A FORMER Bury Times sports desk veteran will this weekend help to revive flagging interest in the referees trade.

Mervyn Collins will be an assistant referee for Bury AFC's visit to Campion, near Bradford, for a North West Counties League clash.

The 63-year-old has recently returned to pitchside after a near-fatal heart attack 15 months ago, at a time when the refereeing world has been decimated by the pandemic.

Mervyn worked for the Bury Times from 1980 until 1996, including eight years on the sports desk, where he was sports editor of the Radcliffe Times.

The grandfather-of-three, who recently moved back up north, said: "I never imagined that I would be acting as an official for a Bury game and to be honest never thought I would ever referee again.

"Fifteen months ago I suffered a near fatal heart attack, followed by a second one in February this year, prior to moving to my new home.

“I actually threw out all my refereeing kit when I left my home in Evesham.

"But having exercised, and luckily had no more heart issue,s I was asked by a local junior club to referee some games this season.”

Before his health issues, Mervyn had officiated for more than 30 years, starting in the Bury Sunday League in 1989, after playing for Walshaw Sports Club, Bury Grammar School Old Boys and the Robin Hood/Dungeon Sunday sides.

He answered an appeal by the NWCL earlier this season for assistant referees and hasn't looked back since.

"Three days later I ran the line at Chadderton and have been given appointments every Saturday since," he added.

Mervyn has missed out on two recent chances to officiate in games involving clubs from his native Bury. He should have been running the line at the Neuven Stadium last month when Bury faced South Liverpool but the match was rearranged. And a recent Prestwich Heys game he was due to work on was cancelled.