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JEFF THE REF REMINISCES ABOUT ARSENAL

I refereed Arsenal during Arsene Wenger's trophy winning years but it still surprised me when researching this article that they only lost once in eighteen League and FA Cup ties when I was in charge. During this time they didn't have the best of disciplinary records, but I never ever sent a Gunners player off.

My first visit to Highbury saw them defeat Leeds 2-1 and the next time I reffed that game saw Arsenal's only defeat with me in the middle. Mind you, I did try and help them maintain their unbeaten run as Leeds ended up with only nine men after I dismissed both Lee Bowyer and Danny Mills. For good measure Leeds also won the caution count 5-4 in what was a quite lively game.

It seemed that disciplinary problems with players who were going to play for Boro in the future was fairly common with me in Arsenal games as Ray Parlour, on a couple of occasions, and Ugo Ehiogu, playing for Villa at Highbury, also saw yellow.

I refereed Spurs v Arsenal twice during my career, both ending 1-1. The first saw Sol Campbell make his first appearance back at White Hart Lane after his acrimonious departure from Spurs. Throughout my career I don't think I ever experienced a more vitriolic atmosphere than what was presented towards Campbell. He answered his critics with an outstanding performance.

I had last acted as an Assistant Referee at Ayresome Park in Tony Mowbray's testimonial game way back in 1992, so wasn't exactly thrilled when ten years later, when acting as Fourth Official at Blackburn Rovers v Arsenal, Lino Andy Butler came off injured and I had to endure forty-five minutes of 'advice' from Ashley Cole as I took the flag instead of the whistle onto the park.

My last two Arsenal games were both in the FA Cup in my final seasons. At the time Arsenal v Manchester United games were always the tastiest of encounters with Viera v Keane a game in itself.

The Gunners won 2-0 at Old Trafford in a game that was just as fiery as any other between these sides and I also reffed Arsenal in the quarter-finals the following season as they gave a masterclass performance thumping Portsmouth 5-1 at Fratton Park before losing in the semis to Manchester United.




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