FOOTBALL: Lee stoked by Wembley nod
HILPERTON referee Lee Probert says his appointment for next month’s FA Cup final is a dream come true.
The 41-year-old official has been handed the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to referee the final of the world’s oldest domestic cup competition when Premier League sides Arsenal and Hull City go head-to-head at Wembley on May 17.
Referees are only permitted to take charge of the FA Cup final once in their careers and Probert will become the first Wiltshire referee to be handed that honour in 90 years.
He will be joined by assistant referees Jake Collin and Mick McDonough, with Kevin Friend as fourth official and Simon Bennett as reserve assistant referee.
“To be given the opportunity to walk out as the referee for an FA Cup final is the highest accolade in English football.
“It’s a massive honour and I am absolutely delighted,” said Probert.
“It still hasn’t really sunk in, to be honest. When I got the phone call, I have to say I did shed a tear and look to the sky.
“The first person I thought about was my dad, who I lost six years ago.
“He was always there to support me throughout my career and it’s payback for all his hard work, taking me here, there and everywhere, encouraging me to never give up.
“When I walk out on May 17, I know he’ll be chuffed to bits.
“My dad always said to me ‘don’t ever look back and wonder what you could have achieved.
“If you have an ambition, go and give it 100 per cent and you’ll achieve your goals’.”
Wiltshire whistler Probert was fourth official at the 2011 final between Manchester City and Stoke while he also refereed the 2010 FA Trophy final at Wembley.
The last Wiltshire official to take charge of an FA Cup final was Billy Russell, who oversaw Newcastle United’s 2-0 triumph over Aston Villa in 1924, which was only the second final to be staged at the original Wembley Stadium.
“It’s great news for Lee and great news for Wiltshire football,” said Wiltshire FA referees secretary Kevin Small.
“He originally came to us from Bristol and was already a top-tier referee at the time. We always use him as an example to younger referees of what you can go on to achieve.
“It really is once-in-a-lifetime thing and we’re all really pleased for him – hopefully it’s a good final.
“The last time a referee from Wiltshire took charge of the FA Cup final was back in 1924, so we’ve waited a long time for another one.
“But we’ve got Roger East, who’s from Salisbury and is a Premier League referee, and then there’s Simon Hooper (from Swindon) and Brendan Malone (from Salisbury) who are both Football League referees – so we might not have to wait so long again.”
FOR MORE SPORTS NEWS, REPORTS & PICTURES SEE FRIDAY'S WILTSHIRE TIMES AND FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @WTSport