BILL Eaton has hung up his pen and notebook this week but his tongue-and-cheek insight into life as a referee continues in his column ‘Tales from the Dark Side’.

This week, up-and-coming official Alex Smith, pictured below, tells of his experiences as the man in the middle MY name is Alex and I’m 17 years old and I’m in the first year of college studying at Bolton College.

I have always been interested in football since I was young and love a good kickaround with my mates. This is my third season in the Bolton, Bury and District Junior Football League and I’m really enjoying my time as a referee.

I started refereeing when I was in Year 11 of my school life at Sharples School. As I was studying BTEC Sport they gave us the option to take part in a free refereeing course over a certain number of sessions.

In the last year of my high school life I was the linesman for the schools final up at Bolton Wandererstraining ground.

The most challenging part that I have faced so far was in my second season when two players started to fight in the match towards the end of the game.

All the parents and managers came on the pitch at this point and I was advised to abandon the match. About a month later I had to go to the Lancashire Football Association to sort out the situation.

The LFA chairman said it was commendable that I got stuck in, and that it would be good to move on to referee older games such as under-15s and older as I liked a good challenge.

I also hope to stay participating in sport along the lines of Sports Fitness and working with young people.