England's Anthony Taylor will take charge of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship final and has his mum to thank for setting him on the road to a career in refereeing.
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Anthony Taylor has been appointed to referee the final of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship between Spain and Russia in Katerini, Greece on Sunday for what will be his third major UEFA assignment – not that he would have imagined such a career when growing up.
Indeed, as the Englishman told UEFA.com, there was hardly a bigger critic of referees than he was, until he was urged to give it a go himself. The 36-year-old is now refereeing regularly in the English Premier League and will officiate at the FA Community Shield match between Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC on 2 August – and that is just the beginning.
UEFA.com: How did you get into refereeing?
Anthony Taylor: I used to go and watch my home town team Altrincham both home and away – I still have my season ticket now – and my mother was sick of hearing me moaning all the time about the referee. She told me either to shut up or give it a go myself, so I did.
UEFA.com: What were your first steps in the game?
Taylor: I started in the local leagues around Altrincham and then progressed through the Cheshire League, into the Northern Premier League, on to the [English fifth-tier] Conference and then the Football League. I started in 1995. I was relatively young at the time, but that's nothing unusual now. I was one of the first referees to be promoted from the Conference after just one season, but that's a regular occurrence now. I was in the Football League for four year and then I did two Premier League development matches in 2009/10, and my first Premier League game in 2010.
UEFA.com: What was it like refereeing at those lower levels?
Taylor: It stands you in good stead for the future. In England, there is a lot of physical contact in games, and it's a very tough level of football to referee. At the same time, it's a good foundation for when you move up through the system.
UEFA.com: You joined the FIFA list in 2010…
Taylor: Yes, I did some qualifying rounds in the [UEFA] Europa League and the [UEFA] Champions League to start with, and then last year, because things had been progressing well, I was lucky to get a group stage match in the Europa League, which was Internazionale [against St-Étienne]. I was promoted in December.
UEFA.com: What is it like refereeing at a tournament like this?
Taylor: The types of matches you do for UEFA can vary greatly. Under-21 and U19 matches can be some of the more challenging games in terms of mental focus, because while the players are relatively well disciplined, they also have a high skill level. These are the kind of games where you need even more concentration to ensure your decisions are correct. People certainly expect a Premier League referee not only to be 100% correct all the time, but 110%, so it's important the preparation is correct.
UEFA.com: Is this tournament ideal for that kind of preparation?
Taylor: Absolutely. We started nearly three weeks ago with referees and assistants from different countries, and we became like the ninth team of the tournament.
UEFA.com: How has the tournament been on the whole?
Taylor: It's a fantastic experience to be involved in a final tournament, whatever the age group. It presents its own challenges for the referees, like the climate here, which has been particularly difficult for an Englishman! We've had referees from many leagues and, whether it's the Premier League or Serie A, or in [other countries], people expect the same. The level of scrutiny we go through allows us to pinpoint mistakes and, during a tournament like this, the objective is to make sure that doesn't happen again.
UEFA.com: How pleased were you to be given the final?
Taylor: Obviously I was really delighted to be selected for the final – to do any final is fantastic. I've been lucky that this is my third UEFA final in 12 months. I was additional assistant referee at the UEFA Super Cup last year, and then again at the Europa League final, and obviously now this. So that's really exciting, and I'm very proud of that achievement. It's nice to be selected – it shows that UEFA and the observers have belief in you, and that they're happy with how you've performed at the tournament. To do the final shows that UEFA put their trust in you.
UEFA.com: And what are your aims for the future?
Taylor: The objective is always to continue developing and to keep getting as many matches as possible, and to follow in the footsteps of our elite referees. Howard [Webb] was an inspiration, as are our current two elite referees Mark Clattenburg and Martin Atkinson. To follow in those guys' footsteps and continue promoting English refereeing within UEFA is the ambition.