It’s a week away from the Premier League big kick-off, and while there is no new blood in the Select Group, we will see a few less familiar faces as Howard Webb watches from the sidelines. Craig Pawson, Roger East and Bobby Madley only took charge of 20 games between them last year, so there’s no urgent need to promote anyone from the Football League. Here’s a bit on what to expect from the Atkinson to Madley portion of the list.
Martin Atkinson, Age: 43, Home County: West Yorkshire
The long-serving Yorkshireman has been generally regarded as a safe pair of hands for a number of years, with the shortness and whiteness of his hair providing a handy guide to what season of Premier League Years you’ve switched on halfway through. He remains on the international list, and while there was a time when he was in the shake-up for international tournaments, his star has faded a little. With all the domestic showpieces crossed off, the odd hard to handle Premier League fixture and the Drighlington Christmas Lights are likely to be his big appointments unless something changes drastically.
Who hates him: Didn’t referee a Man Utd game for a year, after Sir Alex Ferguson expressed his desire for a ‘fair referee’.
Mark Clattenburg, Age: 39, Home County: County Durham
England’s new number 1 referee after the retirement of Howard Webb. His first big appointment this season is the Super Cup, but expect to see him in the middle for more European games at the business end of the season, and any Premier League games that call for a really top referee. Has occasionally got into trouble for his jokey style with players, and had a few off-field problems earlier in his career, but undoubtedly the best referee in the Premier League.
Who hates him: Hurt Adam Lallana’s feelings, and David Elleray doesn’t seem to be a fan either.
Mike Dean, Age: 46, Home County: Merseyside
Constantly irritated, if he was in the crowd he would no doubt be blowing every whistle. His main irritation seems to stem from the fact that a number of footballers are playing through his refereeing performance. A generally strong performer despite his officious manner, now his international days are over, he will be needed to fill some of Howard Webb’s sizeable void. Incredibly still only 46, despite making his top flight debut in 2000/1, expect him to get some of the bigger games and be the subject of a number of entertaining Vines showcasing his vanishing spray technique.
Who hates him: His style means that when he gets a decision wrong people don’t forgive him quickly. Quite a lot of people.
Phil Dowd, Age: 51, Home County: Staffordshire
No-one sets off Twitter quite like the yo-yo dieter from Stoke. If he gets through a game without at least one fan from both sides (or Shola Ameobi) calling him a “fat c***” he’s generally had a very good day. It’s a shame that people are so shallow as while not in the top league of Premier League officials he makes some good, brave calls and will have some strong second-tier games this year, albeit laced with a few shockers. Thought he might retire this summer, but looks like we’ll have to wait another year for the hotly-anticipated Phil Dowd Get Fit DVD.
Who hates him: Seems to get a fair sprinkling of abuse from most quarters. Though unusually tends to be more about his competence and weight, rather than any perceived bias.
Roger East, Age: 49, Home County: Wiltshire
One of the 3 rarely used members of last year’s Select Group, he will surely do more games following Webb’s retirement. His main, rather bizarre, claim to fame is having shaken the hand of Muammar Gaddafi’s son after running the line in a Libyan league match at the behest of the local FA. Looks like he has almost certainly been in a Guy Ritchie film at some point, but likely to be making up the numbers in the Select Group again this season despite the increased opportunities.
Who hates him: Doesn’t seem to have built up any particular hate-figure status, but will probably have that to look forward to if he does more games.
Chris Foy, Age: 51, Home County: Merseyside
Another experienced former Cup Final referee, he rarely seems to make the headlines and will probably continue to do a solid job refereeing mainly second tier clashes (that don’t involve Everton). Like Howard Webb, a former police officer, expect to see him occasionally criticised for a marginal penalty call in Stoke v Newcastle, but otherwise staying out of trouble.
Who hates him: The ‘Kill Chris Foy’ Facebook page has 2,703 likes. Sir Chris Hoy is probably torn between sympathy and annoyance given how much of the St Helens ref’s hate mail he erroneously receives.
Kevin Friend, Age: 43, Home County: Leicestershire
Very much a middle-ranking Select Group official, his name does at least lend itself to recognition and some light-hearted jokes. Has done the Community Shield and League Cup Final in recent years, so will be in contention for the FA Cup Final if the FA Referees Committee continue to ignore Mark Clattenburg. Otherwise expect to see occasional minor controversies at the back-end of Match of the Day.
Who hates him: The Sunderland Echo once referred to him in a headline as “controversial referee”, so probably Sunderland.
Mike Jones, Age: 46, Home County: Cheshire
Arguably at the more border-line end of the Select Group, he’s nonetheless now completed 6 years on the list, and will appear regularly again this year. At best, he’ll be in the frame for the League Cup Final. At worst he’ll spend time inches away from a screaming Alan Irvine. I still probably won’t know much more about him if I repeat this exercise again next year.
Who hates him: Newcastle fans don’t seem too keen, after his decision to disallow Cheick Tiote’s wonder-strike last season.
Bobby Madley, Age: 28 Home County: West Yorkshire
The youngest referee on the Select Group, and younger brother of Football League ref Andy, he’s likely to do a lot more Premier League games than the 5 he managed last season. The third 20-something official since a conscious decision was made to fast-track young referees, he will be hoping to emulate Michael Oliver rather than Stuart Attwell. Expect to see him at all, especially in the latter part of the season.
Who hates him: Something he did seems to have inspired a Nottingham Forest fan to create a short-lived parody account on Twitter. Probably too young to have made any significant enemies.