Desborough linesman set for 1,000th game

John Clark of Desborough is to run the line for the 1,000th time on Tuesday, September 29

John Clark of Desborough is to run the line for the 1,000th time on Tuesday, September 29

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A Desborough football official is set to run the line for the 1,000th time next week in the United Counties League.

John Clark, 61, will reach the milestone when he is assistant referee for Desborough v Harborough Town on Tuesday, September 29.

John first ran the line in a fierce derby between Stamford and Spalding in 1974

John first ran the line in a fierce derby between Stamford and Spalding in 1974

John first ran the line in a fierce derby between Stamford and Spalding in 1974, which saw him and his colleages attacked at the full-time whistle.

He recalled: “I remember the game well as I got a phone call on the Saturday morning because a linesman had dropped out.

“It was a really hair-raising experience but the referee on that day was Brian Hill, who went on to officiate an FA Cup final, and he helped me through it.

“Spalding won 3-1 and as we walked off the pitch, an elderly lady started attacking us with an umbrella.

As we walked off the pitch, an elderly lady started attacking us with an umbrella.

John Clark

“It wasn’t quite what I expected but I was fortunate to have had Brian by my side.”

John says he is used to abuse from the sidelines, but his understanding of the frustrations of fans has helped him brush it off.

He said: “I’ve been called plenty of horrible things during my time.

“The Borehamwood chairman once told me I couldn’t referee a dominoes game.

“Kings Lynn fans have told me to go and get my zimmer frame, but my understanding of the game makes up for my lack of fitness.”

John took three years away from officiating between 1999 and 2002 to look after his housebound father, and nearly walked away from the sport.

He added: “When I finished a game running the line at Eynesbury in 1999, I genuinely thought that was my last game.

“I was once told I’d be amazed at the number of friends I’d make in refereeing and I thought it was a bit strange at the time.

“Forty-two years later I’m overwhelmed by the genuine friends I’ve made in football and the amount of support I’ve had has been fantastic.”

John, who is also a cricket umpire in the summer, took to officiating when his school made rugby the winter sport on its curriculum and he fell behind his friends’ ability level.

And now, nearly 1,000 games later, he says he is ‘immensely proud’ to reach the milestone.

He said: “I’m very proud to reach the landmark but I couldn’t have done it without my two colleagues each and every match day.

“It’s essential that the three of us get on well and co-operate with good teamwork.

“There’s nobody out there on our side so we have to work together.”