by Russell Kempson
As a teenage footballer, Jon Moss had the lot. A tenacious "midfield general", he had trials with several Football League clubs and appeared destined to graduate into the professional ranks. He played on Saturdays, on Sunday mornings and, if need be, in midweek, too. He couldn't get enough of the beautiful game.
Yet his path suddenly changed, once he had been introduced to the special delights of refereeing, and all thoughts of possible future stardom in the Football League or Premier League - as a player - receded. What started as a hobby, whistling away to his heart's content, grew and grew; this was his calling.
It could have turned out so different. Moss, 40, won a football scholarship to the University of Connecticut in the United States and completed his studies with a degree in teaching and physical education at the University of Leeds, a city in which he also enjoyed the thriving music scene.
He continued playing until, in 1999, he was sent off. "I asked the referee about something that had gone before the red card," Moss recalled, "and, basically, he said: 'If you think you can do a better job, do it yourself'. So I did. I thought: 'Why not?'
"You get a good grounding in the local Sunday leagues, like when you have to clear the pitch of sheep before you can start playing or having to deal with players who have got serious hangovers. It's all about coming through it, learning your trade and, hopefully, moving onwards and upwards."
Moss has done. After progressing through the Northern Counties East and UniBond leagues, he was appointed on to the Football League line in 2003. Two years later, he took up the whistle. And this season, he has taken charge of two Barclays Premier League matches, another impressive step up the ladder.
It has meant, though, the precise juggling of his many responsibilities - as a referee on the hectic Football League circuit, as head teacher of a 540-pupil primary school in Halifax, West Yorkshire, and as a father of four children - three sons and a daughter, aged two to 11. He also intends to run in the 2011 Virgin London Marathon on April 17 to raise money for the English Federation of Disability Sport.
"It's all about getting your life-balance right," Moss said. "And I have to say, the governors at my school are very supportive. Away from school, it's a case of doing games, training and spending time with my family. Being a teacher does help me in my refereeing. I have to deal with irate parents and staff, sometimes on a daily basis, and that helps me to keep calm and probably holds me in good stead for when I'm dealing with players. Players will not always agree with me, like parents, but it's how you manage those situations that counts.
"I love refereeing and I want to enjoy myself and do it as long as I can. Sure, I'd like to do more Premier League games and, at some stage, perhaps even get on the Select Group. If that opportunity came along, I'd love it to take it. Of course I would."
Moss might not have made it to the top flight as a "midfield general" but, as a referee on the rise, he's definitely getting there ...