The season started so promisingly as well. A newly-promoted Level 5, I was looking forward to reffing at the top levels of the Kent County League and getting myself some good cup games to run. I had received my fixtures for September and ran the line in my first game in an academy Under 18s game between Millwall and Sheffield United.
But all my plans came to a juddering halt on a Thursday evening in the last week of August when, walking along Camden High Street in London after a day at work, I suddenly felt seriously poorly, breathless and lacking any strength. I walked very slowly to the tube station and stumbled onto a train for Kent at Charing Cross. A sign of my state of health was that I sent myself an email describing how poorly I felt. I was sure I had a virus, or even pneumonia.
With hindsight, I realise how stupid my actions were, but I made it to my car and drove home, where I told my wife I needed to get myself to hospital. At Tunbridge Wells hospital, triage showed its effectiveness and within five minutes I was being plugged in to an ECG machine. That's when things started getting serious. A young doctor said, "we think you're having a heart attack." Within a few minutes I was loaded onto an ambulance and was hammering down the M20 at 95 mph, chatting away happily to a paramedic.
To cut a long story short, I was wheeled straight into the operating room at William Harvey Hospital and fitted with a stent, a metal balloon, to one of my heart arteries that had closed up, and found myself in the acute care ward. My heart's inability to pump properly had allowed liquid to form around the organ and was pressing on my lungs, giving me a nasty feeling of drowning. This took a few hours of fading away - and a dose of morphine - before it eased up.
Over the following week I learned a lot about hearts. Most of all, I learned that I had over the past 10 years or so, had a major heart attack and not realised it. All well and good but my heart was damaged and with the addition of the new incident meant that my heart was unlikely to ever again regain its full strength.
So that's the story behind the end of my refereeing career after about 15 years.
But hang on a second. You don't actually have to run around the football pitch to be involved. In October, I turned out on Pembury playing fields to watch a young referee blow the whistle and to offer him encouraging words. Mentoring inexperienced referees is an invaluable tool just when a ref is at his or her most vulnerable. An encouraging word can mean the difference between giving up or carrying on.
Last Saturday I mentored a referee officiating in his first adult match, a much tougher proposition than children's games.
I'm hoping to enrol as an assessor, or Observer, in the New Year. Having been assessed plenty of times in the past couple of years, it'll be interesting to judge other referees.
I'm feeling fine, on the whole, enjoyed a 5km walk today and have gone back to work. A heart attack is a life changing experience, but it doesn't mean the end of everything, even if it has spelt the end of my time in the middle.