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What life is like in the middle – Part 1
Monday 19th January 2015 @ 16:07 by Mark Phillip

Referees are often the focal point of foul mouthed abuse, but according to Pete Tyldesley, it’s just part of the modern game.

Pete's most memorable game came at Sheffield Wednesday's, Hillsborough Stadium.

Pete’s most memorable game came at Sheffield Wednesday’s, Hillsborough Stadium.

The former football league referee, who officiated his last game during Ryan Giggs debut for Manchester United, Spoke to Reporter Sport to shed light on what it’s like to be the man in the middle.

Pete, now 73, retired from the game in 1991 following a lengthy and predominantly fruitful career that spanned 25 years.

Having started out in the Hyde Sunday League, the avid Stockport County fan worked his way up the football hierarchy until he reached a point that saw him confronting footballs legends including Mark Lawrenson and Kevin Keegan.

Pete was frequently subjected to a volley of verbal insults from the current Crystal Palace manager Neil Warnock, but despite his boisterous nature, he was a character none the less.

Questioned about where his love for refereeing emerged from, Pete addressed the family issues that forced him into work. He said “I started refereeing in 1966 and played football until he back end of the 66 season.

“I had a young family and consequently couldn’t go to work, so common sense prevailed and the next best thing apart from playing football was to go and referee.”

The route to reaching the top level of refereeing was laden with tricky obstacles, but the problems he encountered strengthened his state of character. He added “The Hyde Sunday League was a very competitive league and there were lots of players who went on to play in the football league.”

Former Everton stalwart Trevor Ross was a familiar face in the Hyde Sunday league, with the Ashton born midfielder racking up 126 appearances for the Toffees and capping one international appearance for Scotland.

An injury Pete sustained during childhood denied him a future professional career, but the injury wasn’t going to taint his love for the game which he holds so dear.

The switch from making tackles to awarding fouls was described by Pete as ‘sink or swim’, but his experience within the Hyde Sunday league granted him the life-support to keep him above water. He said “The Hyde Sunday league gave me a lot of experience and you learnt very quickly or you sunk very quickly. Thankfully I survived.”

His journey to the higher realms spanned a lengthy 12 months where he found himself under the microscopic scrutiny of football league officials.

The thorough interrogation proved to be a daunting process, but one that Pete relished like no other. He said “You go through the basics of Class 3,2 and 1 which enables you to climb up the ladder.

“You progress through the lower leagues and then become a linesman, with the hope that you’ll eventually be promoted to the middle.”

Pete’s desire to reach the centre circle was fulfilled in 1979 when he refereed his first league match which created an insatiable hunger for more.

Despite working hard for his successful career, Pete thanked his family for their selfless nature. He stated “You always want to referee at the highest you can, but to reach the top you need the lifestyle and job which allows you to do that.

“My lifestyle within refereeing changed dramatically because I needed time and flexibility to referee mid-week matches, and my family kindly allowed me to live my dream”

The former match official shared his time between officiating and pitching sales, as Pete occupied a sales executive role during the day.

From the delicate tones of the office, to thousands of screaming fans, Pete reiterated the drug like effect supporters had on matches. He said “The atmosphere at Anfield was excellent, but the grounds you felt really intimidated at were Eland Road Leeds and St James Park Newcastle.

“St James Park was a different kettle of fish and when I refereed at Newcastle Kevin Keegan was one of their heroes.”

Little did Pete know that his actions on that day would lead to a vociferous army of 45,000 fans venting their spleen at the man with the whistle.

He added “Kevin went to the floor with a little push in the area following a penalty he had earlier missed.

“He obviously wanted another chance to score but sadly I didn’t give it him and for the remaining 70 minutes I had 45,000 disciples letting me know about it”

Pete found himself embroiled in a number of other matches, but the saddest point in his career followed the tragic Hillsborough disaster.