Offside’s Premier League A-Z: L is for linesmen

L is for linesmen…

Perhaps even more so than the referee, the linesman is an official who undertakes their work on the front line of football.

As they shuttle up and down the field with their billowing flags, offside calls and hand-to-ear, hand-over-mouth exchanges of information from their angle of the latest contentious decision, they are placed up against the raging crowds just metres behind them.

Mark Leech: A linesman trudges over the mud at Selhurst Park.
Mark Leech: A linesman trudges over the mud at Selhurst Park.

Referees can escape into middle of the pitch. Linesmen (and women, of course) enjoy no such luxury. They run along an invisible track from one corner to the half-way line, constantly checking the geometry of the play for violations or off-the-ball incidents missed by their leader.

Marc Atkins: Eto'o jokes with the assistant as he falls to his feet.
Marc Atkins: Eto’o jokes with the assistant as he falls to his feet.

Yet there’s an argument that their role as assistants rather than  ultimate decision makers allows fans to  praise them more than the evil authoritarian stalking the field with their cards and whistle.

Mark Leech: Sian Massey receives abuse from Wigan fans.
Mark Leech: Sian Massey receives abuse from Wigan fans.

A great offside call made from an impossible viewing angle can be savoured like a great save by fans on both sides so  long as the rivalry between them isn’t too fierce. Similarly,  when a linesman intervenes to educate their on-field leader over the true details of an indiscretion they missed or misunderstood, they are more often than not lauded.

Mark Leech: Di Canio kisses the linesman.
Mark Leech: Di Canio kisses the linesman.

They hold a special place in the game that some people perhaps aren’t even aware of, at least not consciously, but their value doesn’t always go missed by the footballers themselves.

Mark Leech: Ravanelli rages at the linesman.
Mark Leech: Ravanelli rages at the linesman.

So here’s to the assistants running the lines this coming season, and the amazing, miraculous offside decisions, justice-settling observations and inevitable errors that will add to the drama.

Offside is the UK’s leading independent sports photography agency, home to an extensive collection of classic First Division and Premier League pictures as well as other images from across the world of sport. Explore Offside’s unique library at www.welloffside.com.

Follow Offside on Twitter at @welloffside.

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Author: gregianjohnson

Football writer for The Blizzard, FourFourTwo, The Mirror, Squawka and VICE amongst others. Follow me on Twitter at @gregianjohnson.

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