WHO would be a goalie? Who would be a referee? Who would be a goalie that retires five years early so he can become a referee?

Hold on. What?

Sean Murdoch of Dunfermline Athletic, formerly Hibernian, Hamilton Academical, Accrington Stanley and Rochester Rhinos, is hanging up his gloves and picking up a whistle. It’s going to be a dream come true.

Now 32, he stepped on the first rung of refereeing ten years ago when he was at the Accies and for the most part has combined being a professional player, he’s had close to 200 senior appearances, with learning to be a referee.

It must be said that for someone clearly certifiable, Murdoch is a nice bloke with an admirable dedication to the craft of becoming the most hated man at any football match.


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On Sunday night, the 32-year-old, who has had injury problems of late, announced his retirement. That was sad. What was incredible was his revelation of his intention of becoming a Grade One referee.

This begs the question: how many other former senior pros have swapped shouting at the officials to being the poor sod who is shouted at?

“There’s none,” Murdoch confirms to me. “There are guys in the system who have played maybe at apprentice levels with a senior club. There is nobody who has had continuous seasons at a good level of football.

“I passed my initial referee exam when I was 21 and at Hamilton. I started to do games then. I worked my way up over the next six years and built myself up to Category Three development.

“I was 27 or 28, and the SFA spoke to me about progressing me and getting me into the next category. That would have meant stopping the football because it’s a conflict of interest and I would need my Saturdays free.

“I had just got offered a one-year contract at Hibs and just thought that I had worked all my life to be a professional footballer and at 28 was it was too young quit, but my plan was always to get into it in my early thirties because I do really love officiating.

“In my opinion, it’s a fantastic job.”

Murdoch, a real favourite at Dunfermline, has been plagued by a persistent groin problem since last season and last played on December 23, 2017.

However, he is fit again, has been for weeks, and Stevie Crawford, the manager at East End Park, offered his goalie a new deal. He said no.


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Murdoch was always going to retire before his time was up. For someone who has juggled being a footballer with referring, there was always going to be a point when one of them had to go.

He said: “Refereeing can be a fantastic career. If you are lucky and good enough you can go far, really far. I’m not doing this just to toddle about, I’m going to work hard, get good assessments and get as far up the ladder as I can.

“You talk about me being mad but in terms of me being a footballer, especially a goalkeeper, I’ve heard a lot of abuse anyway. To me, it’s part of parcel of football. We will never eradicate it. You accept it or you don’t. I accept it. I’m looking forward to it.

“Clear physics will tell you that you can’t keep one set of fans happy and also the other set at the same time. That’s impossible. Chances are, one set of players, coaches whatever, are not going to be happy. You can’t please everyone.

“If you go onto the field as a referee with the mind-set of trying to impress both teams, it’s not going to happen. The way I do it is to try and control the game. I never go on to please players or fans. That’s perhaps what footballers do and I need to get away from that.”


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Murdoch is unique in two senses. One that he was a player. Two he is happy enough to admit that he was once a fan.

“He said: “I’d say 99.9 per cent of referees supported a football team when growing up. I was ten when I was going to Hibs. I didn’t know what a referee did. I was too busy watching the goalkeeper.

“I know what being a referee is all about. I could easily play for another five years. But I’m not interested. I needed to quit now so I could have a proper crack at it. I’ve sacrificed five years of income – and you don’t get paid a lot for the games I do right now – but I’m okay with that.”

A goalie who wants to be a referee. He must hate football.

In fact, Murdoch is a breath of fresh air. He knows what it means to be a player. He will be the only one who does. This might be the start of something sensible.