FA Vase 2012 Celebration Game - Interview with Roger East
Dom Bingham talks to the former Premier League Referee and the Man who was referee during the clubs 2012 FA Vase win.
Roger East was the referee in charge of Dunston’s famous day at Wembley in May of 2012, taking control of a brilliant all North Eastern affair against West Auckland Town which saw Dunston run out worthy 2-0 winners, under the helm of manager Billy Irwin. It was a game that was filled with controversial moments, including two disallowed goals. Roger has had a prestigious career, taking charge of 92 Premier League games and handing out eleven red cards in these games, including three in his first four games.
We sat down with Roger to discuss his career, what he remembers from that day at Wembley and his thoughts regarding the upcoming anniversary game at the UTS Stadium, where he will be officiating.
Roger, for those that may not be aware of your career as a referee in which you have by my records, taken charge of 92 Premier League games amongst other important fixtures, could you give us some background on your rise up the referee ranks?
I started refereeing in Salisbury in 1986, progressing through the Wessex League (2yrs), Southern League (6yrs) & Conference (6yrs). I then became a Premier league and International Assistant from 2003-2007. I switched the flag for the whistle in 2007 as a football league referee. My last season there was 2012 before becoming a Premier League referee after the Vase final and two weeks later the League 1 play off final (Huddersfield v Sheff Utd). 7 years later after breaking the record for oldest ever Premier league Referee, I refereed my last game at Crystal Palace v Bournemouth on my 54th birthday, to bring the curtain down on a very enjoyable and rewarding career.
You’ve had years refereeing top level games for the FA, do you have any games that have stood out or those that you remember more than others?
I would have to say the two weeks in 2012 (FA Vase final followed by Play offs at Wembley) were brillaint, but I also remember the 2004 FA Cup Final as a linesman, the 2006 Community Shield, Under 21 final (in Portugal 2005/6) as well, they were all great moments. I officiated in around 8 play off semi finals, and of course my last game at Palace (score was 5-3) is a special memory of mine.
You were the referee on the day that Dunston were crowned champions of the FA Vase in 2012 at Wembley Stadium, what do you remember about the game itself?
It was a very competitive match between the sides, where the refereeing style had to be adaptive. It was bit more robust than a southern area game!, The special moment for me was being applauded by both sets of fans, which I felt proved I got the 'control' in the game just about right!
There were a few disallowed goals that day at Wembley, including one for then Dunston defender and current manager Chris Swailes. As an official it must be a highly pressurised environment where decisions have to be made in an instant, how do you manage to stay focused on such a big stage with the game often resting on fine margins?
Quite honestly, whilst nervous when you start as players are, once you blow the whistle to start its 11 against 11, and you back yourself and your qualities as a referee and whilst you can’t please everyone, every decision has to be deemed sellable and fair!
On the 14th May this year Dunston’s Vase winning side from 2012 will face a Whitley Bay Vase select side, comprised of players who were part of the three time consecutive winning campaigns. What was it that has drawn you to come back and get involved with the day?
Refereeing has been very good to me, and you should never forget your rise, I was deeply touched to be asked, and despite my 'great age' felt there was the need to participate in a such a worthy and brilliant cause. Hospice's have special meanings to most people and I am no different, so it should be a brilliant occasion.
Obviously this game is going to be a little less stressful than some that you’ve had to referee over the years, and is primarily, to raise funds for the local St Oswald’s Hospice. With 5000 fans at Wembley, I’m sure it was a great occasion to be involved in and a fond memory of yours – what would you say to people who are thinking about possibly coming down to the game on the 14th?
I am always amazed at the passion of football, and fully expect a competitive game, and whilst everyone involved is perhaps a little older!, The will power to put on a good show and win will never be dulled! So I come to the game fully prepared in the need to referee and above all bring the game to a safe conclusion, before sampling the local ale, now I have no 'body fat' tests to pass!
It should be a fabulous occasion and I would highly recommend people coming down to show their support for such as worthy cause.