Interview: Former referee Graham Poll on his return to action at Hitchin Town
- Credit: Archant
Former World Cup and Premier League official is back for a one-off match as the Canaries take on Hereford United in FA Cup anniversary game
Graham Poll will be back at Top Field in April to referee Hitchin Town’s match against Hereford United 20 years after he officiated the two sides in the FA Cup.
The former World Cup and Premier League referee was the man in the middle when Town, then in the Isthmian Premier Division, upset the odds and knocked Football League side Hereford United out of the FA Cup in November 1994.
It is now 20 years on from the 94-95 season, and the two clubs are to meet again in a friendly on April 20.
Poll, who officiated both the original game in Hereford and the giantkilling replay at Top Field, which Hitchin won 4-2, has also agreed to return.
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Speaking to the Comet, the former official recalls: “In those days the referee was retained for the replay, so would do both games.
“Sometimes it was a double-edged sword if you had sent somebody off in the first game, but the first was quite quiet.”
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Poll, who keeps a record of all of the matches that he officiated, added: “In the first game there were five yellow cards.
“The second was different. I sent off the Hereford captain for a challenge and the game ended in a bit of a farce [as people came onto the pitch and a flare was thrown on]. People weren’t sure if the last goal counted but it did. I had blown the whistle.
“I had an irate Hereford chairman, I remember his name: Robin Fry. He was irate because Hereford had just gone out, and he ended up on a FA misconduct charge, which was fine.”
Poll was born in Hitchin and went to Thomas Alleyne School in Stevenage, before taking up refereeing locally in both the Hitchin Sunday and the Stevenage Sunday League.
He had moved to Tring, and then to Reading, so being born in the town ‘didn’t really come up; I wasn’t seen as having any particular allegiance.”
Poll was a regular at Top Field during his rise through the ranks, and even refereed a Herts Senior Cup final there in 1986/87 with Bishop’s Stortford beating Letchworth GC Eagles 2-0.
Asked about Hitchin’s Save Top Field campaign, with Town fighting to keep their ground from redevelopment, the former referee said: “I think there’s quite enough supermarkets. There is something very special about having a club in a town. To me, its’ more preferable. Fans can walk to it, can use the bar and walk home. For me, I’ve always been a fan of that.”