by Russell Kempson

It was 9am and PC Dean Whitestone had been on duty for 24 hours - on patrol on the mean streets of Tottenham in North London, where the rioting of last summer had ignited. All was now quiet on the High Road but trouble was flaring all over the capital.

Through the mists of extreme tiredness, the lack of sleep and adrenaline-fuelled tension, Whitestone remembered that he had to work elsewhere later that night. He had been appointed to referee the Carling Cup first-round tie between Charlton Athletic and Reading at The Valley.

"It was a really tough time," Dean recalled. "No one really knew what was going on in the city and where. We were a visible presence in Tottenham, and it had mostly calmed down there, but it seemed to have moved on and was kicking off everywhere else.

"I didn't have far to go to get to Charlton but, in the circumstances, there was no way I'd have been able to do the game. It was just a no-no. It is sometimes difficult to get the right balance between policing and refereeing, it's a constant juggling act.

"If you are too tired after work, then you might not be able to do yourself justice during a match. You have to consider that. And there is only so much goodwill that you can get from your employer. But my boss is a football fan, a Man Utd supporter, so that certainly helps!"

As it turned out, the Charlton-Reading tie was called off due to disturbances in nearby Lewisham. Dean breathed a sigh of relief, finished his stint on the front-line and took a well-earned rest. But on New Year's Eve last December, the all-too-regular clash between work and "play" reared its ugly head again.

Whitestone, 36, took charge of the League One game featuring Leyton Orient and Charlton, which Orient won 1-0, and left the Matchroom Stadium not for home and his bed ... but an all-night shift in Camden, north-west London, on one of the busiest evenings of the calendar.

"Yep, straight afterwards," he reflected. "It was all fairly quietish at first but then the usual New Year shenanigans started. We even had a shooting incident. But that's the job, that's what you might have to deal with. I think I finished at about 6am. You could say that I was a bit tired."

Whitestone, from Northamptonshire, has been a member of the Met Police for eight years. He works with the plain clothes youth violence team, targeting the activities of gang members. "Maybe, on a day-to-day basis, you do get a bit blase about it all," he said. "A month ago, a guy pulled a knife on us. But you have to expect the unexpected. That's what can happen." He is also involved, on secondment, with The Prince's Trust charity, helping to try to change the lives of troubled 16- to 25-year-olds.

A goalkeeper in his playing days, Dean changed direction when his father, Tony, a local referee, suggested that he should perhaps take up the whistle. Once he had started progressing - through the United Counties and Southern leagues and the Conference - there was no other path to contemplate.

He joined the League list as an assistant referee in 2001 and although he failed to gain promotion to the middle three years later, he succeeded at the second attempt in 2006. "You're always disappointed to get a knockback," Dean said. "But you still want to show people that you can do it.

"OK, I may have had a little sulk, I might have moped around for a bit, but then I quickly got back into it. You are suddenly refereeing professional footballers and you get on with it. I've got ambitions, I want to maintain my performance, and I'd love to get on to the Premier League.

"Everyone sets themselves goals. I've got to push on, keep on performing consistently at the top end of The Football League and I'll see where that takes me. Hopefully, I can catch the eye of the powers that be and move on to the next level. I feel I'm ready."

PC Whitestone has other goals for this summer, too. To help safely police the 2012 Olympic Games in London and, before that, to tie the knot with Michelle. "We're getting married in Portugal in May," Dean said, "with family and close friends with us on the Algarve. Michelle wanted a bit of sun ... and who am I to argue?"