A Peterborough referee will be making his mark on the fifth tier of English football next season after being promoted by the Football Association.
Neil Hair from Fletton received the unexpected news last month and is excited about taking centre stage in the National League next year.
“It is a big step up next season but it is a challenge that I am looking forward to taking.It will be another learning process for me but I’m sure it will help me grow into the game and develop as a person.
“It has been a long 10 years since my last promotion with plenty of ups and downs but I’m glad to see that my hardwork has paid off in the end.”
The 35-year-old physical education teacher at Standground Academy began his officiating career at the age of 15 in the Peterborough Junior Alliance League on ‘a better wage than a paper round’.
Since then Hair has progessed through the ranks and has spent time refereeing in the National League North and South divisions and admits he is excited about the new challenge next season.
Hair said: “There is more pressure on you as you go higher up the leagues but I feel the biggest difference is in the level of fitness of the players, which means the games tend to last longer.
“I have received plenty of support from friends, family, staff at Stanground Academy and the Hunts FA on my journey which has been key to my development,” said Hair.
“Every referee begins with the dream and I have been very fortunate to accomplish everything that I have been able to do so far.”
Although Hair is making the step up to the National League next season, he has already aquired plenty of Football League experience as an official, which he feels willstand him in good stead.
Hair said: “I have been a linesman in the Football League for eight seasons and it has provided me with invaluable experience of performing in front of a big crowds at the likes of Millwall.
“In 2014 I was involved in a 6-6 League Cup draw between Dagenham and Brentford which holds the record for the highest scoring League Cup fixture. So I like looking back in the record books and being part of important games like that.”
However, the most notable record that the city teacher holds is for the quickest sending off of a goalkeeper.
In a National League South match between Farnborough and Ebbsfleet,Hair issued Ebbsfleet goalkeeper Preston Edwards with his marching orders after just 10 seconds for bringing down a Farnborough forward following a weak back-pass.
Hair is now about to begin training ahead of his hectic pre-season schedule and is focussed on making a good start to life in the National League.
Hair said:”I have just finished having a break from the game but I am now getting back into training to prepare for the season.
“The long term aim is to get into the Football League while the short term is to focus on making a solid start to my National League career.”