THE next Howard Webb could already be running up and down pitches around Bury St Edmunds as Suffolk FA bask in another record year of promoting match officials.
Teenager George Laflin, of Woolpit, and 28-year-old Chris Pollard, of Stowmarket, have been picked out as having the potential to follow in the footsteps of England’s World Cup final referee.
Suffolk FA chairman Mick Pearce, a former referee himself, believes the county’s Ipswich Town-based refereering academy, operated by former Football League linesman Trevor Pollard, of Stanton, is the key to their success.
This year alone has seen 10 out of 10 match officials applying for promotion to level four – the first step that has to go through national selectors at Wembley – earn their promotion, making Suffolk the most successful in the country for the second year running (eight out of 10 succeeding last year).
And former West Suffolk Football Academy student Laflin and former Walsham-le-Willows player Pollard, the son of Trevor, are the leading lights from this year’s set. Pollard junior is waiting to hear if he will be given duties as an assistant referee in the Blue Square Bet Premier next season after an incredible four promotions in three years to level three.
Meanwhile, Laflin is set to take charge in the middle of Ridgeons League First Division games next season.
Trevor Pollard, who is involved in coaching both, and has run the line at Wembley twice, said: “Chris Pollard and George Laflin are the ones that are really going to go places.
“I picked George up after a talk I gave down at Ram Meadow.
“He was very shy then, but when I first saw him referee an under-11s game at Ipswich Academy when he was 15 I knew he had something about him.”
Suffolk FA chairman Pearce said of Chris Pollard’s rapid promotions: “It is an amazing achievement and I have not seen Chris have a bad game.
“You listen to the players and former Ridgeons managers who have been around the game a long time and they speak very highly of him.”
Anyone wishing to learn more about getting into officiating football matches can contact Suffolk FA‘s refereeing development officer Steve Tanner, a current Football League referee, on 01449 776310.