Butler’s the ref! Walsall’s Balby-born skipper is learning ropes in Doncaster Alliance League

Andy Butler takes charge of Three Horseshoes against Park Social.

Andy Butler takes charge of Three Horseshoes against Park Social.

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Doncaster-born Walsall defender Andy Butler is hoping to stay in the game long after hanging up his boots.

Andy, who will celebrate his 30th birthday next month, still believes that he has several more good years in him at Football League level.

But he is already planning for the day when he calls time on a career which has also seen him ply his trade with the likes of Scunthorpe United and Huddersfield Town.

However, he’s not looking to go down the same route as many other fellow professionals do at his age and enlist on a coaching course.

Instead the Walsall skipper, who has twice been voted player of the season since joining the club in 2010, is hoping to make the grade as a Football League referee.

“People are always crying out for footballers to become referees so I thought I’d give it a go,” he said.

Balby-born Andy is currently serving his ‘apprenticeship’ in the Doncaster Sunday Alliance League after first cutting his teeth in Wolverhampton, where he was living at the time.

He recalled: “I was contacted by the local league after I had expressed interest in becoming a referee in an interview in a Midlands daily newspaper.

“I was told that if I was interested there was a course in a couple of weeks time and the gaffer (Dean Smith) was good enough to give me a couple of days off.

“I passed the course and within a couple of weeks I was in charge of my first game.

“I was naturally a bit nervous, and I gave a penalty, but once you get into the swing of things it is actually quite enjoyable.

“I refereed games in which some Walsall season ticket holders played, whilst other people knew who I was, so that helped me gain their respect and it was all quite positive.

“It’s been the same in the Alliance League, although obviously I’m not as well known by the players, and so far it’s been easy and I’ve not had any problems.”

He added: “I had to switch off a bit last season because refereeing was taking over from my football and I was questioning decisions during games and I was getting yellow cards for chatting back.

“Being a referee has made me appreciate how tough the job can be at that level because they often have to make a split-second decisions and they can only make it from where they are and what they see.

“A lot of Football League referees take an interest and ask how things are going.”