Lancashire referee Darren Handley will be in charge of the Iron’s home match against Sheffield United on Saturday.This is Handley’s first campaign as a Football League referee after he was promoted from the Conference last season, following “years of hard work”.
The PE teacher from Bolton has taken charge of 21 games in total this season, showing 71 yellows and six dismissals. It is not the first time he will take charge at Glanford Park - he oversaw the 2-0 win over Chesterfield in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy back in September.
He sent off the Spireites’ Jack Broadhead six minutes from time after he received his second yellow card. Sean McAllister and Gary McSheffrey were on the score sheet in that win.
Last season Handley was the man in the middle for 27 games in games across the Conference, the FA Cup and League Two (once). He took charge of the Conference play-off semi-final at the Abbey Stadium when Cambridge beat Halifax 2-0 en route to Wembley.
Before the reward for his efforts, Handley had spent six years refereeing in the fourth tier as well as occasionally running the lines in the Football League. He was already making good progress as a referee aged 18, following in his father’s footsteps - Albert Handley is a well-known referee in non-League football.
When he was told of his rise to the Football League, Handley told the Bolton News last May: “I was ecstatic when I got the phone call to tell me I had been promoted.
“There were only four of the 32 level two referees who achieved promotion and I was over the moon when I found out I was one of those.
“I have worked very hard at the semi-professional level and it has paid off.
“It has been a lifetime ambition of mine which has taken 20 years ever since I started refereeing in the Bolton Boys Federation.”
Handley has not taken charge of Nigel Clough’s Blades this term and it promises to be an exciting match on a day where Scunthorpe will be celebrating the Irish Iron.
Speaking about the challenge of stepping up his refereeing game, Handley added: “It is going to be hard. I will have to adapt my game but the Conference has become stronger in recent years with many of the Football League’s professional clubs dropping into it.”
Ross Joyce and Tom Nield will be running the lines for Westhoughton-born Handley, with Anthony Tankard acting as his fourth official.
See our player and management interviews, along with our match and betting previews and much more ahead of the match against the promotion-chasing Blades.