From the Peterborough Junior Alliance League to the Football League in 12 years for local referee

Josh Smith sends off Gaby Zakuani (right, hidden).
Josh Smith sends off Gaby Zakuani (right, hidden).
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A former Peterborough & District Junior Alliance referee will officiate in the Football League next season at the tender age of 26.

In fact Josh Smith, who hails from Bourne, would have been the youngest referee in the competition, but for two 24 year-olds winning promotion from the National League alongside him.

For Smith hearing news of his promotion last week was a proud moment.

He took up the whistle aged 14 and refereed in the local junior league for two years before progressing smoothly through the ranks to the National League.

Smith has also refereed in the Peterborough & District Youth League, the Peterborough & District (adult) League, the Peterborough Sunday Morning League, the United Counties League, contributory leagues and the National League South.

Smith also spent two season as an assistant referee in the Football League. At 22 he was the youngest assistant in the League at the time,

Unusually Smith has been elevated to the Football League list after just once season at National League level. His last match in that competition was Leyton Orient’s title-winning game against Braintree in front of over 8,000 at Brisbane Road.

“Last season went well and I’m thrilled to get on the Football League list so soon,” Smith said. “I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the entire 12 years I’ve been refereeing. I’ve never once thought about giving it up.

“Obviously matches don’t always go well, but I’ve avoided the horror stories I sometimes hear from other officials.

“My father (Nigel Smith) was a well-known local referee and that’s how I got interested.

“I love the job and I can’t wait to get my first first Football League appointments.

“There is a lot of commitment and travel now, but I was up and down the country last season so I’m ready for a game in Plymouth when it comes!

“The Orient game at the end of the season was a great occasion.

“It’s the biggest crowd I’ve experienced in the middle, although I have run the line at Ipswich and Portsmouth in front of bigger attendances.

“When you start refereeing you automatically have an ambition to get to Football League level, but you don’t expect it to happen.”

Smith has refereed once in the League already taking over from an injured official when fourth official in a game at Northampton against Bristol Rovers in 2016 and he promptly sent off former Posh defender Gaby Zakuani!

Smith believes he can referee Posh games as he doesn’t support the club and he now lives in Bedford while working as a physical education teacher in London.

Smith joins Peterborough-based Neil Hair on the Football League list. Hair enjoyed a fine first season on the list in the 2018-19 season after a 22-year slog to reach that level.

Hair was 37 when he won promotion after impressing in the National League play-off final at Wembley when he sent a Tranmere player off in the first minute.

Referees are paid £450 a match in the Football League, a far cry from the £8 plus expenses Smith would have received in his Peterborough & District Junior Alliance days.