Mark Halsey: Record-breaking Lewis Smith has the natural ability to be Premier League ref… even aged just 30

ROOKIE ref Lewis Smith, 30, makes his big-time debut tomorrow, becoming the youngest official to take charge of a Premier League match this season.

Smith is the man in the middle as Fulham take on Aston Villa, the highlight of a season that has seen him referee seven matches in the Championship, four in the FA Cup and three in the EFL Cup.

Lewis Smith will become the youngest Prem ref in history tomorrow


Lewis Smith will become the youngest Prem ref in history tomorrowCredit: Rex
Mark Halsey is backing him to be a hit during Fulham's clash with Aston Villa


Mark Halsey is backing him to be a hit during Fulham’s clash with Aston VillaCredit: PA

Here, SunSport’s Whistle Blower, ex-Prem ref MARK HALSEY, runs the rule over the new boy…

LEWIS SMITH has the natural ability to be a Premier League referee.

And it’s great to see a young talent like Lewis being given the chance to take charge of Fulham’s home clash with Aston Villa tomorrow.

Like a promising player breaking into a first-team, if a referee is good enough, they are old enough and we should not hold the 30-year-old back.

Yes, Lewis has been fast-tracked through the system but the PGMOL have identified him as a future prospect and believe the time is right for his top-flight debut.

He’s been well-prepared for his big test at Craven Cottage in recent weeks by officiating at tough Championship venues such as Leeds, Stoke and Birmingham – and even Barrow’s match with Forest Green in League Two on Tuesday night.

It’s no secret that I’m a QPR fan and I watched Lewis perform exceptionally well when he officiated the Hoops against Millwall last month.

That London derby is not an easy one to referee but he handled the game superbly, allowing the game to flow and engaging with the players.


Lewis only cautioned two players because his communication was good and that’s what players like.

I’ve also spoken to people who have observed him this season and the feedback was similar to what I saw.

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Lewis is a very fit lad and isn’t fussy. He’s well liked and in the same mould as fellow Prem rookie Sam Barrott, who has also impressed in the top-flight this season.

My only note of caution is we need to nurture these young talents.

There is no hiding place in the Premier League and it’s a tough environment where mistakes from young officials will happen.

We need to make sure they learn and develop and are coached in the correct manner so he improves his on-field performance but also gains mental toughness.

It’s clear we are short of refereeing talent in the Prem and the likes of Michael Oliver, who became the youngest top-flight ref at the age of 25 in August 2010, and Anthony Taylor won’t be around forever so we need the next generation to flourish.

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