Build up to a game – Alastair Grieve

My name is Alastair Grieve and as recent as this season I was promoted to the senior list of referee’s within Scottish Football. This involved hard work both on and off the pitch with a number of hours away from the game working on fitness and attending coaching meetings and relevant training days. Being a Category 3 referee means that every cycle of appointments, I carry out assistant referee duties at senior football in Scotland. My season so far has included Cowdenbeath, Annan, Clyde, East Fife and Montrose. I was involved in the opening day of the season at East Fife when they unfurled the League 2 Championship Flag from the season previous. This was an excellent reward for my hard work. Not only do I carry out assistant referee duties, every other Saturday I referee in the East Region Junior Football and Lowland League. This has seen me referee Linlithgow Rose, East Stirling, Camelon Juniors and Sauchie Juniors. Each game presenting its own challenging experience. Getting to this level has come as a surprise as I have only been refereeing since 2012 however I have worked hard at keeping fit and maintaining my knowledge of the laws of football. As a category 3 I have a number of fitness tests to pass throughout the season and are closely watched by the SFA who provide excellent support and assistance throughout whether it be questions on matches or indeed on how to improve my fitness.


A typical week for me begins with a training session on a Monday. That usually begins with a warm up followed by interval training similar to the strain placed on me during a match. The new fitness test for refereeing will consist of working for 15 seconds high intensity with a 20 second recovery. Therefore, in training I reduce my recovery to 15 seconds to overload and improve fitness. Moving onto a Tuesday. There is an air of excitement each Tuesday and I usually wake up to a number of Whatsapp messages telling me that is Appointments day. This is the day that the SFA appoint referees for the forthcoming week. I always wait with anticipation to find where I am travelling to at the weekend. Last Week (11/10/2016) the email appeared just before midday………….Montrose v Elgin. I was assistant referee 2. Immediately I was excited and loaded up google maps to find out how I actually get to Elgin. 192 mile round trip and I was not bothered in the slightest, this was another step in my refereeing career and allowed me to work with different referees and see a different stadium. I then quickly concentrate back to my week ahead.


Each Tuesday evening, I train with my referee association (Stirlingshire) at Grangemouth Sports Centre. It is indoor and taken by our esteemed trainer Lex. Lex has carried out this role longer than I have been alive and therefore is excellent for advice and guidance. Training on a Tuesday allows all the referees to get together, joke and discuss the previous games. However, the chat very quickly moves onto our appointments for the forthcoming weekend, I must add whilst we still have the breath to talk. The training is hard and I remember thinking before I became a referee that my fitness wasn’t too bad. That was very quickly knocked from me at my first training night when Lex told us 1 to 9. Training finishes around 9pm, then its quickly changed. If you take your time you will find the joker of the pack Craig Charleston up to no good.


Moving onto a Wednesday, this can vary each week from a gentle recovery run to a tough training session depending on my availability throughout the week. If I choose a training session then I would usually add hill runs to a run, increasing my heart rate and working hard. Hill runs would usually include some backwards running, similar to movement during a match. Then it’s a soak in the bath and a protein shake. With training, I also have to factor in games during the week which take place throughout the season.


Then I am on to a Thursday. This usually consists of running box to box on a football park. Doing the first ten runs in 15 seconds with a 15 second rest, then after ten run up and down in 30 seconds with a 30 seconds rest before going up and down three times in 45 seconds and doing that in 45 seconds with 45 seconds rest. Then it’s a gentle run home. Friday before a match, I rest and make sure all my kit is prepared for the match on Saturday. This includes charging my GPS watch, making sure I have enough match cards for administration, all my kit is in good condition and my boots and trainers are clean. I then usually leave my bag near the front door for the following day………..match day!


I mentioned my appointment for the 15th October being Montrose V Elgin. My Saturday began with my alarm going off at 9.15am. I woke up and after having a shave and organising myself with porridge for breakfast with a banana and a protein shake, I double checked my bag. Everything was there and my excitement built as I got my shirt and tie on to travel to the match. The weather was horrible, cold and wet yet this was not going to affect my mood. I left for Montrose at 10.45am, grabbing a coffee for my journey. I was aware that I should get to Montrose earlier than I needed to be however I was not wanting the stress of being late. I was right………I arrived in Montrose at 12.45pm and with it still being cold and wet, I had a walk through the deserted high street to find a café. I managed to grab some soup before heading to the Stadium for 1.30pm.


At the ground I met the match referee and the other assistant referee. We spent time together in the dressing room before carrying a pitch inspection. After team colours were double checked and our kit was confirmed it was down to business. In the dressing room the pre-match instructions are given with team work being the fundamental focus. All kit is checked from buzzer flags to the communication kit that allows us to talk throughout the match. Around 35 minutes prior to kick off, we make our way onto the pitch for our warm up. It was certainly needed as it was still cold and very wet. Around 15 minutes prior to kick off, we returned to the dressing room and prepared for kick off. Communication kit was on, match kit was ready and we shook hands before we headed to get the teams. I prepared the home side, Montrose and led them out to the tunnel. It was minutes to kick off as the match officials led the teams to the pitch. After the relevant handshakes it was down to business.


The match went well from a referee perspective. Even the rain managed to stop midway through the first half. After a sandwich and biscuit, I bid farewell to the other officials and it was the drive home. This is always harder than the drive there however It was nice knowing that the hard work leading to the match and the performance on the day was one to be happy about.


Sunday arrives and it’s a day of rest before Monday comes and it all begins again………….