Premier League Career: 1992-1995
First Premier League Match: Blackburn Rovers 1-0 Arsenal (18 August 1992)
Final Premier League Match: Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (14 May 1995)
Joe Worrall from Warrington in Cheshire was another official in the early Premier League Years who benefited from the new era in English football and was able to extend his career longer than anticipated. Worrall was an authoritative figure in the middle during the 1980s and in his 60 Premier League matches he took charge of between 1992 and 1995, he actually didn’t produce a single red card. These statistics show he was placed in high regard by managers, players and supporters.
Worrall was just 19 when he took up the referee’s whistle in 1964. Like many of his colleagues and predecessors, he began in the local environment, officiating in the Warrington and District Football League. After progression into the Cheshire Association Football League, Worrall was appointed a linesman in the Football League in 1973 and three years later, had made the full Referees List. He would be a senior figure then in the referee world for nearly 20 years.
Worrall’s respect went further than the English game. Appointed as a FIFA ref in 1981, he would take charge of international qualifiers and club continental matches until stepping down in 1992 due to reaching the age limit criteria. His last appointment on the European scene was definitely the most prestigious of his career which was to take charge of the 1992 UEFA Cup final between Dutch giants Ajax and Italian club Torino. In these days, the UEFA Cup final was held over two legs, so Worrall was only in control of the first leg which took place in Turin. The match finished 2-2 and ultimately, it was a talented Ajax side who claimed the prize. A goalless draw in the second leg saw them triumph on the away goals rule.
In England, he did both the League Cup and FA Cup final and both in the late 1980s. In 1988, he was in the middle when Luton Town produced a heroic comeback to stun Arsenal 3-2 in the League Cup final. Arsenal were leading 2-1 with 10 minutes to go when he gave a spot-kick to the Gunners but Nigel Winterburn failed to convert the chance. The Hatters went on to score two late goals to snatch the trophy. A year later, he stepped out on an emotional afternoon at Wembley for the all-Merseyside FA Cup final between Liverpool FC and Everton. The game was played just over a month after the Hillsborough disaster when 96 Liverpool supporters attended an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest and didn’t come home. In a highly-charged atmosphere, Worrall had a good game, staying out of the limelight whilst the two teams put on a great spectacle for those witnessing and in memory of those lost. Liverpool won the FA Cup with Ian Rush scoring the decisive goal in a 3-2 victory after extra time.
Appointed as a Premier League referee when the new league came into existence in 1992, Worrall was only meant to take charge in the first two campaigns before reaching the retirement age. His strong performances though meant he was granted a one-year extension and even when strong new tackling laws came into force after the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States, Worrall didn’t give out lots of yellow cards unlike many of his other colleagues at the time. In fact, the most yellow cards he ever gave out in a Premier League game was three which was in a 2-0 victory for West Ham United over Southampton in October 1994.
Worrall retired at the end of the 1994-1995 season with his final game coming on the final day, overseeing Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal which meant they finished above the Gunners in the final standings. However, his involvement in football continued after his retirement for several years, as he became a match delegate and referees’ assessor.