The game where I learned the lesson that you can be in too good a position came with most unfortunate timing, as it was between two top-flight local rivals, one of whom I shared a postcode with!
These were the days before the Premier League adopted the current policy which has disqualified Kevin Friend from refereeing Leicester and Jon Moss from officiating a Sunderland match, for example.
I had made representations to the league about this possibility and they had always managed to find a way to fudge the issue.
So, when this game featuring them and a close rival situated just 30 miles away came up for grabs, it wasn’t that I feared reprisals from the other team, it was the team closer to home I was far more worried about!
Sure enough, my concerns were to be proven only too well-founded, although, without giving away the identity of either manager let’s just say that both characters, neither of whom were known for being remotely shy, gave me no grief whatsoever after this much-anticipated encounter.
As luck would have it, this fixture was to be decided by a single goal, and that goal came from a penalty, awarded by yours truly.
I was keeping up with play on the side where the visiting team’s midfielder was guilty of the handball offence, at the far post, which meant it was obscured from the view of the majority of supporters, including the away contingent.
I clearly saw the ball come over from the right and he knocked it away with his left arm. If I say so myself, my position could not have been better, but that did not mean I didn’t baffle the majority of the crowd with my decision.
Like I said, the proof was in the pudding where the respective managers were concerned and they must have had the incident relayed to them afterwards by the closest of the players, because it was a rare case of receiving no complaints at all!
The crowd was a different kettle of fish entirely, however. I ventured into my favourite pub that night with a friend, and sure enough, I was getting loads of stick as we walked through the door.
There was certainly no waiting for anything you might describe as a civilised discussion, as the abuse started to warm up: “You cost us a point!”… “There he is, how has he the nerve to come in here,” and a lot worse besides.
However, and you won’t find this happening very often, I was bailed out of this sticky situation by a group of away fans who had not only actually been at the match, but had been in the home end on the side of the handball in question.
They heard the commotion from the tap room, and came through to point out that the decision was in fact the correct one and that the lads giving me all the stick, having either got their version from being on the opposite side of the ground, or from the radio, happened to be in the wrong.
These days you get Select Group boys running the outside right channel and if I’d have been doing that I may well have missed the incident on which the match turned. Running the outside left channel saved me from getting it wrong, when getting it wrong might have saved me contemplating a quick exit from my local that night, a position I was glad never to be put in again!