Recruitment boost owes much to a man who Cann

For those interested in pursuing a career with flag and whistle, there could be no better local role model than Norfolk's Darren Cann, whose dedication took him to the summer's World Cup finals in South Africa.

The former Crystal Palace trainee and Lloyds TSB Heartsease branch worker ran the line as an assistant to Howard Webb in the highly-charged final between Spain and Holland

Darren, who also has the 2010 Champions League final under his belt, has been fronting Norfolk FA's ongoing referee recruitment campaign.

Referees development officer Barry Knight said the Cann factor had certainly helped to boost numbers.

'Before he got the Champions League final you would mention Darren Cann and people would have this blank look. Now people know who he is and where he is from.

'He shows what can be achieved and has helped to increase numbers and raised the profile of refereeing generally.'

Norfolk FA currently has an army of 366 male referees and 11 females at levels one to eight on its books.

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It sounds a lot but on a typical Norfolk footballing weekend 170 appointments are made for a Saturday and 100 for a Sunday. 'We would like to see the numbers up near the 400 mark – an increase of around 10 per cent. That's an official target, ' said Barry.

Acts of incredible devotion to duty can be found within the ranks.

David Wright (70), of Kelling, and Ralph Morris (68) of Horning, are both in their 50th seasons.

Not far behind is Vince Roper (68), from Attleborough, who has clocked up 49 seasons, most of them in Norfolk.

The oldest referee on the books is Keith Greensides (72) – a Yarmouth-based phenomenon, who started refereeing in 1964 and has the 3,000 match milestone in his sights.

'We have got some fantastic servants to the game,' said Barry.

'We are not unique in this respect. There is no upper age limit on retirement in local football. Some counties have got people still going in their eighties, although we haven't... yet.'

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