Mike Dean has named the toughest Premier League player he officiated during his career as a referee.
Dean made his way through the non-league and Football League ranks before being appointed to the Select Group, therefore becoming a Premier League referee, in 2000.
During his 22-year stint in the top flight of English football, the Wirral-born referee had to officiate some of football’s toughest competitors – both players and managers.
Speaking to The Athletic earlier this year, Dean revealed that legendary Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was the toughest manager he had to deal with – because he always complained about him if the Gunners lost.
During an interview with SPORTbible, after being appointed as head of BAR (Bingo Assistant Referee) at Mecca Bingo, Dean said: “Craig Bellamy was tough. The likes of Robbie Savage and Joey Barton, I got well with them. He [Bellamy] is probably the toughest one I’ve refereed.
“I know why he’s like that, because when you cross the white line you want to win for two hours, don’t you?
“A lot of players can be like that, but I just found him a little bit harder than the rest of them to be honest.”
Since retiring, Dean has taken up a new role as the referee correspondent on Soccer Saturday.
That means he is still keeping a close eye on developments in relation to refereeing – and has two ideas that he believes will make a huge difference in the English game.
He explained: “They could use a sin bin, where if a player is pushing the limits for dissent, instead of getting a caution for dissent they can go to the sin bin for 10 minutes.
“That will be easy, and will certainly stop a lot of dissent in the game. That’s what sometimes does spoil it for young people watching on TV as well.