THIS summer’s World Cup in Brazil will bring back special memories for Pat Partridge, as the last time the tournament was staged on the continent, in Argentina in 1978, the North-Easterner was the only English referee called upon to officiate.
Born in Billingham, but based for the bulk of his life on the family farm on the edge of Cockfield Fell, Partridge, who is now 80, was a FIFA referee for ten years.
He was the first Briton to take charge of the World Club Cup final, refereed the 1975 FA Cup final and officiated at more than 100 European and international matches, pulling out his red card only once.
However, some of his career highlights came at the 1978 World Cup as he was selected as the referee for a second stage match between Peru and Poland, and was also linesman for two matches, Hungary’s Group A games against Argentina and France.
His trip to Argentina was covered extensively in The Northern Echo, with considerable attention being paid to the build-up to the tournament.
Despite his profile as a world-class referee, Partridge continued to muck out the cows on his dairy farm right up to leaving for Argentina, with Northern Echo writer, John Crossland, observing: “Pat is lucky – he gets sent off every week by his father-in-law and brother-in-law.
“With hired help Stephen Waldock, they take it in turns to substitute for him – and that includes mucking out the calves on the family farm at Cockfield, near Bishop Auckland.”
Two months before the start of the World Cup finals, The Northern Echo reported that Partridge was preparing in an unusual fashion – by running the line at Horden Colliery’s Northern League match against Whitby Town.
“It’s no gimmick,” said Partridge in the report. “This is serious training. I’ve signed a declaration that I will get some practice lining before I go to Argentina, as I don’t do much.
“I was elated when I heard I had been selected for Argentina. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would achieve this.”
However, The Northern Echo’s report of the game concluded: “Having a referee in their midst didn’t seem to impress the local people. Only a few dozen turned up to watch the game, which Horden lost 1-0. And when the final whistle blew, less than 20 spectators were there to hear it.”
Partridge, whose car registration remains REF 1, retired from refereeing at the end of the 1980-81 season, although he reappeared in The Northern Echo’s archives in 1982 as he was heading off to Zambia to tutor prospective referees.
In 1985, he was tutoring young offenders about refereeing at Deerbolt youth custody centre, near Barnard Castle, and he clearly remains an advocate for good behaviour on the football field.
Last year, Mike Amos caught up with him ahead of his 80th birthday and he said: “I really don’t like all this effing and blinding.
“It’s terrible what players say to referees, or rather shout and bawl at them. I don’t think I’d be able to restrain myself – there’s just no need for it and it galls me. I treated players as I would expect to be treated myself.”