by Russell Kempson
It was not what Graham Salisbury had wanted - to have to send off a player at Wembley - but it was why he had been appointed to the 2011 Johnstone's Paint Trophy final between Brentford and Carlisle United. He had been entrusted to make the big decisions correctly on the big stage, whatever the consequences.
And so, when Toumani Diagourago, the Brentford midfielder, committed a second bookable offence in the 87th minute, Salisbury had no hesitation in brandishing a red card. It was the first dismissal in the final in the 28-year history of the competition.
It barely affected the outcome - Carlisle were already leading and went on to secure a 1-0 victory - but it left Salisbury reflecting ruefully. "To be the first referee to send off someone in the final is not something you really want to shout about," he said. "It's not the sort of claim to fame anyone would want.
"It had to be someone, though, and I suppose it goes with the territory. Two mistimed challenges in a short space of time and that was it. You are bound by the Laws of the game. I don't think I could have handled it in any other way and I don't think the lad could have any complaints."
Nicky Forster, the Brentford manager, did not complain, either. "He just told me that I had to do my job and that the tackles had been a bit overzealous," Salisbury said. And it did not cloud Graham's Wembley experience. "I was quite happy with the way it went, as an individual and for the team of officials," he said.
"Wembley is such a phenomenal venue. I got the first tingles when arriving in reception, seeing all the players suited and booted, and walking out of the tunnel really makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. You definitely know it's time to get into game mode. The match itself just goes so quickly, it's a bit of a blur, but it went well."
It was a great family occasion, too, with Graham's wife Julie, son Michael and daughter Vicky all in attendance. For Michael, 25, it was a quick repeat trip to the home of English football. He ran the line the previous year when Oxford United defeated York City 3-1 in the Blue Square Premier play-off final.
"Michael's medal is in a display case at home," Salisbury Sr, a Preston-based engineer in the aerospace industry, said. "There'll have to be a debate about if my medal goes alongside it but I'm not sure if Julie is too happy about having two on show. Mine will probably end up in the study!"
The Salisbury clan's glittering collection is growing fast, including a treasured memento from when Graham, 48, was an assistant for the 2001 FA Vase final, in which Taunton Town defeated Berkhamsted Town 2-1 at Villa Park. Long forgotten is the dismal day, 11 years ago, when he failed to earn promotion from Football League assistant to Football League referee.
"When I got the letter, I think I must have thrown my bag about three fields away," Salisbury recalled. "The news was a real kick in the teeth, I felt awful. No one likes to be told that they're no good. To be that close and not to get it was very difficult to accept.
"But I chatted it through with my family and eventually got it all in perspective. You either pack it in or try to prove people that they have made an error. I saw it as a challenge and, as in any profession, it is how you deal with the setbacks that counts. And I wanted to prove people wrong."
Salisbury has done. He passed his promotion test at the second attempt, the following season, and has gone on to prove his point. Wembley 2011 just confirmed it.