Mansfield’s ‘Chuckle Brothers’ Dave Plowright and Ian Dudley call it a day

For the first time in many years a new football season is in full swing without 'Mansfield's Chuckle Brothers', refereeing duo Dave Plowright and Ian Dudley, who have hung up their boots from the professional game.

By John Lomas
Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 1:08 pm
Dave Plowright, third from left, and Ian Dudley, second from right, flank Howard Webb.
Dave Plowright, third from left, and Ian Dudley, second from right, flank Howard Webb.

Both Plowright, 47, of Clipstone, and Dudley, 50, from Rainworth, refereed at Conference North and South level but ran the line in many big Championships games and FA Cup ties at big grounds and had to deal with some of the biggest names in the domestic game.

On the ' Mansfield Chuckle Brothers' label, Plowright said: “It just came from people on the circuit knowing if we were together we always had a laugh and joke.”

“I tell jokes and Dave laughs,” was Dudley's take.

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Plowright followed in the refereeing footsteps of his dad and brother, starting in the Mansfield Youth League and working his way up to linesman in both EFL and Conference National. “I did the line on many Championship games and I can remember an FA Cup tie at Fulham which was a great atmosphere in an old fashioned football stadium,” he said.

“I also refereed 45 minutes in a Football League game when the referee got injured at Coventry City v Crewe Alexandra which was a great experience. I settled in well, awarding a penalty after six minutes!

Plowright ended up doing 33 years, 11 in the Football League.

Not surprisingly, he said Neil Warnock and Steve Evans were the hardest managers to deal with.

“Of course Neil Warnock has everyone and everything against him, but the good thing about Neil was, no matter what, he’d always shake hands and thank you after he’d had his blast in the dressing room,” he said.

“Steve Evans is a passionate manager who likes to express his opinions. But I had a good relationship with him once he became Mansfield manager so that helped on future games when he moved on to Peterborough and Gillingham.

“The best managers were those that could talk and understand our point of view and accept we get one view and that we make mistakes.”

His years in the game have given Plowright many great memories.

“I can remember forgetting my League tie at Oxford United, so the referee told the other three officials to remove theirs so we were a team and I didn’t stand out – teamwork!

“I can also remember the sprinklers being turned on and getting soaked during pre-match instructions at Birmingham City, also being tackled on the line and having to come off injured at Walsall to the amusement of the crowd, and being mocked for 45 minutes by a bare-chested big belly Blackpool fan with a LGBT flag, who mirrored me along the front of the stand to the amusement of the crowd

“There was also an elderly lady who gave me abuse for ruling out a winning goal for Scunthorpe v Derby. She waited over 45 minutes after the game until we left and let me know I’d ruined her day and she'd spent all her pension on the game!

Why would anyone go into a job they get abused in all the time?

“Unfortunately without referees we have no games and we have a massive shortage of officials,” he said. “But it's a great career for any young person wanting to get involved in the game.

“Those starting in youth football are protected more with safeguarding and Charter Standard clubs. “The older the players and senior football then abuse can be bad and it’s always the referee’s fault. Respect is getting worse, but so is society.”

He added: “The media, especially TV, don’t help this, but they want controversy as it makes good TV. Players and managers make mistakes, but all the focus goes on officials. We are only human, yet it seems okay to abuse us week in week out and this spreads down to grassroots football.”

Dudley added: “When I first started refereeing it used to bother me, but as I got older and developed broader shoulders I learned to shut it out.

“I do believe 15 years ago we were respected a lot more. In today's game you get players going mad over a throw-in on the halfway line! They see it on TV and think they can do the same.”

Dudley did 26 years as an official, 12 in the EFL.

“I used to play football and wanted to play at the best grounds possible,” he said. “Then referee Pete Lang told me to take a referee course and in five years I would be at this level as a referee

“I started refereeing Sunday League and worked my way up to the EFL line and refereeing Conference North and South. I was eventually assistant for a Johnstone's Paint Trophy final at Wembley and referee for the Northern Premier League play-off semi-final between Chorley and FC United.”

His nightmares were Neil Warnock and Craig Bellamy

“Neil Warnock was hard work as he was never wrong, even after watching video replays that proved he was wrong he would still be correct and would argue in the dressing room for 20 minutes – his allocated time,” he said.

“Craig Bellamy was always offside and moaned from the first minute to the last. He was never polite to you on the pitch.”

Plowright said he had retired as his body was telling him enough was enough while Dudley has retired due to a change in job role. Plowright remains involved as FA referee developer, FA CORE referee developer and chairman of Newark Referees while Dudley is chairman of Mansfield Referees and still refereeing in local leagues​​​​.