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 From windswept council pitch to European and World football


Dave Bryan

• The Green Man, Stamford, figured at the start of Dave Bryan's remarkable journey.
 
 


Dave Bryan talks to Bob Feetham about a long and successful  
journey which took in over 500 Premier League matches  

 

A remarkable career, which began quite by chance one Sunday morning on a windswept council football pitch when a youthful Dave Bryan undertook the referee's role for the very first time, has finally come to an end...


FA Cup Final


• Dave Bryan (with chequered flag, centre) seen alongside other match officials and Sir Alex Ferguson (left), then Man U boss, and Jose Mourinho, then Chelsea manager, Ahead of the 2007 FA Cup final - the first held at a revamped Wembley stadium.


 
PATHWAY TO SUCCESS

A quite remarkable story

 

Pathway to success a 
  quite remarkable story 

 

 

1987: Passed Referees exam and started officiating in the Peterborough & District Football League

 

1987 - 1993: Progressed through the Pyramid leagues

 

1993: Appointed to the Contributory League.

 

1994: Promoted to the National List as an Assistant Referee.

 

1995: Appointed to the Premier League as an Assistant Referee.

 

1999: Promoted to the FIFA International List as an Assistant Referee serving with

FIFA  until retirement in December 2007.


 

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

 

Local 

1993:  Peterborough Football Association Senior Cup Final.

2006: Lincolnshire Football Association Senior Shield.

 

National       

1999:  Assistant Referee for the FA Cup Semi Final Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United.  

 

1999: Assistant Referee for the Division 1 Play Off Final

Watford v Bolton.

 

2000: Assistant Referee for the Division 2 Play Off Final

Wigan v Gillingham.

 

2001: Assistant Referee for the FA Charity Cup Final Manchester United v Liverpool

 

2007: Assistant Referee in the first FA Cup Final played at the new Wembly Stadium

Chelsea v Manchester United.

 

2008: Fifth Official Carling Cup Final Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur Dave has also officiated in all the Premier League local 

derbies, I.e.Merseyside, Manchester, London, Midlands etc. plus many of the top matches including Chelsea v Arsenal, Man Utd v Liverpool

and one of recent history's FA Cup shocks - Liverpool v Barnsley.

 

2015: Assistant Referee for the Capital One Cup Final Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur

 

2016: Appointed full time  Assistant Referee with the PGMOL

 

International  

 

2003: Assistant Referee in the EUFA Super Cup Final played in Monoco AC Milan v FC Porto.

Numerous World Cup Qualifiers including Holland v Portugal

David has also had the opportunity to officiate in many Championship Leagues Matches his last appointment being AC Milan v SL Benfica in October 2007.

 

The  final curtain

Arsenal v SL Benfica: his final appointment was on July 29, 2017 in the Emirates Cup, so ending 22 years' service with the Premier League with over 500 appointments

                         

 

Local referee chief salutes achievement


Pete Chappell and Dave Bryan


"Well done David. We are all extremely proud of your achievements which 

have come through hard work and dedication to your profession." 


- Pete Chappell, lifelong friend and president of Stamford Referees Association who also compiled this remarkable career history.

 

LINCS FA HONOUR DAVID

 

As a fitting conclusion to David’s career, he received a Special Recognition Award from the Lincolnshire Football Association at their recent annual community awards evening. 

That 1980s moment marked the start of a remarkable 32-year journey which would see the much respected assistant referee help control over 500 Premier League games, FA Cup and League Cup finals, World Cup qualifiers, Champions League matches and one Super Cup final.
 
It  finally ended after Dave, having decided to step down before the start of this season, helped officiate at the Emirates Stadium in an Emirates Cup match between Arsenal and Benfica.
 
It was a fitting scenario because the Emirates has been one of Dave's favourite grounds and his final game was marked with congratulatory handshakes from Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger and German international Per Mertesacker.
 

Played for Stamford Belvedere

 
But that, and all which went before it, was in the future when Dave Bryan, a left winger who had appeared for Stamford Belvedere, Newage and Stamford Imperial, expected to play when he turned up for a Sunday League game with Stamford's Green Man pub team. 
 
But fate took a hand. The referee had failed to show and Dave was asked if he would officiate instead. 
 
He willingly agreed, enjoyed the experience and was told by both Bels' legend Martin Conneely and local ref Joe Azzopardi that he should take it up on a regular basis.
 
Dave took the advice and the rest, so to speak, is history. He set off on an outstanding career which started in 1987 when he passed the referees' exam and began officiating in the Peterborough and District Football League. 
 
He then progressed through the pyramid and contributory leagues before being promoted to the National List as an assistant referee in 1994. Twelve months later he stepped up to the Premier League to launch an outstanding 22 year career. His first ever game at that level was Nottingham Forest v West Ham United.
 
Along the way, there were other outstanding occasions, the first FA Cup final back at a revamped Wembley in 2007 between Manchester United and Chelsea, a EUFA Super Cup final in Monaco between AC Milan and FC Porto, World Cup qualifiers, including Holland v Portugal,  and many Champions League matches, the last of which featured AC Milan and Benfica. 
 
Now 55, and, until retirement, employed by Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL), where Dave was one of 27 officials who made up the Select Group, he is quite relaxed about his decision to step down.
 

'The time had come to step down'

 
He reasoned: "The time had come. The pace of the game gets faster and your reactions slow down. So now is the right time to call it a day. Better to go five minutes too early than five minutes too late." 
 
It also means that Dave will no longer subject himself to regular and intense training levels based on a weekly fitness programme, the results of which are then analysed by a Premier League sports scientist.
 
He had won admiration from his colleagues when, as eldest in the Group, he kept pace with both the ever increasing fitness demands and much younger officials coming along.
 
Turning to the actual role, Dave gave a telling insight into the highly visible pressure under which officials operate with every decision blown up and paused on screen for analysis by television's so called experts.
 

'Like being followed by a police car' 

 
Likening the pressure to being followed by a police car for 90 minutes on a motorway, he continued: "Attention is fixed on your every move. The cameras are waiting for a mistake. They are there, even when you leave the motorway, watching every decision.
 
He added: "Then, when you make another turn, they carry straight on and the relief is considerable. The 90 minutes are up!"
 
That intensity, however, has taken nothing away from Dave's enthusiasm for being part of football at the the highest level.
 
A Stamfordian by birth, one of four sons born to Jack and Margaret Bryan, Dave was educated at the Fane School and is quick to thank local people for their support. 
 
He stresses: "It has been a fantastic journey with so many great memories. And it is one I could not have completed without the support of my friends, colleagues and the people of Stamford. I thank them all and especially my employers, South Kesteven District Council who granted me a year's sabbatical over the final 12 months so I might fulfil my full time football duties."
 
Relaxing at home as he looks back over the years, Dave is surrounded by cards from his colleagues at PGMOL. They all include wonderful messages which quickly show how popular Dave had been with his peer grip. 
 
'We should not lose sight of his outstanding ability 
 
Mike Riley, PMOL General Manager, said of Dave in his retirement announcement: "We should not lose sight of his outstanding ability. Quite simply, you do not get to be a Premier League assistant for 22 years unless you are exceptionally talented and extremely dedicated. Clearly, Dave is both."
 
He continued: "The hallmark of Dave's career is that he repaid the trust that was placed in him. He always put the needs of his colleagues ahead of  his own. I will never forget Dave sprinting onto the field at Highbury during a live game to stop me from making a huge mistake. He didn't stop for one moment to consider the implications for himself - his only thought was to help and protect his referee" 
 
Assistant Referees' Coach Adam Gale-Watts, speaking of 'a friend, colleague and thoroughly decent bloke, added: "He always put team success ahead of personal glory, something that inspired trust and respect from all who worked with him.
 
 

'A career defined by selflessness'

 
"It was an outstanding career defined by selflessness, understated ability and great humility."
 
Mike Mullarkey, also a Select Group coach, gave an insight into Dave's vital on field contribution when he revealed: "In the latter stages of a game, Dave could be heard on the communication system shouting 'Don't take chances!' This simple, clear advice was for the referee team to do nothing to make the game more difficult, knowing that decisions in the last few minutes of a game are often the most important." 
 
Wonderful words from men at the top of the refereeing profession - and opinions which are echoed  by a local official, Alan Mutton, who was referees appointment secretary with the PDFL when Dave first embarked on this wonderful journey. 
 

Nothing taken for granted

 
He commented: "I recall that when he started, Dave would sit in the stand at Stamford AFC watching and learning as the officials ran the game. That set him apart from others and it was clear early on that he was an emerging talent. I am glad he got the opportunity to progress through the pyramid."
 
Alan continued: "Dave is so straightforward, honest and committed. He has never taken anything for granted and it has been a joy to watch his progress. I see him as a giver, not a taker. He is always there to give advice and to help younger officials. His humility is amazing."
 
Those comments say a great deal about a man who has seen much change - but remains totally unaltered himself. Lifelong friend Pete Chappell pointed out that, while achieving so much, Dave had never lost sight of his roots.
 
That is what makes all of us so proud of this modest and unassuming Stamfordian. He has been a massive credit to the community.
 
Dave Bryan (left) is seen on his way out for the 2003 EUFA Super Cup final between AC Milan and FC Porto.
 
• Dave Bryan (left) is seen on his way out for the 2003 EUFA Super Cup final between AC Milan and FC Porto.
 
 Most memorable match
 
A rumbustious 5-5 draw at the Hawthorns between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United which also marked Sir Alex Ferguson's last game in charge of the Reds before stepping down.
 
 Player who left a lasting memory
 
Zinedine Zidane. "I remember being on the line when he played for Real Madrid. Hugely talented. What he could do with a ball was unbelievable." Michael Owen, Paul Scholes and Paul Gascoigne are others whose skills won his admiration. 
 
 Most partisan crowd
 
Everton although Dave emphasised that you become so emersed in your job that you become oblivious to the thousands screaming well intended advice.
 
Flare

 

  Touchline drama

  

  Then, of course, there's the dreaded flare incident! Running the line in an  

  Aston Villa v Spurs Premier League game in October, 2013, he was

  suddenly struck on the back of the head by a flare thrown from the

  stands. "I thought someone had run on and walloped me," recalls Dave.

  "It certainly shook me up but no way was I coming off."

 

Published: 22/09/2017





 
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