PAUL MacArtney might be more used to handing out yellow cards than saving lives but the referee has been honoured for helping a young footballer when he collapsed on the pitch.

The 49-year-old from Little Lever has been given a National Special Award for Courage by the Lancashire Football Association.

He has also been recognised at the Bolton and Bury District Football Awards.

When 17-year-old Jason Cooper, who plays for Oxford Grove Junior Football Club in Halliwell clashed heads with a team-mate, he suffered a seizure.

It was down to Referee Paul and the team’s manager, Ray Foy, to act.

While they waited for the ambulance to arrive, they kept Jason warm and in the recovery position and directed the other frightened players away from the distressing scene.

Mr MacArtney, who works as a Removals Surveyor said: “There was an accidental clash of heads between the two players and it was immediately apparent that Jason had been significantly affected so I blew my whistle. He collapsed to the ground and began to suffer a seizure.

“Ray and I did what we could to ensure Jason was safe, we put him into the recovery position and were able to establish he was breathing albeit in a very harsh manner.”

The pair took it in turns to talk to Jason who was initially unresponsive, and were relieved to see him eventually able to walk to the ambulance.

Mr MacArtney added: “It was a scary experience because we didn’t know what was going to happen — we aren’t doctors.”

But three weeks after the incident, Jason is healthy and playing football again and Mr MacArtney says that is far more important to him than any awards he has received.

He added: “The awards are very flattering but I certainly didn’t go looking for them, for me the best thing is to know that Jason is well. He is a fantastically brave young man.”

The modest referee also was keen to stress that manager Mr Foy played just as much of an important role in looking after Jason as he did.

Mr Foy, aged 40, from Heaton, said: “Between the pair of us we managed to keep him calm and warm until the ambulance arrived.

“I think it is part and parcel of being involved in sport — these things can happen.”

As a reward for his quick thinking and bravery, Mr MacArtney will receive a certificate, FA prizes and tickets for an England V Scotland international match at Wembley in August — although he has revealed he will not be able to make the game due to other commitments.

He added: “I’ve had to tell them I can’t make the match as my 17 year old daughter gets her GCSE results the following morning. It’s a case of priorities — although they have sent me a shirt signed by the England team, which is very nice indeed.”