Mike Dean names the toughest Premier League player he refereed during his career
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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.
"They'll have automated offsides in the Euros this year no doubt, and if that works - it probably will do, because it's worked in every other world and European competition - there's no reason why we can't have it in the Premier League next season.
"Again, it'll make it a little bit easier, make the process a bit quicker. Someone just tells the assistant referee in his ear that he is offside and obviously the goal will be given. It would have made the Tottenham vs Liverpool decision a lot easier, a lot quicker."
Dean also spoke about the possibility of getting more ex-professional players into refereeing - but concedes there are some hurdles to jump over.
"I've got no issues in doing it, but you can't fast track them, that's unfair on people who have been doing all the groundwork in the Northern Premier League and the National League to get to the Football League.
"You can't put them straight in - they've got to put in the groundwork, which probably takes two to three years.
"Would guys want to do it? I wouldn't have thought so. I think maybe you might get young pros around 23 to 25, who have been released by a club and probably not quite good enough to be a footballer, and the next best thing might be to referee.
"That might be a way of doing it. But I just can't see ex-pros at the age of 35, 36 wanting to go down the route of refereeing, to be perfectly honest."
Mike Dean was speaking after announcing his new role at Mecca Bingo, where he has been helping to launch B.A.R (Bingo Assistant Referee) - a state-of-the-art technology system to keep bingo players on track. To find out more, click here.
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