A former referee has written a book detailing his experiences officiating in the North Region Juniors and Highland League.
“Tales from the Touchline” details the often humorous times had by John Gunn, 64, during his 20 years as an official.
As well as moving through the ranks, from boys and schools football, to the Juniors and then Highland League, John’s position of the SFA’s senior list also saw him serve as a linesman in the Scottish Leagues. He even ran the line in a European Cup match between Germans Dynamo Berlin and French outfit Girondins Bordeaux in 1987.
The book is released next week and also details John’s time following Dundee United as a fan. However, most interesting to north football enthusiasts will likely be his time serving as one of the region’s men in black.
John revealed he decided to get involved in refereeing after moving to Elgin from Tayside in 1979 and feeling he was too good a player for the local amateur leagues, but not good enough to play in the Juniors.
He said: “The Sunday league in Elgin was affiliated to the Scottish Amateur FA, but it was a glorified pub league. I didn’t really want to get involved in that and wasn’t good enough to play Juniors or anything above that.
“I was at work as a (newspaper) compositor and went to get a bit of copy, which needed to be typeset. The copy was the local referees association looking for trainees to join their training course in September 1979 and I done it – to keep my involvement in the game.
“My uncle had been a referee and I’d worked alongside the FIFA referee, Bob Valentine, in Dundee, so I’d been given an inkling to what it was all about.”
In “Tales from the Touchline”, John – who moved to Portlethen in 1985 – tells plenty of stories about his journey through the ranks and the colourful characters he came across in North Junior and Highland League football, as well as the occasional mishaps which befell him or the teams he refereed on the park.
John, who officiated from his early 20s to his early 40s, also relates taking it in turns with a colleague to referee youth academy bounce games at the behest of Aberdeen kitman and club icon Teddy Scott.
Asked to pick a favourite Highland League tale from the book, which he finished writing in June, he said: “It involved the goalkeeper John Gardiner, who played for Aberdeen, Dundee United and Motherwell.
“He was playing for Huntly in the Highland League in the mid-Eighties.
“They were playing Inverness Thistle and it was 1-0 Inverness.
“Huntly, who were throwing everything forward to find the equaliser, got a corner with two minutes to go, but Jim Calder in the Thistle goal collected the ball and leathered it up to their centre-forward Fraser Taylor, who was on his own.
“Taylor’s chasing it and big John’s come out of his box. He gets there first and gathers the ball, but Taylor slides in with his studs up.
“However, John saw the tackle coming and side-stepped it, so I shouted to play on.
“But John claims he never heard me, put the ball down on the ground while he gave Fraser Taylor a roasting for the tackle, and Taylor responded by poking the ball into the empty net.
“Because I’d shouted play on, I had to give the goal.
“John claims he never heard me say it, but he’s lying. He lives Portlethen and we’ve become good friends.
“(Aberdeen legend) Joe Harper was his manager at the time and he gave him a rollicking after the game.”
John, who went on to be heavily involved in the Aberdeen Sunday Welfare League as a club chairman and league secretary, says refereeing has changed from his days officiating and he’s not sure if it would hold the same appeal to him now.
He said: “In my opinion, now, the authorities drain any character you’ve got about you and say: ‘You must do this. You must do that. You can’t do this. You can’t do that.’
“The guys I worked with, the top referees, were allowed to exude their own personality when they went out on the park – it was man management.”
“Tales from the Touchline” is available from www.pitchpublishing.co.uk/shop/tales-touchline