Stepovers, celebrations and killing chickens - referee Mike Dean on That Peter Crouch Podcast

Mike Dean and Peter Crouch
Two of the game's best entertainers

Mike Dean: cult figure, evergreen Premier League staple and referee.

That Peter Crouch Podcast returns to BBC Sounds this week and, on the first episode of the series, they've got guest Mike Dean - the Premier League's veteran, maverick, Mr Hollywood referee. Listen here.

The 51-year-old is the Premier League's most experienced man in black and recently officiated his 500th Premier League game.

In that time he's become a bit of a cult figure - for his histrionic gesticulations, his expressive face and his banter antics - like when he hid the match ball from Sergio Aguero.

In a very revealing conversation with Crouchy, Tom Fordyce and Chris Stark, we learned five things about the man in the middle including what he thinks of VAR, how he used to work in a chicken factory and whether he plays up to the cameras.

1. Dean is a showman

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"I do love a stepover!"

His histrionic style of officiating is often noted. The faces he pulls, the dramatic way that he points to a penalty spot, and the physical comedy like when he pretended to sniff his assistant referee in the Manchester derby. One paper once called him "king of the bants".

Is he playing up to the cameras? Pushed on whether he adopts a persona on the pitch, Dean offers a slightly ambiguous answer.

"Showman, you mean?" he asks. "Yeah, I do come across like that. I love the job I do and I think that comes across - that I'm enjoying what I do."

Hmmm…

"I've just got to be myself on the pitch or I just won't referee properly," he explains, adding, "I love a stepover," which is, of course, one of his trademarks.

"It's just there and you do it. If I didn't do it, I wouldn't feel comfortable. If the ball came and I thought, right, I'd better move out of the way, I'd be all over the place."

2. Before giving fouls, he had a job killing fowl

Something unexpected we learn about Dean is that, in the early days of his career, he had a second job in a poultry factory - "a fowl job" he quips.

"When I was shift manager we ended up killing 140,000-odd chickens a day," he tells the boys.

And he juggled this with his officiating.

"I basically had to go in at six o'clock, do my shift until two o'clock, get my bag, drive to Carlisle, Hartlepool, Scunthorpe or wherever, referee, get back in at three o'clock in the morning and go straight back into work at six o'clock," he explains. "That's how it was for four or five years."

3. He wouldn't have given Aguero a second yellow for that celebration

Sergio Aguero takes shirt off in celebration
Aguero celebrates the goal that won the title

Amongst the many Premier League moments Dean has been a part of, one of the most notable has to be *that* Aguero goal. It's one of the most notable Premier League moments ever. 2011-12 season. The 95th minute of the game. Manchester United have just won at Sunderland and look likely to snatch the title from Manchester City, when Aguero pops up with a goal to seal City's first ever Premier League title. Pandemonium ensues.

In the melee, Aguero wheels away and whips his shirt off. Following on his heels (and gesturing in his custom dramatic fashion), Dean has to issue a yellow card for the celebration.

"I'd have been devastated if I'd have scored the goal [and been booked], but they know the score," Dean says.

He does say that he would have let it go had Aguero been on a booking already.

"If it had been his second yellow, I would have just taken the hit."

4. Referees have to declare team allegiances

There has been some speculation around which way Dean's proverbial bread may or may not be buttered.

After he appeared to wheel away celebrating a goal by Mousa Dembele in 2015, rumours started to circulate that he was a Tottenham Hotspur fan.

"I'd pointed to the centre circle, but I didn't realise I was doing it as much until they showed it on the screen," Dean says of that incident. He says that's probably the most 'Mike Dean' thing he's ever done.

Either way, any doubts about which team he supports were put to bed last year, when scenes emerged of him giving it what we call in the business 'the big 'un' with Tranmere fans as they reached the League Two play-off final.

"You have to declare before the season starts what team you support, so you don't go and referee them," Dean tells Crouch and the lads. "Otherwise, Tranmere would be top of the Premier League, wouldn't they?"

5. Refs don't need to touch their earpiece on a VAR decision

Referee Mike Dean listens for a VAR decision before awarding Manchester City a penalty during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester City
Mike Dean consults Stockley Park VAR team

Dean explains how he's come around to VAR.

"Twelve months ago, I wasn't for it," he says.

"When you've been refereeing for twenty years and then you have someone in your ear telling you that you've made a mistake, it's tough.

"Over the last six months I've grown into it a bit more," he continues, adding that it's a "good thing" if a decision gets overturned correctly.

One big revelation he offers though is that thing that the refs do when a decision goes back to Stockley Park for review - where they touch their earpiece like they're listening to something - well, it's just for show.

Yep.

"Most of the time, you don't need to do it," he reveals. "It's just to show the crowd you're waiting for a decision."

Well, the scales have truly fallen from our eyes.

Test how much you know about the man/myth/legend Mike Dean with this quiz.

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