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A Partridge on the Line

posted 31 Dec 2018, 08:59 by Roy McDonald   [ updated 31 Dec 2018, 09:00 ]
This was a nice little story I came across when I was researching the  feature on Job Davies. This piece was featured in the Prescot Cables match programme for the Trafford game on 22nd December 2018. (I think the programme editor wanted a Partridge reference in the Christmas programme?!)

To those of us of a certain age, Pat Partridge was one of the instantly recognisable of the football referees with his demonstrative, often flamboyant style, talkative manner and his substantial sideburns. He became one of the first high-profile officials whose decisions were subjected to the now-routine scrutiny by TV and criticism from pundits.

“With a name like mine, I’m there to be shot at,” he would often observe.

He began refereeing in 1953 with the Durham County FA. In those days when referees were purely amateur he worked as a sales rep until 1973. He and his wife then moved into and managed her father's dairy farm, which he renamed "Law One" (the first part of the Laws of the Game is titled "Field of Play") and drove a car with the personalised number plate REF 1.

Partridge was accepted as a Football League linesman for the 1965-66 season, and progressed to become a Football League referee in the following year. In his first ever top-class Football League match as the man-in-the-middle, he awarded three penalty kicks in the game between Manchester City and Leicester City at Maine Road in March 1967.

He was promoted to the FIFA list of referees in 1971, and acted as linesman to Jack Taylor in the 1971 European Cup Final between Ajax and Panathinaikos at Wembley. He was awarded control of the 1975 FA Cup Final between West Ham and Fulham, and in 1977 he took charge of the European Cup Winners Cup Final between SV Hamburg and Anderlecht in Amsterdam. Partridge was chosen as England’s only representative to officiate during the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina, where he acted as a linesman for two matches, Argentina v. Hungary and France v. Hungary. He refereed just one match in the Finals, a Second Stage game between Peru and Poland.

Partridge should have retired from refereeing at the end of the 1979/80 season. However, the Football League had decided that the retirement age for officials should be raised to forty eight on an experimental basis, which allowed him one final season (1980-81) on the League List.

Partridge was well respected by players and Managers, alike (if not always by the fans!) and was well known for his man-management techniques on the field of play. “I’ve many a time run past a player and told him that if he did something again I’d kick him over the stand,” he recalled in 2004. “They’d look at me but it worked. I got respect.”

After hanging up his whistle, he became Chairman of the Referees' Association and President of the Association of Football League Referees and Linesmen.

On 19 October 2003. Partridge was a spectator at the Unibond Northern Premier League match between Bishop Auckland and Prescot Cables.

Fifteen minutes into the second half, with the Bishops leading 1-0, the referee was injured and had to be replaced by one of his assistants. A volunteer was found to run the line in the assistant's place, but officials from Prescot Cables claimed that he was unsuitable and insisted on a replacement of UniBond League standard. Consequently, the game faced being abandoned.

Having overheard all this, Partridge put himself forward to fulfil the assistant referee's duties, as he had done many years ago. After a quick consultation between the clubs, he was given a flag, and ran the line for the rest of the game at the age of 70 years and 4 months. Partridge did not have much to do and was not involved in any controversial decisions as Cables grabbed an equaliser and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

"It was a funny way to spend Sunday afternoon," he said, "But I couldn't watch the game abandoned, so I volunteered."

Curiously this incident mirrored the occasion in September 1972 when Partridge was refereeing a match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Highbury. One of his linesmen tore a muscle and the flag was famously taken by TV presenter and former player Jimmy Hill.

Pat Partridge died at home in County Durham in October 2014, aged 81, six months after he was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to football.