FORMER FIFA football referee and Bolton Wanderers centre-half Bob Matthewson has lost his battle against cancer.

The 70-year-old died peacefully at home surrounded by members of his family.

He ended his career as a referee in the Wembley FA Cup Final between Manchester United and Liverpool in 1977.

His tough refereeing was legendary -- he sent off Billy Bremner and Kevin Keegan for fighting in the 1974 Charity Shield match between Leeds and Liverpool.

Both players were later fined a then record £500 and banned for 11 matches each for shirt-throwing.

His successful stint as a referee followed an undistinguished career as a footballer for Wanderers -- he started just six senior games in six seasons at Burnden Park and was released by manager Bill Ridding in 1953.

Mr Matthewson was chairman of the Bolton Referees' Society and officiated in local soccer matches in his spare time.

He refereed top European matches and continued to train hard and put himself through a punishing schedule of weight-lifting, cycling and sprinting.

He leaves a wife, Pauline, a daughter Karen, step-daughter Suzanne and grandchildren Robbie, James and Daniel.

His wife Pauline said: "He was a wonderful man who really adored his family. He had a great, full life and was very much into sport.

"We have had so much support since his death because he had so many friends."

Mr Matthewson also worked as an engineer for De Havillands in Horwich. He was born in Newcastle where he started his playing career as a boy in the local youth leagues.

His funeral service was due to take place at St Maxentius Church today followed by committal at Overdale West Chapel.