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Keith Miller: The Stortford-born ref who officiated at the European Championships


By Michael Vaughton


Keith Miller, right (6135842)
Keith Miller, right (6135842)

Keith Miller earned respect from top football managers and players as well as gratitude from the next generation of match officials in an action-packed career.

The Bishop's Stortford-born referee died aged 74 on December 12 having made his mark on the world of football officiating thanks to his firm but fair approach.

The highlight of his career was being a linesman in the 1984 European Championships semi-final between France and Portugal in Marseille when captain Michel Platini earned the hosts a dramatic 3-2 win in extra time.

Keith, who lived with his second wife Diane in Harlow, was born in Pig Lane in Stortford on May 15, 1944 and still has family living in the town. He was the eldest of seven siblings.

He attained the rank of leading seaman in the Royal Navy, serving on HMS Plymouth, before setting out on his refereeing career in the early 1970s.

His rapid rise through the naval ranks was replicated in refereeing as he showed his customary determination to succeed.

Keith's first matches were in the Bishop's Stortford, Stansted & District League on Saturdays, as well as the North West Essex Sunday League.

A good few referees from the area also made the grade, including John Moules, Graeme Pooley, Gary Parrish, Bernard Ellis, Mark Burey, Glenn Thurley, Bob Brayne, Harvey Newnham and Steve Gleeson. Even Keith's wife Diane caught the bug and became a qualified referee as she wanted to understand what her husband and his colleagues were always talking about.

Although he rose up the ladder to officiate in the Football League at grounds such as Villa Park and Stamford Bridge, Keith could regularly be seen refereeing a Sunday League game as he had so much passion for the game. He also loved running and did a number of marathons and half marathons to keep up his fitness.

The likes of Neil Warnock, Tony Pulis, George Graham, Ian Holloway and Brian Clough all had nice things to say about Keith's refereeing style when asked by colleagues over the years, and the students of Cambridge and Oxford universities also had to keep on the right side of him when he took charge of Varsity matches at Wembley.

"Right is right" was one of his sayings and he always stuck to it, even sending his own brother, Bernard, off in one local match.

After hanging up his whistle and cards – which he never really liked brandishing as he much preferred to keep it 11 versus 11 – Keith became a local training officer and then an assessor for the FA, as well as being a member of different disciplinary panels.

He was able to pass on his wisdom to those coming through the ranks behind him, with some of the officials following in his footsteps and some still refereeing locally today.

Keith will be remembered for his honesty, his integrity and his respect for the values of sport.



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