Rookie referee fulfils his Town dream

ROOKIE referee James Smith last night fulfilled a dream when he officiated at Portman Road in the goalless Coca-Cola Championship game against Plymouth Argyle.

Elvin King

ROOKIE referee James Smith last night fulfilled a dream when he officiated at Portman Road in the goalless Coca-Cola Championship game against Plymouth Argyle.

He was called out of the stands to act as fourth official after assistant referee Gary Evetts injured himself falling into a photographers' pit during the first half.

Claydon-based Smith, 22, answered a half-time tannoy plea to act as standby official, and today he recalled his experience.

“It was surreal,” said the pensions administrator for a firm of Ipswich-based stockbrokers.

“My dream has been to referee at Portman Road, but because I am an Ipswich Town fan it is unlikely to happen in the Football League.

Most Read

“I was sitting in the Upper Greene King Stand and answered the call. They wanted a level three official, but I am actually level four.

“Mr Evetts acted as the fourth official, but he asked me to do his paperwork, and it was a wonderful, if unexpected, experience.”

Smith, who has refereed since the age of 14 and takes charge of Ridgeons League Division One games as well as running the line in the Ridgeons League Premier Division and Ryman League, was watching a rare Town game as his refereeing commitments precludes him from having a season ticket.

Referee Anthony Bates from Staffordshire lent Smith some spare kit, and he admits his heart was thumping in case he was called on to the field.

“It was a little nerve wracking sitting beside the dug-outs, but if called upon I was ready to go on,” said Smith. “It would have been a lot different with respect to refereeing at Whitton United.

“My goal is to reach the Football League - and this gave me an earlier-than-expected feel of what it is like.”

Last night's game proved the pits for photographer Louise Morris.

The Colchester-based snapper suffered a badly bruised head and injured her arm, and she was receiving hospital treatment today.

She was battered when Evetts from Hertfordshire was pushed over by Town's Danny Haynes as the flying winger made a run down the right wing.

Evetts, who needed treatment for a strained hamstring but soldiered on for ten more minutes before being replaced by fourth official Ian Cooper from Kent, was shoved with such force that he ended with one leg in the pitch-side photographer's pit and one leg outside.

It took some while for the linesman and photographer to be attended to with medics rushing to the scene.

The photographer was unable to continue and had to call for help to be driven home.

It is the first time in 15 years that anyone has crashed into the pit.

Evetts took over Cooper's fourth official duties, but was not fit enough to go back and run the line.

So a call was put out and led to an unforgettable experience for Smith.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter