Ref Stan, 80, not ready to blow final whistle yet

Stan Whittaker after Saturday's celebratory match with members of New Mills Juniors.
Stan Whittaker after Saturday's celebratory match with members of New Mills Juniors.

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!”