s so bad it’s been suggested we give it it’s own thread, I don’t recall people asking for a refereeing or linesman thread in the past, maybe because it worked better?

We had no alternative. 

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Weird thing is, 

were just as much in a top six battle as we are in a relegation battle.

4 points behind relegation place = relegation form.

4 points of sixth place = top six form?

tongue in cheek obviously, with serious undertones haha

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10 minutes ago, Shukes said:

Weird thing is, 

were just as much in a top six battle as we are in a relegation battle.

4 points behind relegation place = relegation form.

4 points of sixth place = top six form?

tongue in cheek obviously, with serious undertones haha

I know what you mean mate. It’s still salvageable, probably not for Silva, but if someone comes in it’s early enough to get us back in the running. 

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6 minutes ago, Shukes said:

Weird thing is, 

were just as much in a top six battle as we are in a relegation battle.

4 points behind relegation place = relegation form.

4 points of sixth place = top six form?

tongue in cheek obviously, with serious undertones haha

We have to thank Arsenal for their 96 minute equaliser,  or it would have been 3 from relegation with a nightmare December coming up. 
I know you were messing mate but I’m starting to feel very concerned, we cannot pretend we are too good to go down, you know that as well as most. 
We have the players to stay up we have the players to get in or near the top 6, we need someone to orchestrate it. 

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1 hour ago, Palfy said:

It was until the end when he said he preferred their tour, surely no right minded Utd fan would say that the mans a fool. 

I didn't watch it 'til the end.

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Norwich just gone 1-0 up, it’s getting worse for us by the hour, Arsenal just won a penalty and it’s saved, being retaken for encroachment and they score. 
Norwich just gone 2-1 up before half time, that hurts. 

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