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Ref-Watch: Birmingham (A)

Ref-Watch returns for the new season, and the first official in the spotlight is Peter Bankes, who takes charge of Reading's trip to Birmingham.

Pete Norton/Getty Images

Much like Steve Clarke, I’m back for my first full season on Ref-Watch Duty (if TTE will keep me!), and this season there are some new faces in the National Group of Referees, who officiate Football League matches.

Firstly, we say goodbye to Andy D’Urso, Scott Mathieson and Pat Miller, who all hung up their whistles at the end of last season, the latter due to a knee injury. Graham Scott is also no longer a Select Group ref, but with good reason. He has been promoted to the Select Group who primarily take charge of Premier League matches to replace the retired Chris Foy. Congratulations Graham! Replacing them are Darren England, Ross Joyce, Lee Swabey and Ben Toner who have all earned promotions after being successful in non-league and running line in top flight matches.

Anyway, on to Reading’s first official of the season for our trip to Birmingham. It is Peter Bankes, who is a relatively new referee, with last season his first in the National Group.

He took charge of 27 games in 2014/15, handing out 98 yellow cards and seven red cards at an average of 3.9 cards per game. However only two of those matches were in the Championship and neither involved the Royals, meaning you have to look at Bankes’ career as a linesman to find previous with Reading.

The Merseyside official has run the line in five of our games in the past – four in the Premier League. The record stands at won one, drawn two and lost two. Bankes’ most high-profile game as a linesman was the 2013 FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley between Wigan and Millwall.

But if you think his inexperience means that he can't keep up with the game, fear not. Bankes did the Great North Run last year and completed it in 1 hour and 46 minutes. That’s only a minute shy of former British sprinter Iwan Thomas. Impressive.