Paul Alcock Was Much More Than The Di Canio Incident: Jeff Winter Pays Tribute

Former referee Jeff Winter has paid tribute to fellow man in black Paul Alcock and insisted he will be remembered for more than just the notorious incident with Paolo di Canio.

Alcock, who took charge of 94 Premier League matches between 1995 and 2000, died on Tuesday (January 30), aged 64, after a long battle with cancer.

He was famously pushed over by ex-Sheffield Wednesday striker Di Canio in 1998, and Winter says that moment at Hillsborough exemplified the professionalism of Alcock.

"I do remember the day vividly because we had done a north-south reversal," Winter told Newsweek. "I was refereeing at Charlton Athletic the day Paul was refereeing at Hillsborough. I remember ringing him after the game, because as we came off the pitch there was this furore breaking that a referee had been assaulted."

Two hundred miles north, his colleague Alcock had shown Di Canio a straight red card after he had kicked out at Arsenal defender Martin Keown and sparked a melee of players. The enraged Italian took his anger out on Alcock, pushing him to the ground.

"It was just calling him as a friend and a colleague," Winter recalls. "Paul showed dignity in dealing with that: he did his job, did the paperwork and got on with his career.

"What happens to a referee one day, in one game, it could just so easily have been you. So there was that sort of family support, arm on the shoulder, where you would help each other.

"As referees, I know some people say 'you all stick together', but we spent days together training and got to know each other as work colleagues rather than people who were doing different games in different part of the country.

"To those who knew Paul and respected him as a man and a match official, there are many memories that are far closer to the heart to remember Paul for rather than that one particular incident."

Jeff Winter
Paul Alcock
Jeff Winter, left, and Paul Alcock working as referees in the Premier League. Winter described his friend and colleague Alcock as a "gentle man."

Winter, who retired in 2005, developed a friendship with Alcock during pre-season training and the regular meet-ups that officials had throughout the campaign. They worked together, too: Alcock, the referee; Winter, as fourth official.

"I've seen other tributes passed to him and I can only endorse them," Winter said. "He was a nice man. He was a gentle man. He was successful in his personal and business life and also a very successful referee.

"Everyone who met Paul was touched by what a nice, genuine man he was and I'm sure that everybody involved with him in refereeing, in that part of the world, along with his family, will miss him."

Alcock was diagnosed with cancer three times, undergoing reconstructive surgery, but Winter spoke of his professionalism and passion for refereeing as he returned to assessment duties.

"I heard that he'd been suffering from cancer a few years ago but, as I understood, he'd continued as soon as it was physically possible to get back, and he was still assessing referees down south close to where he lived," Winter said.

"As a referee he got to the top and was included in the Premier League, but as a person he was liked and respected by everyone that met him."