Final fever for Natalie

Cup final ref Natalie Walker
Cup final ref Natalie Walker
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WHILE all Blackpool eyes are on Wembley this weekend, one football-crazy lady from the Fylde coast can be forgiven for being preoccupied with another final taking place the following Saturday.

Natalie Walker is looking forward to the biggest day of her career when she referees the Women’s FA Cup final between Birmingham and Chelsea at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate home..

Now a 30-year-old college lecturer in Preston, Natalie grew up in South Shore and made he first steps up the refereeing ladder on the Fylde.

A former pupil at Highfield Humanities College, Level 3 ref Natalie can’t wait to blow the whistle for the big kick-off on Saturday week, having been assistant referee in the 2004 final and fourth official four years later.

Natalie said: “It’s the highest appointment that the FA can give to a female referee and I can’t wait.

“It’s something that you can do only once in your life, so it will be a special occasion and one I will never forget.”

Natalie is Lancashire’s leading female referee after taking up the whistle at the age of 15.

She was promoted to Level 3 for the 2010-11 season and has officiated on the Evo-stik League and Blue Square North this season.

Refereeing runs in the family: proud father Billy was a match official and husband Richard is currently at Level 4. Both will travel to the West County to watch her.

“It will be the first time I have refereed a televised match but I’m just going to try to enjoy the whole occasion,” she says.

There will be a new name on the cup, as both Birmingham and Chelsea are first-time finalists. But whoever’s name is engraved on the trophy, Natalie will do her utmost to ensure they win it without controversy.