A statement released today by Football League CEO Shaun Harvey reads: “Following the outstanding performance of our highly-valued match official Graham Salisbury in the Leeds United versus Brentford Championship fixture, the Football League is delighted to announce that Mr. Salisbury is to be awarded honorary admission, forthwith and with immediate effect, into the “Ray Tinkler Hall of Fame“.
This is a move almost unprecedented in the history of the game; such an elevation into the ranks of match officials most highly regarded by the League normally takes place only in recognition of achievements over a whole career – as with Howard Webb, Mike Riley and Mike Dean of Man Utd. Previous exceptional cases have included two accolades awarded to foreign referees, both for outstanding conduct in European Finals involving Leeds. Christos Michas (1973, ECWC Final, Salonika, Greece) and Michel Kitabdjian (1975, European Cup Final, Parc des Princes, Paris, France) were given honorary membership of the Tinkler Hall of Fame after going above and beyond the call of duty in each case to ensure defeat for The Damned United. Both men sacrificed their careers to stop Leeds winning the trophies concerned. The requirements for The Ray Tinkler Hall of Fame are simply that exacting.
League spokesman Ivor Whytes-Grudge was happy to elaborate on the Salisbury accolade. “Yes, we know that this is unusual, to say the least,” admitted an excited Ivor, “but Mr. Salisbury really exceeded all our expectations today. Greater love hath no man than this: that he should lay down his very reputation and integrity for a cause we all hold dear,” he added, solemnly.
So, what has the newly-honoured Salisbury actually done to deserve such a signal honour? “Are you actually kidding??” ejaculated an increasingly emotional Whytes-Grudge. “Did you see what Graham did to that beastly club today? Why, he pretty much single-handedly ensured their defeat to Brentford. You got the feeling that he wouldn’t stoop to giving Leeds a penalty even if one of their attackers had been cynically murdered inside the box. Now that’s what we call good refereeing – and how!”
Mr Salisbury himself was typically modest after the match, insisting on sharing the credit with his officials. “Yes, I was brilliant,” he quipped, his eyes twinkling. “I sorted Leeds out good and proper, didn’t I?? But think on – if my assistants had flagged for a penalty – as they would have to have done, for any other team – well, I’d have been in a very awkward position. But my colleagues were superb, they backed me to the hilt – and we’ve pulled off a famous victory. And the thought of even being mentioned in the same breath as “Sir” Ray Tinkler – the referee all of we modern officials look up to and revere – well, there’s just no greater honour. What’s integrity and honesty, compared to that?? You can stick ’em, quite frankly.”
The League have confirmed that they hope to appoint this official for other Leeds games this season. “He’s the man for the job, isn’t he?” purred an admiring Ivor Whytes-Grudge. “Shaun simply adores him.”
Meanwhile, our Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything matchday correspondent, “Mutton” Jeff, reported from Elland Road that the Leeds reaction to today’s referee was surprisingly favourable. “A prominent member of the United management team told me he thought Mr Salisbury conducted himself like “a real Count” and that he was just what they’d been expecting”, said our man on the spot, who has a slight cold. So that’s ok then… Unbelievable, Jeff.
Graham Salisbury is grossly, irretrievably, bent.