March 11, 2008
The Football League Awards annual presentation evening has come and gone for another year. Winners for 2007 were announced at the London Hilton on Sunday March 2nd. The event marked the third annual Awards incorporating the FourFourTwo Top 50 Football League players.
The awards are intended to recognise excellence and best practice at Football League clubs, both on and off the pitch. Football League Chairman Lord Mawhinney introduced the event by telling us that we were not only celebrating the best players and goals, but also the great work League clubs are doing to attract and retain fans, the contribution we make to our local communities, our efforts to develop the next generation of playing talent and the outstanding commitment shown by fans to the clubs that they support.
This year was the very first time that Bristol Rovers have featured on the list of final nominations. Thanks to the fine goal in the away game at Luton Town on September 8th, Rickie Lambert caught the eye of the judges in Goal of the Year category sponsored by Mitre. Rickie teed up a proper rasper from fully 35 yards to give the keeper no chance.
Other contenders were Jermaine Beckford of Leeds United for his magic skills when scoring for Scunthorpe against Rotherham United in February, Sheffield Wednesday’s Chris Brunt for his opportunist lob of the keeper in the game against Leeds in March, Chris Dickson for his narrow angled effort for Crewe Alexandra against Gillingham in December and Scott Sinclair for his superb dazzling run and shot in off the underside of the bar whilst on loan at Plymouth in the game against Crystal Palace also in March.
Incredibly, Rickie was the only player in the frame still at the football club for whom the goal was scored. Final voting was by SMS text over a period of one and a half hours on the night. Only one online or text vote was permitted per person. Video clips of the goals were shown to the assembled gathering and I did detect strong support for Rickie when his goal was shown. We were not informed of the count or the final order so let’s say that Rickie was narrowly pipped by Jermaine Beckford. Bad luck Rickie but I for one will enjoy watching the goal over and over again and so will all of us.
I found the line up for the Best Community Initiative to be especially interesting. I thought our Summer Project with Looked After Children in Bristol was really strong and was disappointed when we did not get on to the final list of nominations. Having seen the good work at other clubs I still very much hold the view that our work was up there with the best. I will concede however that the shortlisted activities and eventual winners probably involved for people in the respective communities and that the time scales were somewhat longer. Well done and thank you again to Becky Hunter for her innovation and to Paul Trollope for setting the task for the children to complete.
What makes a good match day programme in the eye of judges I wonder. The Football League put up Brighton, Hull City, Watford, Bedminster, Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion. Is it Well Red or Simply Read? Anyway, it won it! Fair play. Programme Monthly’s English Programme of the Year Awards put up West Brom and Norwich to be honest but other than that put up Charlton, Bristol Rovers, Carlisle, Crewe, Wrexham, Lincoln and Stockport County. Quite a different list. In League 1 “The Pirate” took it. Football issues are all a matter of opinion that’s for sure. It all contributes to making our game a great sport to follow.
Finally on the Football League Awards; the Thomas Cook Sport Contribution to League Football went to Jimmy Armfield OBE. Jimmy was a one club man of Blackpool and England. A full back of pace, aggression and intelligence, Jimmy was voted the best right-back in the 1962 World Cup in Chile. A remarkable record of 568 games for his club, Jimmy won 43 caps for England, 15 as captain.
Jimmy Armfield led the way in emphasising that full-backs had an important role to play at both ends of the pitch, had the speed of a winger and could cross the ball into the box with great effect. He later managed Bolton to Third Division Championship and Leeds to the European Cup Final. He has spent the past thirty years as a highly respected broadcaster and journalist. When being presented with the award Jimmy was asked if he would rather play in his day or now. He was quick to say now. When asked why he responded by saying that he started on seven and was never was paid more that £20 a week. Honest Jim! How times have changed.
When asked what was so special about playing for Blackpool, Jimmy said watching Stanley Matthews in front of him. I would think so. To mind you can forget the rest, Stanley Matthews was the greatest footballer who ever graced the field of play. Anyway, who should know better than Jimmy Armfield. Well said and congratulations Jimmy. May you live long and continue to give us all the benefits of your undoubted knowledge and football wisdom.