The FA have handed a sudden comeback hope to a Sheffield amateur footballer they banned for five years.
Jordan Turner, who has been grounded for 14 months, had written off his career after being refused a second appeal against the sentence.
But, following a wave of publicity, the FA have had second thoughts and agreed to a new hearing.
The striker’s punishment has divided opinion. Sheffield’s former referees’ boss Keith Hackett said it was paramount to protect exposed officials in parks – but the ban was branded “harsh” by ex-Premier League referee Mark Halsey.
Turner, who told his story in The Star two months ago, grabbed a referee’s cards and appeared to throw them at him after being sent off for foul and abusive behaviour in a Meadowhall Sunday League game while playing for Handsworth Turf Tavern.
One of the cards caught the referee, John Reeves, on the nose, scratching it. The local FA responded by throwing the book at Turner, who was then 24.
They then closed the case when the striker failed to turn up for a scheduled appeal – though the player maintains he was the victim of a mix-up, saying he was advised not to attend.
His supporters, including UKIP councillor John Booker, contacted the FA at national level only to have a further appeal ruled out. But an email arrived this week advising Turner that an appeal date was now being set.
“I’m delighted they’re giving me a chance,” said Turner. “I’ve thanked the FA for listening, although I’m trying hard not to get my hopes up.
“I’d virtually given up on playing again. The joy of playing football is impossible to replace - I thought it was the end of my career.”
Turner admits he was in the wrong and that he had expected a ban of up to a year.