What life is like in the middle – Part 2
Monday 19th January 2015 @ 16:18 by Mark Phillip
Football Sports

The trials and tribulations that accompanied Pete’s official role were both intriguing and compelling, but the second part of his interview contains a fusion of humour and sorrow in equal measures.

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 adrenaline buzz, the camaraderie, it’s a drug really’. This short, concise sentence is how Pete described the emotional surge he felt on match days, whether it be during an FA Cup tie on a non-league ground, or at the iconic Old Trafford stadium before 40,000 prying eyes.

Regardless of the magnitude of the fixture, Pete endeavoured to officiate in a manner that was worthy of reverence and credibility, and his long, arduous journey throughout the football league garnered recognition from both ends of the respectability spectrum.

“I got my first interview back in 1979 and had to go to an interview in London, where 22 people went for 12 available places” Pete said “ And I had four people assessing me, which included Matt Busby, Bob Lord from Burnley and David Wiseman from Chelsea.”

The judging panel was enough to make anyone quake in their boots, but despite a thorough interrogation, spearheaded by Bob Lord, it was Manchester United legend Sir Matt Busby that eventually gave the thumbs up.

Pete added “Bob Lord on all 22 interviews must have played bad cop, because every question was contentious.

“Matt Busby brought me back on line and asked me about football, so I answered it quickly and was told ‘Peter, I’m pleased to hear that’, so that made me a little happier.”

A week followed the memorable interview, accompanied by many sleepless nights, but Pete finally got his wish granted and was included for the 79/80 season.

Despite confirmation of his success, there were more hurdles to overcome. “Once you’ve been included in the list for the forthcoming season, you then wait for the fitness test, and once that is complete you have to wait for the fixtures to be announced for the upcoming season, and my first game was at Hartlepool” the 72 year old said.

There were several instances throughout Pete’s career that forced him to reflect on his profession, as the vitriol aimed in his direction at weekends transcended into his private life. He added “My daughter got a bit of stick at school when things appeared in the press about me, but she would say ‘my dad referees football matches, what does your dad do?’”

Although Pete had a strong state of character, he reiterated the need to shield his family from the publicity. “You have to protect your family from the comments, and it mustn’t be easy for high profile referees” the Stockport fan said.

“You have to be a certain animal to read bad press, and I was that sort of animal, but you just have to put up with the brickbats thrown at you.”

An appropriate name for Pete would be Mr Teflon, as every bad piece of press he received added to his armour.

The most testing of times in his career were rewarded in 1986 in our capital city of London.
Despite not having the opportunity to referee at the much revered Wembley Stadium, Pete was granted the second best job; linesman duty.

He said “I never refereed at Wembley but I ran the line and went there for an FA trophy game between Scarborough and Stafford Rangers.

“My wife received a phone call and was informed that I’d been appointed, and when she told me I thought she was pulling my leg.

“However, she told me to ring Reg Payne and eventually he confirmed the news and put me at ease.”

Very few people will get the opportunity to visit Wembley Stadium, never mind fulfill an official role, so it was with great pride that Pete recollected on the fond memories he holds dear from that day. He said “To go to Wembley Stadium and stand in the tunnel where the famous ark is visible is something to behold.

“I was fortunate that the game went into extra time because it gave me an extra 30 minutes on the pitch!”

Happy memories indeed, but a stark contrast to the wave of emotion that overcame him three years later.

In what he described as ‘the saddest moment of my career’, Pete detailed his grief with regards to the Hillsborough disaster.

“The saddest game I refereed came at Hillsborough, and it came between Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham at the end of the season.

“We didn’t know whether the game was going to go ahead, because Hillsborough was still a crime scene at that point.”

12 days had passed since the tragedy, but a cloud of horror lay heavy over Sheffield. Pete said “I arrived at quarter to five for a 7.30 kick off and I walked onto the pitch with nobody in the ground and to see the sheets on the Lepping Lane’s End flapping in the wind, with the ropes clanking against the flag poles, was a very haunting feeling”

The memorable fixture ended 2-0 to West Ham, which ultimately condemned the Owls to a disappointing relegation.

There were countless other stories Pete reminisced on, so it begged the question: Will there be an autobiography? He assuredly replied “I’ve had a career full of enjoyment and lived a dream, visiting all the grounds I wanted to go to and having no regrets when I retired.

“It was a fantastic career and a fantastic journey, so if I were to write a book then the title would be ‘From the backfield to Anfield.

“I’ve got lots of stories, but at 72 I don’t think it will happen.”

With a catalogue of tales and a love for the sport, perhaps, one day, his reluctance to write a book will fade.

But until that time comes, the 72 year will enjoy retirement and revel in a career of no regrets.