Darren flies Euro flag for England

While England failed dismally to reach the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland, one Norfolk man will be proudly representing the nation at next year's finals.

While England failed dismally to reach the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland, one Norfolk man will be proudly representing the nation at next year's finals.

Assistant referee Darren Cann, from Poringland, has been named as one of three English officials - the others are Howard Webb and Mike Mullarkey - selected for the tournament, which starts in June.

“You always hope you will be in the frame, but I wouldn't say I was expecting it,” said Cann, 38, who is assistant manager of the Business Centre at Lloyds TSB's Heartsease branch. “The season has gone particularly well so far and the realisation that a long held ambition is about to come true is a very satisfying feeling.”

There is a tinge of regret for Cann, however, that England will be absent from the tournament.

He said: “I was with Howard Webb when we lost to Croatia as we were doing the match between Slovenia and Bulgaria. Our game was an earlier kick off than the England match and we couldn't get to a TV so we had to rely on friends to keep us up to date. I am an England fan and I want the team to do well, so when the third Croatia goal went in we just sank, we were devastated.”

Fortunately, England's defeat did not rule Cann out of contention for the finals and he believes his experience from working at the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in Canada this summer will stand him in good stead.

Most Read

Cann will hope to avoid the kind of high profile error which saw Graham Poll sent home early from last year's World Cup finals in Germany, when he booked the same player three times.

But the Norfolk official said: “I don't feel that puts any pressure on us. It was a different event with a different trio of officials and we are going in fresh. In terms of pressure, we have our own coping mechanisms - you can't think that there are millions of people watching on television, you have to focus on the pitch.”

While the officials will be under scrutiny from the fans, they will also be rated by Fifa and should Cann impress, he might find himself officiating at the final in Vienna on June 29.

“We all have private ambitions, but it is the old cliché of taking it one game at a time,” said Cann. “Anything is possible. I've always said to myself 'What man believes, man can achieve'. If you say to yourself that you are only going to get one game then that is probably what you will get. You always have to aim high to give yourself the best chance to succeed.”

Despite having a number of high profile games under his belt already - including the 2006 FA Cup final, the Carling Cup final earlier this year and Premiership, international and European matches - Cann still has plenty of ambitions to fulfil.

“I've been very lucky,” he said, “But if Euro 2008 goes well, I would love to go to the Beijing Olympics and of course the London Olympics. Those are things I'd really like to achieve, along with a World Cup. I really don't feel that I've achieved anything yet and I need to keep driving myself forward.”

Cann admits that he has already started his preparations for the tournament, finding out as much as he can about the teams involved by studying videos and football magazines. It is a routine his family - wife Jacqui and children Charlotte, 11 and Adam, 8, have become accustomed to. “They are very supportive and a constant inspiration to me,” said Cann. “I know they will be watching from home - it's just unfortunate they won't be watching the England team.”