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Know Thy Enemy: Uriah Rennie

Uriah get's in Fergie's grill

Younger fans of the Premier League might not remember the imposing figure of former Premier League referee Uriah Rennie. However, for football fans up and down the country, they are unlikely to forget the 6ft 2in, 16st colossus. Rennie was the first referee to look like he could beat-up the vast majority of the players he was refereeing, and footballers quickly realised that he was not one to be messed with. However, the glamour and prestige of refereeing at the top level appeared to go to Uriah’s head, and quickly, Rennie became the scourge of players, managers and fans alike, as his dramatic and theatrical refereeing became infamous.

Rennie was lambasted for his over-elaborate pre-match warm-up, where, the Daily Mail reported, Uriah had the audacity to kick his legs high into the air, as well as completing shuttle runs. As legend has it, Uriah would wait until the stadium was almost full, and then begin his warm-up… What a showman.

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In Uriah’s debut season in 1997/98, Sportsmail awarded Uriah their prestigious Whistleblower award for the best performance by an official over the campaign. It appeared Rennie had the world at his feet, or at least the Daily Mail on its knees. However, the newspaper that had built Uriah up in 1997/98 was then ready to knock him back down in 2000 in an article titled ‘Was he too flash?’, as Uriah was relegated from Premier League refereeing. David McDonnell suggested Uriah’s:

‘Impregnable self-confidence soon became interpreted as arrogance’.

To be fair, Rennie, Dave from the Mail had a point. How many referees had or have their own boot deal? Uriah was then signed up with FILA. Further, fellow referees were apparently insisting that his Rennie’s high profile could “threaten unity and strength of purpose” – basically they were upset they had no boot deal.

There were also grumblings that Rennie treated the players with disrespect. Former Norwich boss Peter Grant hit out at Rennie in December 2006, exclaiming to the BBC that:

“It’s scandalous the way he talks to players.

“He shows them no respect, and yet expects respect back. With this referee it’s all about him.

“People come to watch the players and be entertained, not to watch the referee.”

The idea that Uriah was a bit of an attention seeker was also suggested by Adam Catterall, a Preston North End stadium announcer, who told the crowd at the beginning of the second half of a Championship match in November 2006 to:

“Enjoy the second half of the Uriah Rennie show.”

Newcastle United and Alan Shearer certainly have no love lost for Rennie either. The official sent Alan Shearer off at St James’ Park on the opening day of Ruud Gullit’s ill-fated reign as manager, accusing the former England captain of excessive use of the elbow. However, it was implied, once again by former Rennie cheer leaders the Daily Mail, that Rennie had sent Shearer off because he wanted to show who everyone who was boss.

Rennie had to hang up his FILA sponsored boots at the end of last season owing to injury, but his legacy as a tough, imposing showman lives on in his successor Howard Web. Like Rennie, Webb is absolutely stacked, and afte3r being praised in his formative years, is now regularly slated by Sportsmail referee expert Graham Poll…

You can find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mark0turner

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