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Would you reffing believe it!

NOBODY, but nobody, was a bigger pain to referees than little David Speedie. 

Now he wants to become one. Tired of being kicked by defenders, verballed and slagged off, Speedie, the original poacher, is now serious about turning gamekeeper. 

He has quit the professional game. Losing the battle against injury, and, attempting to live without exploding in anger and frustration at officials who, made his life a misery. 

This season, playing for Crawley Town - after a career that included Chelsea, Liverpool, Blackburn, Coventry, Southampton and Scotland - he had been suspended four times, after 12 bookings. 

That brought him before the beaks at the Football Association for a top level reprimand by men who never played the game at the highest level. 

The following day Speedie was booked again, for alleged misuse-use of his elbows. 

It was the final straw. He walked out of Crawley in disgust. 

Shambles 

Refusing to pay a club fine of pounds 500 he admitted: "I've finally had a belly full of referees. Some of the decisions made these days are turning the game into a shambles." 

He has time on his hands now, to reflect about his 12-club career. When his scowling face, and furrowed brow creased in aggravation, he became as well known as the goals he constantly plundered. 

He's writing a book now "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", chronicling the life and times of football's little firebrand. 

A spitfire striker who loved the game, still does, and now wants to put something back into it. His own knowledge and experience, a genuine desire to stay involved. To strike a blow for all ex-pros. 

He says: "I'm not a nasty person. But I did give 100 per cent as a player. It was the only way I knew how to play." 

For Speedie came up the hard way, a rebel with a cause from a working class background. Whose home he remembers was so cold as a kid, there would be as much frost on the windows inside his bedroom as outside. 

That why when he made it, he never took anything for granted, and even when earning big money, and enjoying the life of a successful professional, he played his heart out. 

"I never went out to hurt anybody, never started the rough stuff," he goes on. 

"Of course I had to protect myself, but I find it sad, and it hurts that I have a reputation for all the wrong reasons." 

But it is a fact that Speedo likes to bunny. When he's wound up, he doesn't just chat away, but gives his fair share of the verbals. 

It got him into trouble. And he got sick of being picked out, on the pitch and off it. 

Called all manner of sneering insults, he couldn't handle it - and sometimes retaliated. 

A Scot who wore his passion on his sleeve he wouldn't just stand there and let some pub braggart provoke him. 

During games he had stirring battles. One ex-Everton defender spat at him, and broke three ribs. Speedie retaliated by splattering his attackers nose all over his face. 

He might have lacked inches, but never courage. He was the original Braveheart. 

He was punched to the ground by the opposition goalkeeper in a play- off match for Leicester, got the winning goal, then found himself sent off, missing the Wembley final because of suspension. 

"I could tell some stories," he grins. About the really hard men in the game." 

At Chelsea he began his partnership with Kerry Dixon by getting involved in a dressing room punch-up with him. 

It ended with them emerging as one of the club's most productive scoring partnerships. 

Today they are firm friends who think the world of each other. 

For that's Speedie. You get what you see. A committed footballer, a decent bloke. Good company, warm and kind. Yes, really! 

A sawn-off shotgun of a man, who knew he could play, and wasn't slow to let defenders know it. 

Then there was the booze. He admits that once his career went into retreat, he started to drink too much. 

He came close he believes, to becoming an alcoholic, a dangerous addiction when you already have a hair trigger temperament. 

Temper 

With Speedo it was always beer. Rarely the hard stuff. Now he rarely touches it. Perhaps a shandy if he's out with wife Joanne. 

He played for Scotland with distinction, blazingly honest enough to recall that pulling on the blue jersey with the Lion rampart on his chest made his heart beat like a trip hammer. 

But he was cruelly axed by Alex Ferguson from the World Cup squad that went to Mexico in 1986. 

He may not know it, but it was on Sir Alf Ramsey's say so. Ferguson, then the Scots boss, made a trip to Ipswich to pick Alf's brains about conditions and climate in South America. 

Alf told him: "Don't take Speedie . . . he'll cause you problems." 

Now, at 36, Speedo can look back on an explosive career. 

A player who lived on the edge of expectation, who walked a tight rope between temper and talent. 

He's got a left knee now held together by staples, sellotape and other bits and pieces. 

"The knee was purgatory to play on, I needed injections to just get out on the pitch. Sometimes I was bullied to get fit. To get out and play," he says. 

Now he wants to stay in the game and goes on: "I'd love to train as a referee. 

"And I'm better qualified than most of today's officials. At least a former pro would be able to tell the difference between an over- the-top tackle and a genuine attempt to play the ball. 

"Or between a deliberate elbow and an innocent jump. 

"And if I waved a yellow card at someone, they could hardly turn around and ask me what the hell I knew about it. 

"I got more yellow cards than Christmas cards this season. Once a player has got a reputation it's very hard for him to lose it. 

"Some League refs have admitted to me in the past they have given decisions against a team, or a player, simply because they didn't like them." 

He's seen it all, done it all, and goes on: "I've always had a bad reputation, and people who get to know the real me are shocked when they discover I'm not an ****hole 

"And that has taught me not to be influenced by reputations which is something referees seem to have trouble with. 

"Of course the game needs rules set out in stone, but people need to be able to interpret things their own way. 

"I know I got myself a bad name but it's a vicious circle. By the time I started playing non-League it had become just ludicrous. 

"Half my bookings with Crawley have been because an amateur referee wants to go into work the next morning, and tell his mates: "Guess who I booked last night." 

"But I'd be well pleased if some professional player going got home and said to his Mrs in the future: "Guess who has just booked me." 

So how would referee Speedie handle David Speedie on the pitch? 

"Easy" he says. "I'd just say shut your mouth and stop moaning, you whining little so and so."

Copyright - Daily Mirror

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