A New Mills pensioner who has refereed football matches across the High Peak for over 60 years says he is not yet ready to call time on his passion - despite just celebrating his 80th birthday.
Since qualifying as a referee in his late teens, Stan Whittaker has taken charge of amateur matches at senior and junior level in the Derbyshire, Cheshire and Lancashire areas, only taking a lengthy break from the game for his national service.
And his no-nonsense approach to the game has earned him the respect of players, managers and spectators.
On Saturday, Stan took charge of a friendly match at Newtown Recreation Ground between two New Mills Juniors teams, unaware that the players, officials and supporters had organised a surprise birthday party in his honour.
Afterwards, he said: “It hasn’t just been the best day of the year; it’s been the best day of my life. I’d like to say a huge thank-you to everyone involved.
“It was a really nice surprise, the presents, the cake, and the appreciation for what I have done over the years. It was a very emotional occasion.
“I do think a lot about football and it has been a pleasure refereeing all these years, but I’m not planning on hanging up my whistle just yet, not while I can still do it.”
Mike Taylor, founder of New Mills Juniors and manager of their under-10s squad, said Stan was a big supporter of the club, refereeing countless matches, even when called upon at the last minute.
“Stan is quite a private person, but everyone in New Mills knows him. He is such a great referee and has a great rapport with the players, especially with the younger players. They all have a huge amount of respect for him.
“Even up to a few years ago he was still refereeing senior matches, so I don’t think Stan has any intention of stopping just yet. Halfway through last season his stopwatch broke, but he has since had it replaced!”