AN FA Cup Final is often the pinnacle of many a player’s professional career and the same undoubtedly applies to match officials.
It is a once-in-a-lifetime accolade for referees to walk out at the national stadium leading out the two teams for the showpiece event in the oldest cup competition in world football.
This year, the honour has been awarded to Jon Moss, who has been selected by the FA’s refereeing committee to be the man in the middle when Arsenal compete with Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, 30 May.
Unsurprisingly, the West Yorkshire whistler “cannot wait” for the game and said receiving the phone call was “the realisation of a dream”.
He told the Football Association’s website: “You dream about playing in a Final as a boy but I’ve dreamed about refereeing as I got older. Referees are no different to players and you strive always to get those massive games.”
Moss will be assisted for the final by linesmen Darren England (South Yorkshire) and Simon Bennett (Staffordshire).
Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire) – who was also the fourth official for the Capital One Cup Final last month – will be in control of electronic board duties while Harry Lennard (West Sussex) will act as the reserve assistant.
44-year-old Moss has officiated two Arsenal games and two Villa games in the Premier League this season – and both teams are undefeated when he has been in charge.
He oversaw Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace on the opening weekend and their 3-0 win over Stoke City in January – both at the Emirates Stadium – as well as Aston Villa’s goalless draw at West Ham in November and their 2-1 Midlands derby win over West Brom last month.
The prestigious appointment comes on the back of a number of consistent and impressive displays in the top-flight this season.
Only Martin Atkinson has taken charge of more Premier League games in 2014-15 so far than the 26 overseen by Moss – beating his previous highest in a single season of 22.
The West Riding official, who has issued more red cards (seven) than any other Select Group referee, has only overseen five other games – three FA Cup ties, a Capital One Cup quarter-final and one Championship match.
This season, Moss has already attracted criticism and been involved in controversy.
He put in an inconsistent display in Chelsea’s 6-3 win at Everton in August, awarded four penalties in Manchester City’s 4-1 victory over Spurs and gave Aston Villa a dubious spotkick in the final minute against West Brom as well as failing to spot Alan Hutton’s high challenge on Saido Berahino.
The Sunderland-born whistler has also been the fourth official for several key clashes including Chelsea’s draw with Manchester City in February and the Manchester derby at Old Trafford earlier this month.
Moss – who began refereeing at the age of 18 – was only promoted from the Football League for the 2011-12 season along with Neil Swarbrick after six years on the National List with his first game being Birmingham’s 2-1 win at Blackpool in January 2011.
He has since established himself to the surroundings and expectations of a professional Premier League referee and is close to reaching the 100-game landmark.
Father-of-four Moss – who is a former headteacher and continues to teach as an executive head at Beech Hill School in Halifax – has been involved in several high-profile finals in the past in a different capacity.
He was the man in the middle for the 2005 Conference Play-Off Final as Carlisle beat Stevenage 1-0 at Stoke’s Britannia Stadium and was the fourth official for last season’s Championship Play-Off Final and the 2014 Community Shield at Wembley.
The FA Cup Final is normally awarded to top-flight referees who are at the peak of their officiating careers and – although Moss would fall into this category – he was still a surprise choice with Mark Clattenburg widely predicted to receive the call-up.
The selection process was branded “a joke” by former Premier League official Mark Halsey, who incidentally never received an FA Cup Final appointment in his 14-year stay in the top-flight.
“Greg Dyke has got to take a look at the appointment process for the FA Cup referee because, frankly, it’s become a joke,” the 53-year-old told Kicca.
“I don’t blame Jon Moss, the man who will take charge at Wembley, it’s not his fault. But is he the best man for the job? Absolutely not.
“It’s quite clear Mark Clattenburg should be in charge. He’s consistently our outstanding referee who time and time again proves himself on the biggest stage. Look at the job he did in the Champions League match between PSG and Barcelona recently, he won major plaudits for his performance – and rightly so.
“Seriously, Jon Moss at Wembley? I can’t be having that. He’s made too many high profile mistakes this season already. Even last weekend he missed two blatant penalties, one for Palace and one for West Brom.”
Moss’s appointment has certainly been a talking point among supporters and officiating circles.
One serving referee said on forum Rate The Ref: “Personally I would say that he [Moss] struggles to get in the top half of the merit table in the SG so how does he land what used to be regarded as the most prestigious appointment in our domestic game?”
Another suggested: “Perhaps the most ridiculous appointment in the history of football? Ludicrous.”
Last season, Wiltshire’s Lee Probert was selected to oversee the 133rd FA Cup Final as Arsenal came from two goals down to beat fellow Premier League side Hull City 3-2 in extra-time.
LAST 10 FA CUP FINAL REFEREES:
Arsene Wenger’s team will seek to defend the trophy and could move above Manchester United in the record list for winning the competition 12 times after seeing off Championship side Reading in the semi-finals.
Aston Villa came from behind to beat Liverpool as the Midlands club bid to win the FA Cup for the first time since 1957 under Tim Sherwood, who replaced the sacked Paul Lambert in March.