At her home in Blackpool, Natalie Aspinall has a 25-year-old local newspaper cutting kept from the days when she was taking her first steps on the road to becoming a referee.
Just 15 years old, Aspinall had started a refereeing course based at a local working men’s club after her father Billy persuaded her it would pay better than a paper round.
Aspinall tells Sportsmail: ‘It was in my scrapbook and the headline was: “Teenage girl sets sights on the Premier League”.
‘I remember the boys at school laughing at me when they saw it. They thought I couldn’t do it because I was a girl. But that was all those years ago when things were different.’
Aspinall is 40 now and a mother of two girls. She will become only the third woman to officiate in the Premier League after being promoted as an assistant referee following six years in the EFL.
‘I am very excited and of course a bit nervous,’ she admits. ‘But I know I’m here because I deserve to be.
‘Whatever success I have, some will always just see the fact I am female. But a lot of the boys (referees) have known me so long now as I’ve been around a while.
‘At the first Premier League referees’ training camp this summer, one of them said to me that when someone gets promoted it always feels as though there is someone different in the room. But with me he said it was more like, “Oh yeah, Natalie is here”.
‘He didn’t realise the impact that comment had on me but it was really powerful. I really valued that.’
Aspinall had no particular interest in football as a young girl. But her dad was a local referee and when she broached the idea of a paper round, he had a better one.
‘My friend got £12 for a paper round and I wanted one so I could spend the money in town at the weekend,’ she recalls. ‘My dad said “no way”, that I wouldn’t get up each morning.
‘I had no interest in refereeing, running around in the wind and rain telling boys what to do. But he said I’d get £12 for just an hour and I said, “Bingo! Sign me up”.
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‘I got a bug for it and it became something that I just did. Twenty-five years ago there were no girls teams around. So my route was boys and then men’s football. But it became part of my life.’
During her years forging a career in the game, Aspinall has encountered the dreary sexism familiar to so many who have tried to make their way in what, to some, should always be a man’s world. Some of it has been casual, some more premeditated. At times it felt as though the glass in the ceiling would prove too tough. Ultimately it did not.