PREMIER League referee Mike Dean has been appointed to the crucial SkyBet Championship showdown between Middlesbrough and Brighton this weekend.
The 47-year-old, from the Wirral, will be in charge at the Riverside Stadium on the final day of the regular season on Saturday as second place and automatic promotion is on the line.
He will be assisted by Select Group linesmen Simon Long (Devon) and Ian Hussin (Liverpool), while the fourth official is Darren Drysdale (Lincolnshire).
Dean is the most experienced of the current crop of Premier League officials having been officiating in the top-flight since 2000 and will be the ideal man to handle what is likely to be a tense encounter.
It will be the first time he encounters Middlesbrough since their 2-0 defeat by Norwich in the play-off final at Wembley last May.
Dean has not officiated a Brighton match since their 2-0 home win over Portsmouth in the Championship in March 2012.
The Tranmere Rovers fan, who lives in north Wales, will take charge of his third Championship game of the season and fourth in the Football League.
He refereed Burnley’s 2-1 win at Bristol City in August and Blackburn’s 2-1 Lancashire derby victory at Preston in November, in which he gave the visitors a penalty and sent off the hosts’ Bailey Wright late on.
Dean was also at the helm for Sheffield United’s 1-0 win over south Yorkshire rivals Doncaster in League One, giving out two yellow cards at the Keepmoat Stadium in February.
Overall, the former Fifa referee has issued 123 bookings, sent off 11 players and awarded 14 penalties in 37 games in all competitions so far this term.
The reverse fixture at the AMEX Stadium was also officiated by a Premier League referee as Craig Pawson oversaw Middlesbrough’s 3-0 win in December which ended Brighton’s 21-game unbeaten start.
It will be Dean’s second successive weekend in the north east after refereeing Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at the weekend.
His appointment came just hours after Boro boss Aitor Karanka called for “the very best referee” to take charge of the crucial game.
Dean’s major honours include the 2004 Community Shield, 2004 FA Trophy Final, Championship Play-Off Finals in 2006, 2009 and 2015, the 2008 FA Cup Final and the 2011 League Cup Final.
He was also on the Fifa list for a decade before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 45 in 2013.
Elsewhere, fellow Premier League whistler Roger East will be in charge at the Valley for the other televised Championship game this weekend.
The 50-year-old, from Wiltshire, will be the man in black as promoted Burnley can seal top spot with a win over relegated Charlton, who will play their final game in the second tier.
He will be assisted for Saturday’s 12:30 BST kick-off in south London by Derek Eaton (Gloucestershire) and Andy Garratt (Walsall), with Gavin Ward (Surrey) the fourth official.
East will also be in the middle for next Wednesday’s Premier League clash between Norwich and Watford at Carrow Road.