Mansfield referee Steve Meredith achieves his Premier League dream

Mansfield assistant referee Steve Meredith has achieved a lifelong dream and been selected to work in the Premier League next season.

Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 9:13 am

Meredith, 40, has done over 250 EFL matches since 2012/13 and and was given a taste of Premier League action on the final day of last season when he acted as an assistant referee when Brighton & Hove Albion hosted West Ham United.

But now he is celebrating his ultimate promotion as one of four officials elevated to the top level this summer.

“It's been a week now since I found out and I think it's been the most surreal week in my life,” he smiled.

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Steve Meredith - promotion to the Premier League list for next season.

“You always dream of operating at that level with the best teams in the world and the best league in the world, and being able to work with the best officials in the world, this is massive for me.

“It's something I have always wanted to do and I am really proud to have got there.

“I am also looking forward to the challenge it will bring as well, pitching myself against those teams and players in big stadiums with bigger crowds, dealing with that side of things as well and what it will bring.

“It is something I am really looking forward to now and I just can't wait to get started.”

A dream achieved for Steve.

He continued: “I have been a football fan all my life - you watch the referees at the top and it's your dream to get there. So, having made it, I feel very honoured.

“Last season went very well, but this still came out of the blue.

“You do get an indication from the games you are getting and the scores you get after every game that it is going well. But you are never quite sure.

“So it was great to get invited to the interview stage at the end of the season and also to get the Premier League game at the end of the season as a trial game as well, and was an amazing achievement to do it justice.

Steve lines up at his first Premier League game between Brighton and West Ham.

“To walk out for your first Premier League game is something I have always dreamt of – and to actually do it is a bit surreal. But it was absolutely amazing and I loved every minute of it.

“It went really well which helps. But just the opportunity and experience of working with the guys at that level was amazing.”

Meredith went from player to official at an early age.

“I genuinely don't know the reason I went for refereeing,” he said.

Meredith spots an offside.

“I knew as a player I was okay, average, but never good enough to progress far.

“So one day I said to my dad I wanted to be a referee. We looked up the local courses and there was one in Mansfield. It went from there.

“I did my refereeing course aged about 14/15, so I have been doing it for 25 years.

“I started off doing kids football and progressing through that level so I have been doing adult football about 22 years.”

Meredith then had to take the decision to progress with the whistle or the flag.

“We follow the European model and you are either a referee or an assistant – that is your specialist role,” he said.

“Six years ago when I was fortunate enough to get onto the Championship group – Select Group Two as we call it – I had to make a decision at that stage to continue refereeing or go down the assistant route.

“For me it was an easy decision as I would never have made it to the level I am at as a referee. I am honest enough to know I was never good enough.

“I made it to a decent level locally – I refereed in the Conference North. But I was never going to progress any further.

“So the opportunity to work in the Championship week in, week out was an easy decision and one that I have never regretted.

“The only step up now would be FIFA, but from an age point of view, again I am honest enough to say that's never going to happen.

“To get to where I have now got to is amazing for me and I am more than happy with that.”

As an assistant you are even closer to the crowd then the man in the middle and a target for plenty of abuse on a Saturday afternoon. But that has never bothered him.

“At some grounds you can be very close at times, but for me that adds to the atmosphere and the enjoyment,” said Meredith.

“It builds up the intensity. If you have everyone singing together then at times you do hear comments.

“But a lot of the time you are focused on the game and, with the communications system we have, we are always talking to each other about how the game is progressing and decisions.

“So a lot of the time you don't really hear what individuals are saying.

“It's just something you learn to deal with and, as a police officer for 21 years, I think it just comes with the role to a degree.”

Mistakes are inevitable for all officials and he added: “All games come with different challenges and different outcomes.

“There are times when you look back and say I made a mistake there or I could have done that differently, but situations like that are always a good learning point.

“Like anything in life you learn by your mistakes.

“The good thing these days is a lot of local football is filmed and shown on YouTube or local channels, so there is more opportunity to look at footage of games these days and review what you have done. That is a massive learning tool for any referee.”

His day job with Nottinghamshire Police force also works well with his footballing role.

“I have always been a constable and I have always enjoyed being on the streets, working on the front line and helping people,” he said.

“But three or four years ago I went into the training side of things so I work with new cops and get them trained to a level that they are out of their probationary period.

“It is something I enjoy doing, a new string to my bow, and it heavily helps me facilitate football. It can be quite time consuming doing games in midweek and Saturdays as well.

“It gives me flexibility if I need time off in the week.”