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Sit Down With: Ed Boswell


Photo courtesy of Ed Boswell

You are sat in the stands watching your team, eager and anticipating their next goal and you can feel the tension building in every bone and sinew that is in your body. But what if the game stops... and there's a pause... and then suddenly out of nowhere you hear your name being called for, and the game you have become fully engrossed in may not be able to continue without you personally? For this Sit Down interview, we meet with the Millwall supporting, Junior Lions co-ordinating, and sometimes emergency EFL Championship Fourth Official, Ed Boswell and ask him his work behind the scenes at the club, how it felt to be called pitch side and hear more about his love of music and T-Rex...

 

1. Ed, great to talk with you today! First things first, how has the new season been for you behind the scenes?

It’s a pleasure to have been asked to talk – especially after some of the people you’ve already spoken to!

This season is a bit different but it’s going okay so far. We’ve had to adapt to a few changes on match days due to Covid-19 measures, which has changed how we work with Mascots (and ball boys/ballgirls to some extent) but we’ve looked at how we can counteract those changes to still make it enjoyable for the kids as best we can. One of the biggest changes has been that we can’t take the mascots down the tunnel or in the dressing room at the moment, but what they get now is photos (taken by the club photographer, Brian Tonks) with all the players as they come off after the pre-match warm up, which is a great memory to have of the day. Okay it isn’t the same of course, but we’re doing what we can to try and make it a memorable day still.

2. At The Den, you work closely with the Junior Lions and are a liaison point for them. How did that all come about and how did you secure the role?

When I was younger my sister was part of the Junior Lions Committee working on match days, and I used to be a ball boy for some games. In time, as I got older, I started helping a bit more on match days, and took over the running of the junior lions website as a techy minded teenager/college student. I used to get a lot of support with this at first from Merv Payne – his company hosted the website for many years before the club took it over.


My sister eventually stopped working on match days due to her own work commitments and a few years later I was formally voted onto the committee. Fast forward to today and I’m still around, working with some fantastic people! Anyone who has been a ball boy or ballgirl in the last 30+ years will know Bob Millward – he’s run things since The Old Den, and if you/your child has been a Mascot in the last 20 or so years you’ll have come across Wayne Millward (or even myself or Jay Sproul!), and more recently you’ll have come across various other volunteers from the committee too. We also work closely with Shona Groves, and she’s been fantastic since she started as SLO.

On match days you’ll either find me helping with the ball boys/ball girls, or with the mascots pitch side. Hopefully at some point in the future you’ll also see me back in the stands looking for kids for the half time relay!

3. You also contribute towards the match day programme when Millwall are at home, so although behind the scenes, people can see some of the work you do. How does it feel having your work in the programme?

I remember buying a copy of the first programme I’d been involved in – as a kid I’d always read the Junior Lions page, so to see what I’d worked on be published was quite a proud moment. It’s quite a good feeling when some of the more time-consuming parts of the page are included too (I know sometimes Mark has to trim down some of the content!) such as the Spot the Difference, Wordsearches etc, although I did accidentally once send an impossible crossword where there were more boxes than possible letters for one answer…!

There are two of us that work on the Junior Lions page now (myself and Jay Sproul) and we try to mix up the content a bit, so I can’t claim all the credit. Always welcoming new ideas for the page too!



Photo courtesy of Ed Boswell

4. Are you are a Millwall fan, or do you come from a Millwall family? If not, who do you follow?

I am a Millwall fan - Millwall runs in the family on my mum’s side. My nan was born very close to where The Den is now, and she and my grandad used to be season ticket holders until a few years ago, along with my uncle, mum, and oldest sister. My other sister used to come to the occasional game when she could too, and she’s just become a mum, so we’ve got the next generation of Millwall in the family now (despite his dad being a Yeovil fan!)

I do keep an eye out for Tranmere Rovers though, my dad’s team (he’s from Birkenhead), and had a couple of trips to Wembley in the Playoffs with them a few years ago. Definitely not the same as Wembley with Millwall though!

5. Tell us some of the funniest stories you have had working with the Junior Lions?

Not so much a funny story but I can recall a couple of funny incidents with the half time relay races we used to do a few seasons ago (which we hope we can restart again at some point!)


There was one race where the Junior Lions had fallen behind, so Zampa stepped in and “stopped” an away kid from winning. It went down well with our crowd, although the away end wasn’t too happy!! There are occasionally some younger kids that want to take part and it’s great how the crowd gets behind them, even if they do sometimes end up going the wrong way (or in one case we had a kid who just wouldn’t stop!)

6. Along with this role, you also are a qualified referee. What got you into the world of match officiating and how long have you been doing it now?

This goes back to when I was at school – I was never a good footballer (I still remember being the only kid not picked for the school team), but I loved the game, so it was always frustrating not having the skill of some of my mates, and seeing them get picked to play in school matches etc. One day I asked my teacher if I could referee in PE instead of play, and he agreed to give it a go. I really enjoyed it so I asked if I could do it again in the next lesson, and a few more after that.

My headteacher was also a referee (as were the two before him!), and after a quick chat with him he said the school would happily pay for me to go on The FA Referee course. After I passed my training, I discovered I knew a few other referees at Millwall (you’d be surprised how many Millwall fans are referees!), started doing a few more matches and getting more experience, and 16 years later I’ve officiated in some fantastic matches, including at The Den, The Valley, Champion Hill, and even Wembley (an incredible experience). I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great referees too, including former FIFA Assistant Referee Steve Child – one of the nicest guys in refereeing.

7. How has the role of being a referee helped you with Millwall and assisting with their match officials for their academy fixtures?

I first got involved with Millwall as a referee doing the odd academy game, and then quite a few years ago Millwall partnered with London FA to open a Referee Academy, with the aim to develop new and young referees alongside the Millwall youth players. I continued refereeing and mixed in a bit of mentoring, and when the academy referee director changed, I started doing a bit more mentoring and then a bit of the administrative side in appointing referees to matches.

A few seasons ago I was asked to step in as referee director after my predecessor stepped down, and although it involves getting up early most Sundays, it’s an incredibly rewarding role watching referees develop, as well as watching the future of Millwall playing each week. I’ve got a small team of referee mentors who come down on match days when they can too, and we provide feedback during the match to referees on where they can improve and highlight what’s working well too.

I’ve also built up some good relationships with the academy coaching staff over the years too – we’re lucky to have a lot of great coaches in our youth setup such as Kenny Brown our academy head of coaching, Andy Massey, Chris Parr, Paul Palmer, and so many more who are doing such great work with the players.

We’re always looking for new referees too. It’s a good way to keep fit, stay involved in the game, meet different people, and earn a little bit of money too. If you fancy it, have a look at https://www.londonfa.com/referees/get-into-refereeing

8. A few seasons ago, your name was asked for over the tannoy, and next thing you know you are the fourth official for the game. What happened?

That was certainly a day I won’t forget in a hurry (12 January 2019 – Millwall v Blackburn). The referee had picked up an injury part way through the first half and couldn’t continue. The club put an announcement out originally asking me to go to the tunnel at Half Time, although I then got a message asking me to go down sooner. Next thing I know I’m with the referee, who definitely couldn’t continue, and the 4th Official was now refereeing. Quick scramble to pull some kit together and I’m now the “new” 4th Official. The game was televised on Sky Sports too, and not long into the second half I appeared on the big screen with my name flashing up below me! I lost count of how many times I was sent a paused version of it from friends and family watching the game.

That was actually the second time I’d been called to be on standby that season – just 2 months earlier a referee was taken ill before kick off (Millwall v Bolton), but one of the Assistants had spotted a referee he knew in the crowd (a friend of mine, Steve Perry). He started the game as the new 4th official, but then the referee got injured, so Steve ended up as an Assistant Referee, and I got a call to be 4th official!

A few years prior to that I was also a standby official for Millwall v Shrewsbury (another referee injury!) – I remember standing by the tunnel as Ben Thompson scored an absolute screamer, which won Goal of the Season. I couldn’t celebrate as I was now one of the officials!

9. How nervous were you to take that position at such short notice?

It was a bit nerve wracking at first – my first action was a Half Time substitution, so I didn’t want to get the numbers wrong on the board. Nerves weren’t helped a few minutes after when I appeared on the big screen(!) but I quickly settled down after that. A lot of the squad know me from my match day role, so I had a bit of a laugh with them, and the referee on the day was really good – he’s been back a couple of times since then and we always have a quick chat, but he’s now on the Premier League so may not see him as much anymore.

That game is also probably one of the only times a manager has been able to change their mind on a sub and shout to the 4th official “No wait, change it to Mezza” instead of giving a name & number!

10. Final question, it’s been great with fans back, even for referees, so how has it felt for you being back in The Den, and where do you hope the team can go from here?

It’s been great to be back, although I must confess, I’ve missed a couple of games as I play in a band who tour the country, but the first game back felt amazing to be in the stands with a crowd, and it’s been so good to see people that I hadn’t seen since February 2020. In terms of the team, we’re getting some decent results and I think we’ve surprised a few people (including ourselves!). Playoffs could be a realistic target this season!

Just before I go, I’m going to be cheeky and take this opportunity for an absolutely shameless plug for the band too (sorry!) – we’re called Telegram Sam, and we are a tribute to Marc Bolan and T.Rex. We’re playing in Chislehurst at the Beaverwood Club on 25 November so come on down if you fancy a night out with some great music! You can find out more about us and details of our shows at www.telegramsamband.com (or on facebook/Instagram, search for Telegram Sam)

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