Football: Referee Dallas feels he is `stronger'

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HUGH DALLAS, the referee who needed four stitches in a head wound after being hit by a coin during the violent Old Firm clash between Celtic and Rangers at Parkhead, said yesterday that the experience had only made him stronger.

Dallas admitted it was the hardest game he ever had to referee and said: "It has not put me off at all. It has just made me all the stronger."

Dallas escaped further injury thanks to the intervention of Celtic players who prevented one spectator reaching him after running on the pitch, while other fans also encroached the playing area.

However, his troubles did not end there with windows broken at his house after the game. "That is a wee bit upsetting, the fact that it comes to your house and affects your family. I was a bit shocked," said the referee, who sent off three players in the match.

"It was the hardest game I have ever had to referee. It was pretty hairy stuff," he said. "When we came out, the wall of noise... was deafening; you couldn't actually hear each other talk. You're not actually aware of any poison in the atmosphere because you're homing in on the half-way line, ball down, let's get the captains together and get the game going. But it was extremely noisy."

Despite the injury, which left blood trickling down his face, Dallas said he had refused to contemplate abandoning the match. "I think at that stage of the game it would have been the wrong thing. Maybe that was what some people wanted last night, so we had to make sure we got through the game. At no time after I had restarted the game did I feel like my safety was in danger. I knew that Celtic's security [staff] would be extra vigilant and I was quite happy to go through with the rest of the match."

Dallas, who will still take charge of the Tennents Scottish Cup final between the Glasgow giants at Hampden Park on 29 May, said he had been ready to tackle the fan who ran on to the pitch. "My first reaction was that the spectator was going to get to me, because there wasn't anybody between him and myself," he said. "I decided I had to stop this guy, and thankfully one or two of the Celtic players appeared from nowhere. It's still blurred in my mind. But I saw the Celtic players grab him on the ground, and then the security guys got to me."