World Cup Final whistle blower Howard Webb tops great year

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WORLD Cup Final referee Howard Webb officially becomes the only Englishman to come away from the finals in South Africa in glory after picking up an MBE.

Born in Rotherham to Sylvia and Billy Webb, he cut his teeth in Rotherham's Sunday leagues and this year became the world's top referee when he was chosen to take charge of the two biggest matches in football – the Champions League Final and the World Cup Final, in which Spain beat the Netherlands.

The police sergeant, 39, who is on a five-year break from South Yorkshire Police, was the first referee to be chosen to officiate at both in the same year and was also the first Englishman to take charge of a World Cup Final since Jack Taylor in 1974.

However, refereeing in Johannesburg, in front of a crowd of 85,000 and a television audience of more than 700 million, didn't go to his head and the following month he was once again back on the football pitches of South Yorkshire – to oversee the Rotherham Charity Cup clash between Thrybergh Working Men's Club and Wickersley Social.

At that match his down-too-earth nature shone through and he declared himself "humbled" by the players' enthusiastic welcome.

Off the pitch, Webb played a large role in Sheffield's bid to be a host city for the 2018 World Cup and also carries out a great deal of charity work in South Yorkshire, most recently attending a Christmas dinner for the homeless at Owlerton stadium.

"It has been an unbelievable 12 months and this honour tops off an amazing 2010," he said.

"It will be a real treat to go to the Palace with my wife and family and it should be a marvellous occasion.

"I always say refereeing is about your team, and without the support and ability of my assistants Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey I would not have been selected for the final, so this honour is for them too."