If in sporting terms the international professional fixture is the peak of civilization, then the amateur club game is the wild frontier. Perhaps that is why the further down the sporting ladder you go the more likelihood there is of summary justice.
At the Doctor Pit Welfare Ground in Bedlington a few years ago I saw a salutary example of this. As a Bedlington player ran onto a long through ball the linesman raised his flag. Incensed, a home supporter who was a few yards away from him, leaning on the perimeter fence, yelled, “Bollocks, man! That was never offside”.
The linesman, an individual so large he might have worn a portaloo as a warm-up coat, turned round, fixed the complainant with the sort of steely glare that has “no messing” printed all over it in bold type and growled, “You’re talking total shite, sunshine”. After that, criticism of the linesman’s decisions was confined to mild nose wrinkling and the occasional short burst of eye rolling, though only when his back was turned, obviously.
The point here is, that while it’s easy to pour abuse on an official or a player from the anonymity of a huge crowd (or indeed a newspaper column), when you’re aware that your accusations that the centre-half "Couldn't catch wor lass - and she waits for men” may be put to the test when he vaults over the rail and chases you down the street, you think twice about it, I can tell you.