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Mike Dean let himself down by turning on another referee for signing autographs, Sunny Singh Gill should be celebrated

IF only referees would show a little common sense.

Mike Dean probably still wakes with a jolt in the middle of the night with that patronising phrase ringing in his ears.

Mike Dean took aim at Sunny Singh Gill live on Sky Sports

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Mike Dean took aim at Sunny Singh Gill live on Sky SportsCredit: Getty
Gill was seen signing autographs at half-time of Crystal Palace vs Luton

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Gill was seen signing autographs at half-time of Crystal Palace vs LutonCredit: X formerly Twitter / @SkySportsPL

PTSD from hearing the same old story while serving as one of our highest-profile officials.

So why now in retirement he cannot apply it to the case of Sunny Singh Gill is beyond anyone’s guess.

From his pulpit on Sky Sports, whistleblower-turned-expert-pundit Dean wasted no time in tainting Gill’s Premier League debut because he signed a couple of autographs for some kids during half-time at Crystal Palace last Saturday.

Describing the  rookie ref’s actions as “bang out of order”, this man who has taken charge of an FA Cup final and high-level European games turned on one of his own.

And, in doing so, Dean provided a tasty soundbite for his employers in the gallery.

By the way, if you don’t happen to know who  Dean is, as well  as switching on the telly on a  Saturday afternoon, you can easily look him up appearing as himself in old episodes of Ted Lasso.

Gill is the first referee of British South Asian heritage to officiate in the Premier League. So that makes him a bit of a story.

In the 70s and 80s, instead of being asked to sign his name in a little boy’s scrapbook, there’s every chance he would have been called ‘P**i b*****d’ as he walked out in readiness for the second half.

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His dad Jarnail probably became only too familiar with the lyrics of the song ‘one, two, three the lights are flashing . . . ’ as the first Sikh to become an English football referee.

So seeing his son take in the history of the occasion and enjoy engagement with young, white supporters is a moment to hold up to the light.

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A sign that while people in  football from any ethnic minority, or with non-white skin, face worrying levels of racist abuse on social media, there is hope when  people meet face to face.

As far as we know,  Gill wasn’t charging £50 a pop for his autograph.

Perhaps that is the issue some ‘celebrity’ ex-refs have with it.

And it didn’t look like he was aware  that TV cameras scanning the stadium had caught this unprecedented, fleeting exchange between a referee and some young fans.

There was more criticism from other ex-referees, too, proclaiming that while on duty Gill is there to officiate — not glad-hand and make it all about him.

While that’s insensitive, it is at least a credible argument about referees keeping their distance and retaining the aura of authority.

However, it’s probably safe to assume that Gill was not strutting around the tunnel area during the break at Palace’s home clash with Luton, touting his moniker to anyone within earshot.

Gill became the first referee of British South Asian heritage to officiate in the Premier League

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Gill became the first referee of British South Asian heritage to officiate in the Premier LeagueCredit: Getty

It’s a fair bet that the small child asked for his autograph.

And if so, what’s Gill actually supposed to do?

Just imagine the outcry if umpteen TV cameras had chanced across images of the first Premier League referee of British South Asian descent ignoring the pleading face of a cherubic kid asking to sign in his scrapbook.

What’s that going to do for race relations and the diversity dream in this country?

It’s almost as if Gill is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

What we need more than anything  is for people to show some common sense.

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