PREMIER League refereeing has its own unique set of challenges – as one Great Sutton resident is about to find out.
Whether it is the award of a crucial injury-time free-kick or a big name star contesting a decision, there is usually something for the Match of the Day pundits to scrutinise.
But whatever he encounters after being promoted to English football’s top flight, referee Mike Jones knows he’s got the skills to handle it.
The 40-year-old said: “Refereeing is all about confidence in your own ability. I’m confident and happy with every decision I’ve given, and I’ve given them with integrity and honesty.
“Everyone can analyse a game and think if I was in a different position I could have given something different.”
Mike, a former pupil of Blacon High School in Chester, has moved up from refereeing in the Championship to the Select Group, which controls the top-level games. The promotion comes after good performances over the last few seasons and an interview with the Professional Game Match Officials Limited alongside four other candidates, only one of whom also made it through.
But Mike’s first encounter with refereeing was a long way from the bright floodlights of the league’s top pitches.
He first started refereeing at 15 while at Blacon High after his PE teacher, Ray Williams, recognised something in the young lad and suggested he went on a refereeing course in 1983.
Mike said: “People recognised that I had potential to referee at a high level. But it was turning it into reality that took hard work and dedication.
“I wasn’t even refereeing at that time so I’ve no idea why he said that. I hadn’t spoken to him in 20-plus years, then I was refereeing the play-off final and he saw me. He’s very proud that he made that initial suggestion. He takes some credit!”
Mike started refereeing three games a weekend in the Chester & District, Junior and Sunday leagues. He quickly moved into the West Cheshire and North West Counties then into the Conference.
After linesman duties part-time in the Football League, he took on his first League match between Mansfield Town and Hull in Division Three, when he sent off Mansfield’s Iyseden Christie.
He has since refereed in the Championship play-offs as well as a League Two play-off final.
Mike, a business manager at Cheshire County Council, said: “It’s a love of football, and I’m nowhere near good enough to play to any particular standard. I suspect it’s for the love of the game that people fall into refereeing rather than setting out to do it.”
Additional to his interval training six times a week, he will now also travel to the Midlands for group training with other Premiership referees.
He also feels his particular talents allow him to control games without any of the problems with disrespect that some referees have encountered.
After all, any referee who can say he has a good relationship with Dennis Wise must be doing something right.
The only difficulty he has had was when Manchester City’s Steve Howey accidentally knocked him unconscious in 2001.
Howey poked him in the eye while gesturing during an argument with Tranmere Rovers striker Seyni N’Diaye at Prenton Park in the old Division One.
“I feel very proud and slightly nervous, but I feel like I’m there on merit. It’s experience, being able to make pressure decisions in a split second,” he said.
“I’ve been refereeing for 25 years so I know what to expect.”