WHEN Michael Gough hung up his cap playing for Durham County Cricket Club eight years ago he was faced with a difficult decision.
Did he want to take over his dad’s sports shop business in Hartlepool?
Or would he stay involved with the sport he loves?
“I got to the point where I felt I had ground to a halt with my cricket,” said Michael, now 31.
After a couple of years playing at club level for Hartlepool, he decided to get involved in another way.
He said: “I made the decision I would like to get involved in either cricket coaching or umpiring.
“I started umpiring at weekends and really enjoyed it and pretty much made the decision to do it as a career.
“I have always enjoyed watching cricket and it seemed the natural progression to get involved in umpiring.”
He began getting as much experience under his belt as possible and passed the required exams with the English Cricket Board (ECB).
Michael was placed on the board’s reserved umpire list receiving a daily wage for games before being promoted to the ECB’s full list of 25 officials two years ago .
He was just 28 and is the youngest top level working umpire today.
Michael, of Bishop Cuthbert, said: “Either myself or my umpiring coach David Constant was the youngest to umpire at first class level, but I was certainly one of the youngest in the history.
“I was obviously extremely proud to achieve something like that. Since I stopped playing I had worked really hard.”
He added: “Fifteen or 20 years ago everyone who took up umpiring were all getting on life, in their 50s and 60s but as the game changed it has become a lot more professional and you have to be a lot fitter.
“A lot of guys are now in their mid to late 30s.”
Michael enjoyed a successful playing career with six years at Durham and serving as the England under-19 side captain back in 1999.
He followed his dad, Michael senior, who also played for Durham, into the game.
Today he gets to officiate all levels of professional domestic cricket at some of the best grounds in the country, including The Oval and Old Trafford.
“Lords is definitely the pinnacle,” said Michael.
“It is steeped in history and when you walk out it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. There is just a cracking atmosphere.”
He has umpired for county championships, 20-20 games and Clydesdale Bank 40 games.
And in March, Michael was selected to umpire the domestic season’s traditional curtain raiser game which this year took place in Abu Dhabi.
The four-day event featured a match between Nottinghamshire, previous year’s champions, and a Marylebone Cricket Club side.
Michael and the UK squad stayed at Yas Island, home of the plush new Formula 1 race track.
He said: “It was an excellent experience. It was held there as a trial to try to get more people out there watching cricket.”
The games took place under floodlights as they went on into the night to encourage locals to watch after a day’s work.
Michael is now enjoying his third season on the ECB’s full time list and has been enjoying a busy calendar.
He has just returned home from a four-day event in Brighton.
“It’s a great job,” said Michael. “You are watching some of the best players in the world play cricket.
“It’s just a pleasure to be out there especially when the sun is shining.
“There’s a great camaraderie and I enjoy the banter with the players.”
Michael’s next ambition is to officiate international test cricket.
“If things go to plan hopefully it won’t be too far off,” he said.