Premiership referee Michael Oliver has a variety of reasons why he is delighted at the prospect of ‘coming home’ when he takes charge of Ashington’s pre-season friendly against Preston North End.
The 30-year-old, who is on the FIFA panel of referees, is preparing to start his sixth campaign in the Barclays Premier League and is still in the history books as the youngest to be in the middle in the elite league after he made his bow in the Birmingham City v Blackburn clash at St Andrew’s in 2010.
“It’s great wherever you go because world wide, people know of the Premier League,” he said.
Ashington-born Oliver added: “It’s nice to be able to return to my home town because when I was operating in the Northern League, I couldn’t referee Ashington because I lived there.
“It’s also good to help out a local club but more than anything else, it gives me an opportunity to catch up with people and friends who I don’t get to see often.”
Oliver also cites another reason for looking forward to the 90 minutes workout.
He added: “The Premier League starts on August 8 and whilst you can do as much work in the gym, you can’t replicate having a match.
“Last week I had my first game since the back end of May which was beneficial to me, and at the end I was shattered.”
Oliver recently married sweetheart Lucy May and the couple will create another piece of history when the game gets under way next Wednesday (July 29) at Woodhorn Lane, Lucy, who hails from Portsmouth, is also a football referee and will be an assistant – the first occasion that they will have officiated together since tying the knot last month.
“Lucy loves the area up here,” he added.
“Helen Byrne is the third member of the match officials team.”
Meanwhile Oliver will forever look back and cherish his refereeing upbringing.
“I started in the Morpeth Sunday League and things progressed from there,” he said.
“I still keep in touch with Syd Johnson, the president of the MSL and I will never forget my roots as it was a great grounding for me.”
Ashington boss Steve Harmison said: “The Preston manager Simon Grayson is a good friend of mine and whatever team he brings north, it will be a very competitive game against a very good outfit.
“I’m looking forward to it – it’s sure to be a great night for the people to come and watch a championship side at Ashington.
“It will be an experience for my lads to pit their wits against full-time professionals, and because of that we are going to be worked hard like we were against Blyth last Friday.
“All in all, it will be a fantastic spectacle for everybody in Ashington.”
Kick-off is 7.30pm with admission prices £5 adults; £2 concessions.
The interview with Michael Oliver was by kind permission of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited.