ALBERT Rennison was enjoying a holiday in Scarborough when he found out he’d been nominated for a Proud of Barnsley award.

It was a welcome break before life becomes hectic when the football season starts in a few weeks’ time.

For the last 50 years Albert has been refereeing local football matches and this season will be no different for the 78-year-old.

“It’s been a big part of my life, I even had it in my marriage lines that my wife should never interfere with my football,” joked Albert.

“There have been lots of changes, of course, over the years.

“The facilities now are amazing at my first game as referee for the Barnsley Sunday League, I turned up in a shirt and tie and ended up getting changed with the chickens in their coup.

“And back in the 1960s, many’s the time I would be helping move sheep and cows off the pitch before the game could start.”

Albert’s half-century of service was recently recognised by the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA when he was awarded the FA Long Service to Football Award.

“It was really nice to be recognised. There was a committee from all the different leagues in the Sheffield and Hallamshire area. They gave me a medallion and a 50-year badge to put on my coat.”

Albert worked in coal mines for 20 years before making a living as a football coach, at Dodworth Miners’ Welfare then Penistone Church and his most famous protege was England defender John Stones who has gone on to reach the top level of the sport, recently winning the treble with Manchester City.

“I coached him from him being four years old until he signed for Barnsley. I told his dad he ought to take him down to Dorothy Hyman because he would definitely make an Olympian.

“But he made the right move and he’s a multi-millionaire – it’s fantastic what he’s achieved.”

Albert, who is originally from Athersley but lives in Worsbrough, is still refereeing men’s games in Huddersfield as well as junior football in Barnsley.

“There are 120 football games for girls alone happening on a Saturday morning during the season and there just aren’t enough referees.

“You train them and then they don’t stick to it because of the demands and the abuse you get.

“I’ll be refereeing four games a weekend once the season starts.”

Albert started refereeing in late 1972, after attending the same course as Steve Lodge who went on to become a Premier League referee.

“I had played local football since 1961. I was getting into trouble with referees so I thought I would join them.

“I refereed in the Barnsley League for 50 years. I progressed to the Midland League and then the Northern Counties East League.

“I got promoted to the Football League reserves which they called the Pontins League. I had the pleasure of refereeing at places like Old Trafford and Maine Road which was brilliant.

“I did a lot of local cup finals as well as the FA Trophy quarter-final.”

Albert was also an FA instructor, coaching young referees including Barnsley men Darren England and Scott Ledger who are both now in the Premier League.

“Young Darren was 14 when he went on my refereeing course. Scott had just come out of the forces and I brought him through.

“I’m really chuffed to have been nominated for a Proud of Barnsley award.”