KEITH Stroud could be on the verge of a return to the Select Group of referees after the Football League official was appointed to a trial Premier League match.
The 45-year-old will take charge of Saturday’s encounter between Crystal Palace and Leicester City at Selhurst Park.
Kent-based Stroud, who belongs to Hampshire FA, was promoted to the top-flight at the start of the 2007-08 campaign but was demoted back to the National List in May 2009 after just two seasons as a full-time official.
Following his debut in February 2006 when Blackburn welcomed Sunderland to Ewood Park, he oversaw a further 13 matches before being deemed to have fallen below the required standards of officiating and was dropped along with fellow referee Steve Tanner.
Having first taken up the whistle in 1988 and progressed through the ranks, Stroud is one of the most experienced in the Football League and has been in the middle for many play-off matches including the 2013 League Two final as Bradford beat Northampton 3-0 at Wembley.
The Bournemouth-based whistler, who is regularly considered for the high-profile games across all three divisions, was praised for his excellent handling of August’s east Anglian derby between Ipswich and Norwich in the Championship.
So far this season, Stroud has brandished 36 yellows and one red card in seven games in all competitions.
Last term, he gave out 168 yellows and seven red cards, while awarding seven penalties, in 38 games across numerous competitions.
He began with the season opener between Sheffield United and Notts County at the start of the Football League’s 125th anniversary year and ended the campaign with the League One play-off semi-final second leg as Rotherham beat Preston at the New York Stadium.
Stroud, who is a leading contender for this season’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final, becomes the second official from the so-called Football League “Talent Group” to be called up to the top-flight already in 2014-15 after Paul Tierney earlier this month.
With several officials, including Chris Foy and Phil Dowd, approaching the age of 50 or over, the PGMOL have continued their policy of testing the ability of promising FL officials in one-off low-key Premier League games.
For his first top-flight outing since December 2008, Stroud will be assisted by Richard West and Mark Scholes, with Neil Swarbrick on fourth official duties.
? DID YOU KNOW ?
Stroud once issued nine cautions, red carded 3 players and awarded four penalties in Sheffield United’s 2-2 League One draw with Brentford in April 2013.