Newcastle defender Steven Taylor has spoken of his shock after referee Mark Halsey revealed to him that he and his family have received death threats from deranged football supporters.
Taylor was greeted with the chant of "we wish you were dead" from Sunderland fans in last month's Wear-Tyne derby game, yet he admits his treatment was put into perspective after he spoke to recovering cancer sufferer and respected Premier League referee Halsey.
"I was speaking to Mark Halsey and he asked me how I was feeling in the wake of the Sunderland game," he is quoted as saying in several newspapers. "I said there had been no problems at all, it was just a bit of banter, but it was nice of him to ask. I think he was just trying to put me at ease.
"What I didn't realise is that his family have had death threats. When they're talking about his kids, about putting a bullet in their heads, that's too far. I asked him how he dealt with it. He said 'You've just got to get on with it and not let it get to you'. But that must be incredibly hard.
"Mark was trying to make me feel better about my situation by telling me what had happened to him. For me, that's another level. I don't know how you can shrug that kind of thing off, I'm not that kind of person."
A fan who lambasted Halsey on Twitter after he took charge of the Liverpool v Manchester United game back in September was later cautioned by police after he posted a message stating he "hoped Mark Halsey gets cancer again and dies", but news of the death threats will stun many football lovers.
"He's a brave guy first for what he's been through in his life, and then for having to deal with what people have said about his family," added Taylor. "What can you do about things like that? I honestly don't know.
"There's massive pressure put on referees and I think it's getting even harder for them. Referees deserve a bit more credit. In our last game against West Brom, Hatem Ben Arfa felt he'd been fouled and wanted a free-kick, but Chris Foy played an advantage that led to us scoring the winner
"Something like that goes largely unreported but he deserves credit for it. Quite often, people only want to see the bad side of refs, but that was great refereeing."