Anthony Taylor: The Man in Black outside the white lines

Premier League referee Anthony Taylor on a recent visit to UCLan

“He’s an absolute lunatic!”

That sounds like the type of phrase a frustrated fan would hurl at a Premier League referee during a game – not how one of those officials describes their family dog.

Like the tales of teachers sleeping inside schools, no one quite knows what football’s often lambasted (and sometimes beloved) men in the middle get up to in their spare time.

Anthony Taylor owns a black Cockapoo, Montgomery, named after the Field Marshal Bernard who fought in both World Wars – hardly comparable to weekly Twitter skirmishes over VAR.

“He’s an absolute lunatic! He needs about four hours of exercise a day,” he exclaims during a pre-lockdown visit to speak to UCLan’s Second-year Sports Journalism students.

Taylor, 41, has been volunteering for the NHS since the Covid-19 outbreak halted the Premier League and EFL seasons while trying to stay fit for whenever the campaigns resume, as is hoped.

But before the suspension of the season, Taylor has been overseeing matches in world’s most-watched league and on the European stage for the best part of a decade.

The Altrincham FC season ticket holder for the past 25 years revealed what he does in his spare time; from unwinding in airports to keeping himself away from mental torment.

“I have two teenage daughters, so that takes up quite a bit of time when I’m at home,” he jokes.

“My wife and my children don’t walk the dog so he’s delighted when I’m at home because we spend a lot of time out and about.”

Prevented from being on social media by his bosses, Taylor tailors the analysis and criticism of any football he watches to avoid getting caught up in the cesspool.

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“I usually stick to the main TV productions for stuff; and even then they’re not very balanced sometimes. I never read what some of these supposed ex-refs say because that’s just like the pot calling the kettle.

“If you don’t listen to certain things, they’re never going to affect you.”

Being obligated to stay overnight for whichever match he’s in charge of, Taylor revealed the difficulties of travelling and some methods of how he passes the tedious time.

“Films and books,” are what Taylor likes to entertain himself with.

“The most recent films I’ve watched are ‘The Highwaymen’ – about Bonnie and Clyde – and I watched ‘The Game Changers’ – that’s about that vegan diet thing.

“It’s a bit biased and slanted, but don’t tell the guy on that! He’s pedalling some vegan protein stuff.”

The Wythenshawe-born referee qualified as a FIFA official in 2013, and often travels around Europe with the same team of assistants but often finds himself in need of something to occupy him.

“Because we’re flying from different airports, we don’t always start from the same point,” he explained.

“People underestimate how tiring waiting around in airports and railway stations are.

“Even simple things like eating healthily. In an airport it’s really difficult; there’s a McDonald’s, KFC and nothing else really.”

Anthony Taylor with UCLan Sports Journalism students

Those slow and sluggish tribulations pale in comparison to Taylor’s old job – a riot training guard at a local prison.

Taylor has gone from shield-holder to whistle-blower on his journey and has his final opportunity of being involved in the rescheduled European Championships next summer, as well as the next World Cup.

He will be hoping to be in charge of some of the world’s biggest footballers for 90 minutes or more by keeping on-field offenders in check, rather than real-life criminals.