WHEN former cricketer Michael Gough declared his intention to become an umpire at just 26 years old, friends mocked “you needed your head looked at”.
Now, some seven years on, the Hartlepool-born official has been elected to the game’s international panel and will be at the wicket when England take on Australia in Saturday’s T20 at Durham.
It marks a rapid rise through the umpiring ranks for the 33-year-old from Bishop Cuthbert.
And Gough – twice Umpire of the Year – told SportMail: “I’ve only had five years as a professional umpire and this has all happened relatively quickly.
“I finished playing at Durham in 2003 – I just wasn’t enjoying it any more.
“But I never stopped enjoying the sport.
“I had a couple of years in the wilderness but I gave umpiring a go and I enjoyed it.
“I started with the ECB when I was 26 and when I told people I was going to be an umpire they said I needed my head looked at.
“But I have loved every minute, right from my very first game between Bishop Auckland 3rds and Sedgefield 3rds.
“I have worked hard and I would like to think I have impressed the right people and deserve this opportunity. “I’m delighted to get this chance and it’s great that the board have the belief in me.”
Gough will be the third umpire when England and Australia meet at Southampton tomorrow before taking to the field at the Riverside this weekend.
He will also be involved when England and Australia clash in their 50-over game at Edgbaston in September and there are dates in the diary for the women’s Ashes at the Rose Bowl.
And the Pools season-ticket holder admits his aim is to make it to the top of his profession.
“My ambition is to get to the top of the tree – that means being involved in Test matches,” he went on.
“I never really got to the top as a player.
“I’m putting no time frame on that because I’m still relatively young for an umpire.
“I see no reason why I can’t get to Test level, every time I go out there I give it the best I can.
“Most umpires are older but I think I’ve timed things just right.
“The players are getting younger and fitter and so, too, are the umpires.
“So I’ve got time on my side and I’ll be giving it all I can to make that progression.”