In 2009 the Premier League returned and Mark Halsey refereed at Goodison Park on the opening Saturday of the season. Nothing interesting here despite the 6-1 scoreline to the visitors Arsenal but the referee that day had just been given some pretty horrendous news. Mark Halsey had been diagnosed with a Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and had a cancerous tumour in his throat. This was removed and the battle started not only to return to full health but to also to return to his previous career of a full-time professional football referee.
He would do so and would referee for two more complete seasons as well as the end of the 09/10 season before announcing his retirement a couple of weeks back. Speaking yesterday after his final game the 52 year-old said the following:
‘It’s been a fantastic career for me, with ups and downs.
‘I have had three great years since I have come back from my illness and hopefully I have been an inspiration for all those men, women and children out there living with cancer, and shown them we can beat this, that we can get back out there.
‘Hopefully I have done a lot for them.’
What I have to say to Mark is that anyone who survives just an illness and returns to their profession in full health is an inspiration – certainly one that involves such a level of physical fitness. His performances on the field of play have (for me) still at in the upper echelons of Select Group referees and no doubt had he wanted to continue then he would have had another year (at least) in him. However he has decided to move on to a rather interesting new position.
As a long time fan of the NFL I have seen both FOX and latterly ESPN have had an expert that can use to talk about decisions of the referee in charge of a game. Mike Pereira and Gerry Austin have been these two gentlemen and it has added an extra insight and level of broadcasting a game. Mark Halsey will be providing this role for BT Sport when they take over one third of the Premier League TV rights next season as well as FA Cup for at least the 13/14 season.
On British TV we aren’t used to this so it will be interesting to see how BT Sport use Halsey and if the public like it. It has worked great in the States on the NFL so I see no reason why it wouldn’t work well in football over here. I’m excited for Mark that he has such an interesting job to go to but still a bit sad that a good referee has decided to leave the Select Group and the sport.
Graham Poll thought he should retire because he was getting old and didn’t see Wigan’s Callum McManaman’s horror tackle in the match against Newcastle earlier this season. Now I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure referees don’t have x-ray vision and if a player runs in front of you at the crucial moment and you are blinded then what can you do? I’m positive Graham Poll would have got it spot on as he never made a mistake. Honest guv…
One last thing on why I think Halsey was a good referee. He had played the game at a non-league level so understood the game. I have always said that bringing through referees who have played either at semi-pro or low league level can only improve the game. One of the best referees I’ve ever seen was Steve Baines who had played professionally at Chesterfield amongst others and always had the lowest rate of yellow cards in the football league but his games were always handled professionally and the players seemed to react well to his style of officiating.
So from me it is thank you and good luck to Mark Halsey. I shall miss you in the middle but your insight in the commentary box should hopefully take football coverage to the next level.
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