Referee Tim Robinson says the hard work has paid off as he is set to reach the pinnacle of his career next season as a full-time match official.
The 32-year-old, from Middleton-on-Sea, has had to give the red card to his job as a PE teacher at the Weald School in Billingshurst to realise his dream of officiating at the very top level.
Robinson has been a qualified referee for 15 years and has progressed through the Sussex leagues, before moving on to the different national leagues - contributory, National League and then Football League.
The whistle-blower has been a firm fixture in the latter over the past four years which has earned him a promotion to a new venture with the Professional Game Match Officials.
They are the organisation that appoint all officials for the top tiers of league football and he will form part of the new Select Group 2 - 18 professional referees dedicated primarily to officiating in the Champ-ionship.
Robinson admits it’s a big responsibility to be the man in the middle at some of the biggest clubs in the country, officiating over the world’s top players, but one he is relishing – and he has his sights on the Premier League.
He said: “This is a dream come true for me and something I’ve been working for since I started back in 2001, so when I walk out on the opening day of the season it will be a fantastic feeling and certainly a massive sense of achievement.
“It’s is a daunting thought, a challenging role, but it’s something I can’t wait for. I will certainly be giving my all as will all of my colleagues in the group. As well as wanting to be successful in the Championship I also want to be in a position to be considered for a place on the Premier League at some stage in the future.
“It’s been tough working combining the full-time job of a PE teacher at the Weald and also trying to referee on the Football League for the past four years, but the hard work has paid off and now I’ve got the opportunity to give my new career 100 per cent attention and ensure that my preparation for matches is now of the highest quality.
“I’m looking forward to many things come August, for example having the time to prepare fully for matches, visiting a number of different clubs around the country but also having the opportunity to share this with my family - once the training has been done in the gym.”
A former footballer himself, Robinson got into refereeing on advice from his former PE teacher Paul Blackmore.
Family friend Bob Minty then introduced him to the Chichester & West Sussex Sunday League - which he is now chairman of - and the rest is history. But as you rise up the pyramid, the profile of decisions rises, headlines often follow officials around and decisions get discussed, analysed and scrutinised by fans, pundits, players and managers everywhere.
Robinson sees that as part and parcel of the role which has seen him officiate live on Sky numerous times.
He said: “The scrutiny is something that is part of the game and something that will be a challenge; however it’s important that we approach every game in a professional manner as the players, clubs and spectators deserve this from us, and that’s what I will be doing.
“It’s important to understand that as a group of officials we work hard, both as individuals but also as a group, to ensure that we get the decisions right and nothing pleases us more when games go well. It is great when the officials are not noticed and everyone is talking about the football instead.
“I’ve been lucky enough to experience some unbelievable moments in football and some I never thought I could achieve from my two experiences of officiating at Wembley in play off matches to representing PGMO in America in the Dallas Cup.”
There have also been disappointments along the way. Robinson said: “It’s not all been good. When you get a big decision wrong, the disappointment and hurt that causes is hard to deal with.
“That’s when you appreciate the support from your coach and colleagues who help you to analyse the situation and learn from it.
“It is also great to have the support of my family and wife.”
Robinson has also thanked his previous employers for their support and understanding as he juggled working as a teacher and part-time official.
He added: “The school have been excellent and I have to thank both Peter Woodman (headteacher) and Karen Ashcroft (head of PE) for the support they’ve given me especially in the past four years when I’ve been a national-list referee working on the Football League.
“Their support has been needed and without it I would not have been lucky enough to make this step into the professional game.
“I’m sure Peter won’t miss me coming to him on a Monday afternoon asking him for time off to go off to a midweek fixture in the north of England.”
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1 Make this website your homepage
2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex
3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex
4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!