HILPERTON referee Lee Probert will take charge of next month's FA Cup final between Arsenal and Hull next month, the Football Association announced today.
The 41-year-old official, who originally hails from the Isle of Wight, will be joined by assistant referees Jake Collin and Mick McDonough. Kevin Friend will be the fourth official with Simon Bennett the reserve assistant referee.
Wiltshire whistler Probert was previously fourth official at the 2011 final between Manchester City and Stoke while he also refereed the 2010 FA Trophy final at Wembley.
With referees only allowed to take charge of the FA Cup final once in their careers, the appointment is a great honour for Probert.
He said: "To be given the opportunity to walk out as the referee for an FA Cup final is the highest accolade in English football. It's a massive honour and I am absolutely delighted.
"It still hasn't really sunk in to be honest. When I got the phone call, I have to say I did shed a tear and look to the sky.
"The first person I thought about was my dad, who I lost six years ago.
"He was always there to support me throughout my career and it's payback for all his hard work, taking me here, there and everywhere, encouraging me to never give up. When I walk out on 17 May, I know he'll be chuffed to bits.
"My dad always said to me 'don’t ever look back and wonder what you could have achieved. If you have an ambition, go and give it 100 per cent and you’ll achieve your goals'."
He added: "The FA Cup Final is the pinnacle of English football and I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity by The FA.
"As a youngster, I was no different from any other boy who would watch all the build-up on FA Cup Final day, from the coverage at the team hotels up to the kick-off.
"You’d then go off to the park and relive The Final with your mates. For anyone, being involved in The FA Cup has got to be one of the best days of your life, in footballing terms certainly.
"It’s the most iconic football competition in the world, with the history that it has, so knowing I’m going to be a part of that rates as one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. It’s up there with my wedding day certainly."
David Elleray, Chairman of The FA Referees' Committee, added: "Lee’s appointment as the 2014 FA Cup Final referee represents the highlight of his distinguished refereeing career and The FA Referees’ Committee was unanimous in deciding that he was the ideal referee for this much-anticipated Final.
"Lee has a wealth of domestic and international experience which he will bring to the match and we are very confident that he and his colleagues will work hard to contribute to what we hope will be an exciting and entertaining match.
"A referee only does The FA Cup Final once so this is a very special appointment for all five officials and I have no doubt that everyone in football will wish Lee, Jake, Mick, Kevin and Simon and enjoyable and successful Final."
Kevin Small, Referee Development Officer at the Wiltshire FA, said: "We are very proud that Lee is a Wiltshire referee and regularly use his achievements in the Premier League or as a FIFA referee to inspire our younger referees to aim high in their careers.
"We are delighted with the news that Lee has been selected to referee this season’s FA Cup Final.
"It’s a great honour for him and for our county and he becomes only the second Wiltshire official to be picked to referee the final, the first being Bill Russell in 1924. We hope Lee has a great game and enjoys his day at Wembley."
Probert’s early career saw him progress through to the Conference South before making the step up to the Football League in 1998.
He has been part of the Select Group of referees since 2007 and in 2010 became a FIFA-listed referee, making him eligible to officiate UEFA Internationals and matches in the Champions League and Europa League.
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