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May 19, 2013

Halsey: I hope I've inspired

Retiring referee Mark Halsey hopes he has been an inspiration to other cancer sufferers after returning to top-flight officiating having beaten non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The 51-year-old was given a generous ovation by fans of both clubs after refereeing his final match when Norwich beat Manchester City 3-2 on Sunday.

And Halsey, who underwent surgery in 2009 to remove a cancerous tumour in his throat, hopes the example he set by officiating for a further three seasons in the Premier League will help others.

He said: "I have had three great years since I have come back from my illness and hopefully I have been an inspiration for all those men, women and children out there living with cancer, and it can show them we can beat this. We can get back out there and hopefully I have done a lot for them.

"It's been a fantastic career for me, with ups and downs. My family have been there for me. My wife has got leukaemia. She was there for me when I was battling my cancer."

Halsey refereed the League Cup final in 2008 but defined the highlight of his career as: "Fighting back from that illness, surviving it, and getting back on that pitch and being an inspiration for others. My first game back, Wigan v Blackpool [in August 2010], I never thought I would see that day. But here I am, magnificent."

Halsey thanked Manchester City supporters for the reception he received. He refereed their 1999 third-tier play-off final against Gillingham, when the club promotion.

He added: "I think the fans have got an affinity with me. They think I helped put them back on the map in 1999 in that play-off final at Wembley. It was a great day for me and my family.

"That reception at the end was just absolutely magnificent. I don't think I have seen a referee get something like that before. I wasn't expecting it, not at all. [Norwich manager] Chris Hughton gave me a hug and said a few more words to me. It was fantastic."

In his 14 years as a top-flight referee, Halsey has forged a reputation as one of the more lenient officials and only booked one player, Joleon Lescott, in his last game.

He said: "That's fantastic - and only one yellow card, which I had to do. Joleon accepted that. There could have been one or two others on another day, but not today."

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