Alfie Smith was happy to be the unlikely hero Harlaw Park at the weekend.
The 68-year-old stepped forward to run the line during Inverurie Locos’ win against Brora Rangers after assistant referee Alistair Russell took unwell in the opening minutes.
Smith played as a left-back in the Breedon Highland League for Deveronvale, Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Forres Mechanics before becoming a referee and officiating in the division.
However, it had been 20 years since he had officiated in the Highland League before he stepped forward on Saturday.
‘I wanted to see the game completed’
Smith said: “Since I retired I’ve always taken in a Highland League game every week. Staying in Ellon I usually go to Fraserburgh, Formartine or Inverurie, but I have also been to Huntly, Turriff and Keith.
“It was a toss up between Inverurie and the Broch, but I eventually decided on Inverurie because my wife Liz was with me and there’s better shops for her to go round in Inverurie.
“She was a bit surprised that I was late to meet her after the match, but she didn’t know what had happened.
“My first concern was for Alistair, but once he started to come round I thought there would be an announcement asking if there was an official or ex-official in the ground.
“It’s been a long time since I did it, but I wanted to see the game completed so I stepped forward.
“I didn’t imagine when I was entering the ground that I’d end up being part of the game.
“I identified myself to the referee (Duncan Nicolson) and told him I could help if he wanted. It was probably natural instinct to put myself forward.
“The players from both sides made it very easy for me, I had no contentious decisions to make and didn’t get any hassle or dissent from them.
“I’d like to compliment both clubs for their behaviour, although there were bookings and sending offs in the game there was no hassle towards myself and it was nice to get that.
“When it was a clash of two teams at the top end of the table it might have been easy to give the old man running the line some stick.
“But there was none of that, both clubs were excellent and I appreciate that.”
Injury led to start in refereeing
Smith took up refereeing after an ankle problem ended his playing career.
Coincidentally, he first took charge of a game when filling in for another official who hadn’t turned up.
He added: “A few years before I stopped playing I turned up for a Peterhead Welfare League match and the referee didn’t turn up one of the clubs knew I played and asked me to take the whistle.
“I did that game and then did the classes and after my injury I had a long and enjoyable career refereeing.”