Norfolk football referee Keith Greensides celebrates 50 years as the man in the middle
- Credit: Archant
He has been the man in the middle for 50 years, notching up an impressive 2,801 matches.
A lot has changed in the Beautiful Game since Norfolk's Keith Greensides became a referee in 1963, but his passion for the sport has never waned.
On Saturday, the 75-year-old had a Martham Reserves home game on the very ground he first refereed a game almost 50 years ago to the day.
'I'm now refereeing the grandsons of the players I started with,' he said.
'Remember me to him, I tell them.'
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When he first put on the black and white kit, Mr Greensides covered Saturday, Sunday and Thursday matches. He became a Class One official – the equivalent of Level Five today in 1969, refereeing reserve team matches for Football League clubs.
He had nine years in the Eastern Counties League and handled four county cup finals before moving to local league matches.
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'In my younger days I used to travel about 6.5 miles a game,' said Mr Greensides, of Ormesby St Margaret.
'My path is a bit narrower now, I've started going up and down the centre of the field a lot more.
'When I stop getting respect, that's when I'll pack up.'
He can impressively recall almost every game, but memory ever fails he can consult his hand-written records – two notepads listing every game, score and caution and sending off from the past five decades.
'It's been 50 years of real enjoyment,' said the well-respected and well-known official. 'A lot has changed, I think it's harder for the young referees coming in.
'Last season, I had 34 games, one sending off and 54 cautions. In the early days, if anyone got a caution during a game it would go round the villages pretty quick.'
Mr Greensides remembers matches at Halvergate where a ball from the corner would brush against overhanging trees, at Beighton where you had to change in your car and at Freethorpe where you had to change 'amongst the bales of hay'.
He has referred matches inside prisons and in the 1980s, oversaw a match at RAF Coltishall when inmates from Wayland Prison in Watton were let out to play an away fixture in the Norwich and District Thursday League.
'Prison officer Steve Blackwood, in charge of the team, dismissed fears men might escape during the journey' reads the article in the Greensides scrapbook.
He's been part of Football Aid charity games at Carrow Road and a vocal supporter of female officials and players.
'It's the people you meet and friends you make,' he said.
Born at the Gorleston hospital and brought up in Ormesby St Michael, he was a player before he became a referee.
He played for Rollesby when he was 14, then had spells for Broadland Rovers and Filby before and after his National Service.
He has been 'lucky' when it comes to injuries, suffering the usual aches, pulls and pains, an Achilles' tendon problem and inflammation of muscles in his foot which required a trip to hospital over the years but nothing more serious. He has also been cricket umpire for 26 years.
Mr Greensides was a postman in Great Yarmouth for 24 years.
His wife, Hazel, said: 'He really does enjoy it, we both do. 'We have made so many good friends over the years.'
'I'm not stopping,' added Mr Greensides, keen to assure that referees can keep on going into their 80s.
'I've got a few years in me yet.'