PLAY-OFF final referee Sam Barrott may never have picked up a whistle had it not been for a nasty injury in his teens.

The West Ridings official, who will take charge of Saturday’s game against Oxford United at Wembley, was a promising player at Halifax Town until he was put out of action for nine months as a youngster.

His grandfather convinced him to take up a refereeing course during the nine months of no-contact rehab and at the age of 15 he went on to do games in the Huddersfield Junior League, and never looked back.

This season Barrott took charge of his first Premier League game, Fulham against Sheffield United, just four years after being promoted from the National League to the EFL list. He has since had 15 top-flight matches, including Manchester City’s 3-1 win against Burnley in January.

The 31-year-old took charge of the Championship play-off semi-final between West Brom and Southampton last weekend and has shown just three red cards in 42 games throughout the season at all levels.

Wanderers have encountered him on eight occasions, the last being the 2023 Papa Johns Trophy semi-final at Accrington Stanley.

Indeed, Barrott has been involved with more Bolton games than any club other than Ipswich Town in his career thus far.

The Whites’ record with him in charge is two wins, four draws and two defeats, and the only player to see red during that time was defender Reiss Greenidge, who was given two yellow cards in a 1-0 home defeat to Crawley Town in January 2021.

VAR will be in operation at Wembley, overseen by Peter Bankes and Sian Massey-Ellis, while the assistant referees will be Paul Hodskinson and Nigel Lugg and the fourth official will be Andrew Kitchen.

Wanderers have only once previously played in a game involving video refereeing, their FA Cup third round tie against Luton Town back in January. Though VAR was used at Kenilworth Road in a goalless game, it was not available for the replay at the Toughsheet Stadium.

The club also enlisted the help of Premier League referee Darren Bond to explain to Ian Evatt’s players before the first game some of the differences they may encounter, with the Bolton boss admitting it had helped eliminate “rookie mistakes” due to unfamiliarity with the process.