Mike Dean says he was 'nervous' and 'scared' of refereeing some of the Premier League's 'big personality players' when he was promoted to become a top-flight official.
Dean, 53, is set to call time on his refereeing career - with further reports suggesting he's set to move into a full-time role as a Video Assistant Referee (VAR).
He's been around the Premier League for 22 years and refereed some of the biggest names the league has had to offer.
And, in an honest admission, Dean has revealed he was 'nervous' and 'scared' of making a decision in games with big players.
After '22 years at the top' Mike Dean is preparing to retire from refereeing at the end of the season.— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) April 1, 2022
Watch the full interview on Football Focus, Saturday 2 April, 12:00 BST on @BBCOne, @BBCiPlayer and the BBC Sport app.#BBCFootball
"I got in the Premier League in 2000 when I was 31, 32, and you had massive, big personality players the Keanes, people like that, Vieira, they were all around then," he told BBC Sport.
"For me to come from the Football League to the Premier League and refereeing those players... from reffing League 1 and League 2 and the odd Championship game to the Premier League...
"It was just a massive step, and I was probably in awe of them as well to be fair.
"[I was] probably a bit nervous and a bit scared of making a decision."
Dean added: "I think the players I've refereed over the years, some don't like me and some do like me.
"But when I've given players a bit of stick back, or given them a one-liner back, and they don't like it, then I will apologise five minutes later and say 'sorry for what I said before', and we move on and we shake hands.
"But I think players like the way I ref, because they know they can give me some stuff and I can give it them back, and they can get away with it within the boundaries that are allowed."
Dean managed to overcome his fears of refereeing the likes of Keane and Vieira to carve out an impressive career as an on-field match official.
Featured Image Credit: BBC Sport
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