Dave was, of course, a Sussex-man and it wasn’t long before he would make the decision to return. From a refereeing perspective, this is where his long career was to take off.
“As much as we loved it in Croydon, me and my wife, at heart we were Brightonians, so we looked for work back in Sussex.
“I managed to secure a job at Varndean School in Brighton. I lost a bit of a year where I’ve moved and transferred and in Sussex it was a completely different system to what Surrey was!
“You didn’t apply for promotion here, you were observed. It took me a little bit of time for me to go from a 2 to a 1 and right place at the right time probably had something to do with it.
“I was appointed on what was then the Sussex County League Division 2 Cup Final which was at Burgess Hill. After the game, Peter Bentley spoke to me asking about my refereeing and what level I was etc. and the long and short of it was that three weeks later I was then put on to the County League.
“I was refereeing the County League then lining on the Isthmian League, so I was the basically the equivalent of a Level 4 now. I carried on refereeing all the way to the age of 65, but my mind was wanting my body to be somewhere that it couldn’t quite get to anymore!”
During this time Dave wasn’t happy to just do his officiating and leave it at that, he has also been involved in the training and tutoring of some of Sussex’s best officials today.
“I’ve been involved in all sorts of other things during my time refereeing. In the mid-80s, David King who was training officer for Brighton Referees Association (RA), agreed that I could help him out with the training.
“He took me along for one course, which included a certain Darren Eaton, and then I ended up taking full control of training for Brighton RA, training an awful lot of people!
“When I stepped down from my main role as a teacher in 2005 I then did the full FA Tutor training and became a fully qualified FA Tutor.
“Paul Saunders (Sussex County FA Projects Manager) then got me involved in the Referee Academy and I saw some great people come through there and refereeing at a much better level than I refereed at!
“One thing I am happy about is getting involved in the introduction of practical referee training. Before then, Referees just sat in a classroom for eight weeks like they were at school.
“I’m now still doing observing on the Southern Combination Football League which I do think I will continue, especially as this has been the quietest season I can remember, so I’m chomping at the bit!
“I stepped down from tutoring recently. The nature of the training has changed, and I’ve decided it’s time to let the youngsters get on with it.”
It’s incredible that Dave has stayed in refereeing as long as he has. 45-years is quite a remarkable landmark to achieve, so what is Dave’s secret for staying in the game for so long?
“When I started refereeing, I found that that I was just trying to make the players happy, which doesn’t necessarily mean that I wasn’t applying the laws of the game, but I did have a degree of empathy.
“I also applied my teaching experience in terms of sorting out certain situations where I would try and talk out scenarios rather than punish them.
“The responses I got made me stick with a certain style which I don’t think changed much over the years! The laws have changed a lot and I’ve had to adapt in a sensible manner, I officiated at a higher level than I ever played at and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“I’ve been called all sorts of names in my time! Luckily ‘smiler’ was the most common. I’ve been told that I referee like a headmaster which I thought ‘well that’s good cause I am one!’
“There’s just something about turning up on a Saturday and a team saying ‘oh good we’ve got you today’ that makes you realise you’ve been doing something right.
“There’s a saying that goes ‘you don’t referee to get fit, you get fit to referee,’ my physical well-being was definitely a big factor as well as gaining the respect of players.
“I think if you manage to communicate with players rather than dictate to them, then they respect that. There’s only been one occasion where I thought about packing it in, but I was immediately supported through it, which again is what’s so great about referee associations.
“With RA’s you’re there to support your colleagues, and they are there to support you, it can be a lonely game refereeing, there’s no one out there cheering you on!”