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With 100 Premier League red cards on the way - a tribute to Mike Dean: one of English football's true stars

Mike Dean awards a penalty
Mike Dean awards a penalty

Even with football becoming a multi-billion pound industry where any half decent player will cost you £50m, it still rings true that the best things in life really are free.

A transfer window sees fans of every club demand that big-money man. The player that can provide the sort of entertainment guarantee that makes you look forward to the weekend.

No player can match the excitement of a certain refereeing appointment though. Whether it be Cardiff v Huddersfield or Manchester City v Liverpool, there's only one man that the neutrals want to see in the middle.

That man is of course Mike Dean.

Football's iconic man in the middle is about to hit a milestone, with 99 Premier League red cards to his name. He is way above any other referee for cards shown in the top-flight this season; you know you're getting booking points value when Dean is in charge. The 100th red is coming soon.

It's the sort of no-nonsense approach that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Any other referee might have a word with you, letting you off the hook for a foul committed, but not Mike. Mike's in charge, and oh boy, you'll know about it.

It's the dramatics, the enthusiasm and the determination to ensure he is the man in control that gives him that reputation. Frankly, there's nobody else like him.

Whether it be the Twitter videos showing him awarding a penalty dubbed over with some disco music or the advantage signal making it look like he's running and celebrating a Tottenham goal, it's clear he's the most notorious referee in the game.

With Dean one red card away from hitting a century in the Premier League, I want to pay tribute to one of English football's true stars.

Humble beginnings

Mike Dean shows his first Premier League red card to Nolberto Solano
Mike Dean shows his first Premier League red card to Nolberto Solano

The above picture should be in a museum, because it's a real piece of history.

It is, of course, Dean's first red card in 2001, his debut season as a Premier League referee. Newcastle's Nolberto Solano was given his marching orders in a 1-1 draw with Ipswich, Marcus Stewart's penalty resulting from the foul earned the home side a point.

It's quite remarkable to think that this was the only red card he gave in 17 Premier League games that season, the first tentative steps on the road to becoming a hero among men.

The following season was another quiet one. Just two reds in 15 top-flight games. That alongside, again, two penalties. That said, we started to see glimpses of what's to come - both red cards came in the same game, Charlton's 2-0 win over Leicester.

That was the first sign that things were on the turn and, sure enough, the soft approach didn't last though. It took a couple of seasons to get going but we saw the real Dean in 2002/2003. Eight-eight yellows, five reds and eight penalties given in just 21 Premier League games. Phwoar.

From humble beginnings, Dean became the man to fear. Please, please, please let it be yell... nope, it's red. In February 2018, with his 89th red card, Dean had shown more than any team in Premier League history had received. The card became his.

The sass

He's not impressed with USA striker Vince Grella
He's not impressed with USA striker Vince Grella

Let's be honest, the real reason Mike Dean is the most entertaining official going is the attitude he brings to the pitch.

You can bring the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry and Sergio Aguero to the Premier League - but the fact is there is only ever going to be one star of the show.

It varies from the step overs to avoid interfering with play to the No Look Yellow™️ which only he can pull off. The likes of Mikel Arteta have received the disapproving stare when they've put their hands on him. Mike Dean is quite literally untouchable.

There's pointing at the penalty spot, then there's Mike Dean Pointing At The Penalty Spot. A late decision to award a spot kick isn't quite dramatic enough, it needs that little bit extra.

Watch the end of the game above, Cardiff hosting Wolves in a game that would pretty much eventually decide who would win the Sky Bet Championship title in the 2017/18 season.

We're in the 90th minute, Cardiff are one goal down and they're on the attack. A player goes down in the area and there is Dean, unafraid to make the right call at a crucial time.

The penalty is missed, Wolves look to clear their lines. Minutes later, Wolves commit another foul in the box. There's already been one late penalty given, surely we won't get another? Wrong.

Not only that but the point to the spot is phenomenal. Dean knows the situation, it's the last minute of stoppage time in a top of the table clash, live on TV. The cameras are there and he's added to the drama beautifully.

If the situation ever arises where he gets fed up and simply leathers it into the top corner, we know that the celebration would live up to expectations too...

The moments

Mike Dean sends off Raheem Sterling for overcelebrating
Mike Dean sends off Raheem Sterling for overcelebrating

Of course, every referee has their controversial moments and Dean is no exception.

One of the more recent incidents that has attracted national attention came at the Vitality Stadium in 2017. Manchester City were in the early stages of their eventual 100-points campaign and travelled south to take on Bournemouth.

Charlie Daniels had given the hosts the lead but Gabriel Jesus cancelled that out less than ten minutes later. Time was ticking away and City looked like they would have to settle for a point.

That was until Raheem Sterling got the ball and his deflected shot looped into the net. City had won and Sterling ran to celebrate with the fans. As you'd expect, it prompted wild celebrations.

City fans spilled onto the pitch, the team were all celebrating in the corner with the travelling support. It should have been the ideal ending for Sterling, the perfect way to win the game for his side.

But, with the forward already on a yellow, Dean showed him a second and sent him off; had we a direct line to his mind, chances are the words 'bring him down a peg or two' were playing over and over as he brandished the first card, and followed it with the second.

There have been other incidents, too. A lengthy refereeing career brings that. Everyone has their own Mike Dean story.

His decision to show Dale Stephens a straight red card caused outrage from my Brighton-supporting mate, Joe. It felt like I'd been cheated on. How could he so openly criticise Mike like that?

He did have a yellow card out in fairness, Gaston Ramirez knocked it out of his hand and then suddenly a red appeared. It shouldn't have even been a card, but still.

That said, controversy isn't always a bad thing. It provides us with talking points, and Dean isn't afraid to put us in those situations. Many pub conversations can thank him for his indirect contribution.

Who gets red 100?

Ezgjan Alioski complains to an uninterested Mike Dean
Ezgjan Alioski complains to an uninterested Mike Dean

It's that exciting anticipation of what red card number 100 will be like. A lengthy career and such a milestone deserves a significant occasion.

An occasion like Super Sunday, a game where the defending champions are looking to go ahead in the title race, that game seeing them take on another top four side.

We might be in luck. The latest round of refereeing appointments has seen Dean put on Sunday's clash between Manchester City and Chelsea, a televised game which is the highlight of the Premier League weekend. It seems almost too good to be true.

He had the chance to hit the century when Leicester welcomed Manchester United last time out but the occasion never came about. Instead, the eight yellow cards given out were deemed suffice punishment, enough of a lesson given.

We move onto the next high profile game and the statistics support the fact that this could be the one.

No other clubs have been shown more red cards by Dean than Chelsea and Manchester City. They also sit second and third in Dean's personal chart for yellow cards. Maybe he simply can't stand the colour blue and its various shades.

Only Manchester United can boast that they have been awarded more penalties than Sunday's two teams, while City could complain that Dean is their unlucky charm. They've lost 21 games he has overseen, that's more than anyone else.

He's already well clear when it comes to sendings off. Second-placed Phil Dowd only reached 67 players to be given their marching orders. It's a legacy that you feel with never be beaten, the only question how high he can set the bar.

Red card 100 is on the way, with the upcoming Super Sunday seemingly the stage where it could well happen. Whether it'll be followed with an "off you pop" as he muttered to Brighton's Lewis Dunk when sending him off recently remains to be seen. Whatever accompanies it is sure to be typically Mike Dean.

Thanks for the entertainment, Mike. Here's to the next 100.


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