AT 70 years of age Paul Jackson has the same enthusiasm for refereeing football matches as he did when he started out 38 years ago - and his dedication in five different decades to officiating at football matches in our county was recognised by the West Wales FA at the end of the season when he was chosen to be the man in the middle for the West Wales under 13s Cup Final at Stebonheath Park.

It was a cracking match between Carmarthen Stars and Pontardawe Town which Paul thoroughly enjoyed and his evening was made complete when Bob Weygood presented him with a framed certificate to commemorate his yeoman long service and mentioned the fact that he had started out as Hon Secretary of the West Wales FA the same year as Paul took up the whistle.

Paul is an ideal model for younger referees because he readily admits that he was never very good at sport in his teens and wishes that he had taken up the whistle even earlier than he did.

He made his debut when he was coaxed into reffing a match between Stowe on the Wold Reserves against a team from Cheltenham when he lived in the Cotswolds, but it was only when his work brought him to Pembrokeshire that he took up the role, almost by chance.

He was helping out at New Hedges Seconds when they played their counterparts from Monkton Swifts on the old field near the cemetery and when no ref turned up he was persuaded by Swift's veteran Charlie Evans to be the match official.

Just a little later Paul met Peter Beaumont in his work at the old Pembroke Power Station and when he was linesman for Ray Kane's Power Station team he was on the line at Goodwick and Peter was referee.

He must have impressed the former top English League official who was training officer for local referees because he was persuaded to go on a course at the Services Club in Quay Street, Haverfordwest, and passed out after taking one of three papers alongside Graham Sheppard and Barry Smith.

"Peter was a great mentor for me,” Paul told us, “and I learned from him that you can be a real gentleman in life but still be firm on the football pitch," Paul told us, "and after seeing how strong he was in that first match at Phoenix Park I have always tried to follow his example."

So Paul set out on his long association and has always had total support from his wife Penny, not a football fan, but always there, as has been children Samantha and Daniel, who represented Wales and the UK in sailing.

One can quite understand his eagerness to carry on until 2017 because that will complete an amazing tally of 40 years, a record that few others will ever achieve anywhere and at any level.

“But I will only continue if I feel I am still doing a decent job,” admitted Paul, “because I feel it is vital to be fit and healthy enough so that the players can enjoy themselves.”

Paul is nothing if not honest about his reffing and when asked about games to forget admits that his worst-ever match came in the 2013/14 season when he was in charge of the St Clears versus Pennar Robins’ match.

“A directive had told us not to use club linesmen to make decisions and as I tried to implement it I lost my way because you can’t be perfectly placed for decisions at both ends, particularly for offside, and I had a nightmare that didn’t please managers Craig Weston and Dean Driscoll.

“Luckily, I was off to sunny Spain for eight weeks, watched some Spanish League Third Division, and realised my previous match was the kick up the backside I needed to get back on track.”

To counter that there have been far, far more plusses and negatives, including a range of final appearances that included the first-ever under 12s final in 1983/4, followed by the under 16s final (1987/8), the Fifth Division Final (1989/90), the Third Division Final ((1993/4), the Reserve Division Final ((1995/6) and the Second Division Final (2007/8).

“I am sad that I missed out on a Senior Cup Final and that will remain a regret but these things happen and when I refereed the West Wales under 13s Final it was my fourth time involved at West Wales level, the other two as assistant referee.

“I ran the line for Ceri Richards in the West Wales Senior Cup Final between Haverfordwest County and West End at the old Vetch Field in Swansea, and a year later I was again on the line at the Vetch Field, this time helping out the late Chris Howlett as West End met North End in the West Wales Intermediate Cup.

“I completed a Vetch Field hat-trick as I was in the middle for the West Wales Junior Final and I had Brian Keen and Alan Grey on the line for me. I really enjoyed a competitive game between St Josephs and West End and I still have the video of that particular match.”

Ask Paul about changes in the game and he would be quick to answer:

“Professional Football now has such huge coverage on television that players watch loads of matches and try to emulate the antics of the so-called stars, hence the silly antics when they score even a tap-in goal, or the way that they try to ‘dive’ to earn a penalty or a card for an opposing player.

“Even some children involved seem unable to show respect they did years ago because I can remember competitive players like Mike Lewis, one of the better footballers and managers, arguing with me when he was young but apologizing to me straight after the game.

“That might sometimes happen today but not very often,” he says with a chuckle!

“Bad language from spectators is another area of the game that has got worse and perhaps that is a statement about society as a whole – but I would like to see club officials stamp it out and I live in hope of change sooner, rather than later!”

But there’s one thing for sure, Paul Jackson will continue to enjoy his refereeing of football matches with the same enthusiasm he showed when he set out – and long may he continue to support Pembrokeshire Football in his inimitable way!