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Match Officials

Men in Black - David Coote

14 August 2012

By Russell Kempson

David Coote likes to travel.

But not to the usual all-inclusive package-holiday destinations often frequented by Brits abroad.

Coote likes to explore far and wide, his extensive globe-trotting having taken him to Peru, Cuba, Costa Rica, South Africa, Vietnam and Thailand. And next year, he's hoping to visit Sri Lanka.

"I love travelling," the 30-year-old referee explained.

"I like to see the world and experience different countries and cultures. I have no family ties at the moment so it's the perfect time to be doing it.

"It's great to switch off from football and I'm not really one for lounging on the beach. I try to get away two or three times a year."

Such exotic outposts could not be further removed from his fledgeling days as a match official in Nottinghamshire when, at 12 years old, he went to watch Wheatsheaf United.

His father, David Sr - a tough-tackling centre-back - played for Wheatsheaf and his uncle Mick managed the Newark Alliance team.

"We didn't have an assistant referee so, to avoid the club getting a fine, I was thrown the flag," Coote recalled.

"If Dad reckoned I'd made a few dubious offside calls during a game, it did lead to a few arguments when we got home. Most of the time, though, he was OK."

Very much OK were the family at cricket, too.

Coote Sr, a batsman, played professionally for Nottinghamshire CCC, uncle Mick played at a decent level, and Coote Jr, also a batsman, captained Nottinghamshire at age-group levels.

"Cricket was my first love and I grew up around sport," Coote Jr said, "not that any of us refereed, though."

Not until David had caught the bug. At 16, he was refereeing adults, and he progressed at pace through the Notts Alliance, the Northern Counties East League, Evo-Stik League and Blue Square North.

In 2006, he was promoted on to the League list as an assistant.

"That was massive for me. To walk out on to the pitch, for the first time, for a Football League match - what a dream come true.

"I was told that I'd never forget it and I haven't."

Indeed, he hasn't. Coote ran the line for the npower League 2 tussle between Stockport County and Hereford United at Edgeley Park, which Hereford won 2-0. Darren Drysdale performed the man-in-the-middle duties on the day.

"With all my nerves and everything else, I was exhausted even after Darren's pre-match warm-up.

"Just standing in the tunnel before kick-off, not even moving, my heart monitor was racing. It was also a baking hot day but, thankfully, not much happened during the game."

It was memorable, too, when he ran the line in the FA Vase final at Wembley in 2009, in which Whitley Bay defeated Glossop North End 2-0.

"It was the most special day of my refereeing career.

"To walk out at Wembley was just fantastic. I had a photo taken of me as I went up the steps at the end, to collect my memento, and I just had the biggest grin on my face."

In 2010, Coote, who is the Referees' Development Officer for the Nottinghamshire FA, returned to Wembley, twice. As fifth official for the FA Cup semi final between Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth, which Pompey won 2-0 after extra time, and as an assistant for the FA Trophy final between Barrow and Stevenage, which Barrow won 2-1 after extra time.

Promotion to the referees' list in the same year, combined with his experience from running the line at major Premier League venues around the country, has whetted ambitious David's appetite further.

He has the Premier in his sights again - this time as a full-time referee alongside England's elite officials.

"I'd like to think that I have started to consolidate my position in The Football League and, with a third season for me now and age still on my side, I'd like to go on and consolidate further.

"That's the short-term goal. But long term, I'd love to get on to the Select Group."

After that, perhaps elevations on to the UEFA and FIFA lists, and opportunities for more globe-trotting.

This time, not merely as a curious sightseer, but on official whistle-in-hand business.

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