A FORMER World Cup referee claims he is “the luckiest man in the world” thanks to a career which has resulted in him being honoured with a British Empire Medal.

Pat Partridge spent ten years as a Fifa referee and was the British representative for the 1978 World Cup and he took charge of the 1975 FA Cup Final.

He also refereed more than 100 European and international matches – in which he only used his red card once.

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The 80-year-old, of Cockfield, said news of his British Empire Medal had come as a bit of a surprise.

“I am very pleased,” he said. “I knew it was a possibility but I never thought it would happen. Looking back, when I was a referee I never thought I would receive an honour of this note.

“I have been there, done that and got the T-shirt. I won’t tell a lie, I thoroughly enjoyed my career. It was a pleasure to be involved and I see myself as one of the fortunate ones.”

The Northern Echo:

Mr Partridge, who was born in Billingham, near Stockton, coached or refereed in 57 countries and to this day remains humble about having taking charged in a World Cup.

“It was just one of those things,” he said. “It is incredible to be fortunate to have been a part of it. I loved what I did, although I obviously didn’t enjoy every game. I never took any of it for granted.

“I am going to see how it (the World Cup) goes to see how much I watch. I always watch it as a game of football not as a referee. It is hard to comment on what a referee is doing as you are not in their position. I don’t like to do that.”

He qualified as a referee in February 1953 but under Durham FA rules he was only allowed to take charge of junior games until he was 21. In 1959, he became the first referee to go from the Northern League to the Football League and enjoyed a busy and successful career until he retired in 1981.

He added: “I am the luckiest man in the world. I am very happy and content and I have no complaints.”