Footballer of the Year voting opens today.

Voting for The Footballer of the Year opens today, April 1, and all members should have received an email with details and their unique voting code.

If, within 48 hours, you have not received your code, please check either your spam or junk as sometimes accounts filter our emails. Should the code still not be available, contact Paul McCarthy, our Executive Secretary. You can also vote by email, text/WhatsApp or by telephone – to do so please contact paul@maccamedia.co.uk or 07831 650977.
Voting will close on Monday May 10 and we will announce the winner on Thursday May 20. That 10-day period between the vote closing and the announcement will allow us to put together a comprehensive media package that will be available to all members.
We have had a huge rise in membership so for those voting for the first time, our award is the oldest of its kind and the guidelines within our constitution suggest you vote for the player who ‘by precept and example’ is your footballer of the year.  Tom Clark, one of our newer members, has put together a fascinating multi-media guide to some of our most illustrious winners over the years, here: http://footballwriters.co.uk/category/foty-archive/
The panel who decide our Women’s Footballer of the Year are currently debating their decision and the winner will be announced on Friday May 14 in collaboration with our media partners, Sky Sports.
We are sorry that circumstances dictate we are unable to hold our Footballer of the Year dinner for the second year running but we look forward to receiving your votes.

Alan McLoughlin

Alan McLoughlin, the former Swindon, Portsmouth and Republic of Ireland midfielder, has asked us to pass on this statement to our members.

Statement from Alan McLoughlin and family

“In light of questions about my situation, and some incorrect information being circulated, I feel it necessary to clarify some of my circumstances.

I am currently living with renal cell carcinoma.

It is probably best to briefly explain the sequence of events.

I was first diagnosed with a kidney tumour in September 2012, as was publicised at the time. That was removed, and I then went on a drug trial, although they didn’t find enough evidence that the trial was successful.

In November 2019, I was given more bad news, that the cancer had spread to my remaining kidney, into my chest wall and my lung. I underwent immunotherapy that unfortunately didn’t work, and I was in hospital several days due to side effects that affected my kidney.

That did get resolved, and I started taking another drug, a once-a-day tablet called Cabozantinib.

This had a positive effect, as all three tumours were shrinking. I went for a scan in January 2021, and things looked stable.

Unfortunately, the scan didn’t go beyond my thorax, so it missed a tumour growing in my vertebrae. It was only when I began to feel a pinched nerve in my shoulder that I realised there was another issue. I ended up being rushed to hospital in Swindon with a fractured neck, as the tumour had caused my vertebrae to crumble. Three weeks ago, I had an operation in John Radcliffe Hospital to try and take out as much of the tumour as possible, and to build a cage to support my neck.

That was successful and I am currently back home, about to go on radiotherapy treatment for my neck as well as a new programme of medication.

So I hope that goes well.

Thanks for your time, as I just wanted to clarify my circumstances. I would appreciate if my privacy could be respected in the meantime, but I will be available to speak again in due course.”

Bob Driscoll RIP

We are saddened to hear that Bob Driscoll, a long-standing member, friend and colleague to many, passed away at the age of 80.  Bob’s son Matt, also an FWA member and friend, posted the news on Facebook on Saturday evening.

Below is a tribute from Bob’s great friend and former FWA Chairman Alex Montgomery:

BOB DRISCOLL – DIED 26TH FEBRUARY 2021

My pal Bob, one of the great sportswriters of his era has died, peacefully, thank the gods, surrounded by the family he adored.

His death at 80 years means another light has dimmed from the days when Fleet Street was the unchallenged centre of the newspaper universe and reporters were expected to ‘get the story’, which he did time after time.

Bob was exceptional in a hugely competitive and never less-than-ruthless market. He was the most talented of writer reporters, a journalist who would spot a story when no-one else could and write a column full of insight and all the emotions of sporting battles from wherever and whenever he had access to a phone – not always easy in Russia, for example, in the bad old Cold War days where the phone would be brand new but there’d be no line out.

There was no pomposity about him, quite the opposite, in a career that covered the great days of The Sun, the emergence of The Star as a worthy challenger to its tabloid rivals before changing course and, latterly, when he was the vastly experienced cool head on the Daily Mail sports desk.

Bob’s professionalism was never in doubt by those who knew him and that most certainly included me.

For more than 50 years we never let our rivalry as reporters interfere with our friendship. We travelled together and helped each other when it was appropriate. We were the small team in a small team of reporters who covered England, everywhere, and all the major clubs matches, everywhere. Our friendship saw us through some difficult reporting days, particularly with the England national side during failed World Cups and catastrophic European Championships (Germany ’88).

For all that, he knew how to relax, we both did. Bob was, in fact, an expert even in a country like Chile where we risked arrest when we broke curfew for dinner and a glass of wine in some local boozer. There were other even riskier places visited, all survived.

It was always a pleasure to see him; to be in his company and to listen to his stories. He was such a superb raconteur, so sharp witted. He seemed to have a story for every situation, but Bob wasn’t a know-everybody type of reporter. He had his favourites, like Bryan Robson the England and Manchester United captain and Alan Hudson the fellow Londoner he revered at Chelsea, the club he supported with a passion. They trusted him.

Bob suffered from advanced dementia, made even more vulnerable by a number of fractures after a fall and then contracted the damned covid 19 virus. It was a combination of all three – not Covid alone, which he had in fact survived – that hastened the end.

His family – wife Joan, daughters Shelley and Kerry, son Matt and the grandchildren who lit up his life – are distraught.

We now all carry different memories of a remarkable man.

Bob Driscoll (left) reports on the arrival of Gianluca Vialli at his beloved Chelsea

Football Writers’ Association Student Football Writer of the Year Awards

As part of its long-term commitment to the next generation of football writers, this year the FWA is initiating a pair of exciting new awards. Named after two much missed greats of the trade, the Vikki Orvice Award and the Hugh McIlvanney Award are for the Student Football Writers of the Year and open to anyone who is currently engaged in full time education.

And the good news is, as competitions go, this one could not be simpler to enter.

We are asking for one piece of writing, of less than 800 words. It might be a match report (either of a student game or a professional encounter, watched on television), or it could be an interview, or a piece of analysis or a just personal take on your own experience, as a fan or a participant. Work does not need to have been previously published.

We have assembled a judging panel of eminent football writers and broadcasters, including Henry Winter, Alyson Rudd, Paul Hayward, Jacqui Oatley and Jonathan Liew to assess the work. And what they will be looking for are three things: originality, insight and delivery.

The prize is substantial. As well as a trophy, there will be copies of the five shortlisted titles in the FWA Football Book of the Year Award, free membership of the FWA for a year, an opportunity for work experience, plus the chance to benefit from mentoring from a member of the judging panel. There will also be a £500 prize for both award winners.

Items should be submitted by email (please cut and paste your work into the body of email, don’t send it as an attachment) to this address: fwasjoy@gmail.com by Friday April 16. The winners will be announced in May.

Football is working to address its inequalities and this is equally necessary in the media. We at the FWA actively welcome submissions from people of all backgrounds, cultures, faiths and religions. These awards are primarily established to encourage and build a pathway for the next generation of football writers, who represent our society now.

Howson and Hepple named NE Footballers of the Year

Jonny Howson has been named North-East Footballer of the Year for 2020 and Durham Women forward Beth Hepple has won the Women’s Player of the Year trophy.in the North-East Football Writers’ Association annual awards.

And to complete a notable double for Middlesbrough, his team-mate Marcus Tavernier has won the North-East Young Player of the Year award for 2020.

The NEFWA’s annual awards ceremony is normally staged at Durham’s Ramside Hall in the spring, but the coronavirus pandemic means this year’s event has had to be postponed.

Rather than staging a virtual ceremony, the NEFWA is hoping to be able to arrange a live event later in the year if coronavirus restrictions are eased, but the organisation opted to stick with its usual voting timetable for its major annual honours.

Howson has been voted North-East Footballer of the Year, with his award providing a fitting recognition of his sterling efforts over the last 12 months.

The 32-year-old started 2020 playing in defence, with his efforts helping inspire the improved run of form in the second half of last season that carried Middlesbrough to safety in the Championship.

Neil Warnock’s arrival resulted in Howson moving back into his more recognised position of midfield, and the Yorkshireman has proved a revelation this season as Boro have found themselves pushing for promotion in the top half of the table.

Tavernier’s Young Player of the Year award comes after an impressive 12 months that have seen the 21-year-old establish himself as an integral part of Middlesbrough’s first team.

He was involved in all bar one of Boro’s post-lockdown matches at the end of last season as they hauled themselves to safety in the Championship, and has started 22 of the club’s 28 league games this term, scoring goals against Millwall and Wycombe.

An England international at Under-19 and Under-20 level, Newcastle-born Tavernier is pushing hard for a maiden call-up at Under-21 level.

Hepple’s Women’s Player of the Year award caps a stellar 12 months that has seen the Durham Women forward establish herself as one of the most successful female forwards in the country.

Her goals have propelled Durham into promotion contention in the Women’s Championship, with her eight league goals in the current campaign making her the third-highest scorer in the second tier of the women’s game.

“It has been a challenging year for everybody,” said Colin Young, chairman of the North-East Football Writers’ Association. “But football has continued, and we felt it was important that after more than 40 years of awarding our Player of the Year awards, we didn’t allow the coronavirus pandemic to stop us in our tracks.

“We aren’t able to stage our annual awards ceremony in its usual slot, but we’re hoping that with the support of Ramside Hall, we might be able to arrange something if conditions are different later in the year.

“For now, Jonny Howson is a fitting winner of the Player of the Year award, and with Marcus Tavernier winning the Young Player of the Year honour, it’s a double celebration for Middlesbrough, who have had a new lease of life under Neil Warnock.

“Beth Hepple is the winner of the Women’s Player of the Year award, which is further proof of the giant strides made by Durham Women in the last few years.”

The NEFWA will announce the winner of its other awards – including the John Fotheringham Award, Bob Cass Award and North-East Personality of the Year award, which is presented in conjunction with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, soon.

Jonny Howson of Middlesbrough


Beth Hepple of Durham Women FC

Marcus Tavernier of Middlesbrough

Jack Rollin 1932-2021

Jack Rollin, a long-standing FWA member and dear friend and former colleague, passed away in January. Below is a short obituary, and a tribute from his former editor Ian Marshall.

 

Jack was a pioneer and leading light in the the world of football’s facts and figures and a wonderful raconteur of footballing anecdotes. He was always ready to help with requests from many quarters to check or research facts, long before the digital era when statistics became easily accessible.

Born in London 1932, his family homes were bombed out twice during the Second World War so he was evacuated to Devon – only to be machine-gunned on the beach by a stray enemy plane.

After serving in the RAF, Jack was stationed in Aldershot, and the local team were to become his footballing love. He became a football journalist and covered his first World Cup in 1954 as a freelance. Four years later his own playing days as an amateur ended because of injury. Jack spent many years as a statistician for the BBC, was editor of Soccer Star and World Soccer and a columnist on the Sunday Telegraph for 21 years. He was best known for founding and then compiling all but three of the Rothmans/Sky yearbooks, and also edited the Playfair Football Annual, latterly with his daughter Glenda.

He was a prolific author, writing books including: England’s World Cup Triumph (1966), The Guinness Book of Soccer Facts and Feats (1978), Soccer at War 1939-45 (1985), The World Cup: Sixty Glorious Years (1990), Rothmans Encyclopaedia of World Football (1990), The Guinness Football Fact Book (1990) as well as the history of his beloved Aldershot Town FC, where he became a Vice President and contributed to the matchday programme. 

Shortly before his death, Jack’s last book, Tommy Lawton: Head and Shoulders Above the Rest, was published by Pitch. https://www.pitchpublishing.co.uk/shop/tommy-lawton

He leaves behind a daughter, Glenda, son-in-law, Steve, and grandson, Harry.

Tribute by Ian Marshall of Simon and Schuster:

“For football fans of a certain age, the passing of Jack Rollin last month marks the end of an era. And rightly so. He was the founding genius behind our national sport’s statistical bible, the Rothmans Football Yearbook, which first appeared in the aftermath of the 1970 World Cup. Finally, football had its counterpart to cricket’s Wisden, and Jack Rollin took on the challenge of ensuring his blue book matched the reputation for accuracy of the yellow one.

“This was no easy feat. For Wisden employs a whole team to work on its pages; Rothmans was very much a one-man operation, though it expanded into a two-person job when daughter Glenda officially joined the team for the 1995-96 edition. In the pre-digital age, Jack would buy an enormous volume of newspapers and cross-check them to ensure he had accurate information on when and by whom goals were scored, when substitutes appeared, and so on. If discrepancies arose, he would check with the clubs concerned. In the early days of the Premier League, when they were trying to create a set of ‘official’ statistics, he was able to highlight a few errors of theirs, and so the official figures were corrected to match his.

“Getting it right mattered to him, and his desire for accuracy was transmitted to fans and journalists alike; it had all the answers. I remember the launch of the 1992-93 edition, when Rothmans’ publishing home moved to Headline. Headline’s production director of the time complained about an August publication of that size (1024pp) not being ready to go to print by the beginning of May; we explained that the season had not yet finished, and (by the way) that the European Championship final would need to be included, and that took place on 26 June. Impossible, we were told.

“Finished copies duly arrived direct from the printer on the morning of the launch. Our production director came along to the party and what she saw amazed her. In most publishing parties with wine and food on offer, the guests focus on how much they can eat and drink. Here, she was astonished to see that people were more interested in getting their hands on the book; some guests left as soon as they had one. Afterwards, she commented on how unique this was. Rothmans was so important to them; and that was Jack Rollin’s unique achievement.

“Beyond his unrelenting quest for 100 percent accuracy, Jack was generous and loyal: his house editor for more than 20 years, Lorraine Jerram, received an ever-expanding acknowledgement at the start of the book. He was also extremely principled. So it was that his beloved Aldershot received as many pages in the book as its alphabetical neighbour Arsenal; for statisticians of league football, they were equally as important. In today’s data-obsessed game, getting the facts right may not seem like such a big deal to achieve – most can be found at the press of a button, but Jack was there first. He may have been a traditionalist at heart, but Jack Rollin was also a pioneer for the modern game.”

Ian Marshall, author of the Playfair Cricket Annual

Important update for freelancers

Freelancers have been hit hard by the reduction in numbers for accredited journalists at football matches, but there is an important announcement, via the Sports Freelancer Collective, which the FWA helped to co-found with the Sports Journalists’ Association.

This is from the SJA website. FWA National Committee member Philippe Auclair is the man to discuss these issues with if you think you may be eligible for assistance. Please see our previous posts about the SFC for more details: http://footballwriters.co.uk/news/sports-freelancer-collective/

MORE than half a million freelancers excluded from state support could be handed a last-minute lifeline, according to a story in The Telegraph on Wednesday.

An army of newly self-employed workers who missed out on previous payouts worth up to £21,500 could finally qualify for help next month if the Treasury agrees to expand its scheme following pressure from MPs.

The Government’s grant programme for freelancers is only available to those who can show proof of income on a completed tax return.

This left out workers who set up on their own in 2018-19, because they had not been required to fill in this paperwork at the time Covid hit.

However, most of these freelancers will have filed full-year accounts by this year’s January 31 tax return deadline – which could allow them to make a claim under the final grant payment in February if ministers change the rules.

Close to 591,000 people became self employed during the 2018-19 tax year, according to freelancer trade body Ipse.

Even with large numbers planning to delay submitting tax returns this year, MPs in the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gaps in Support estimate that at least 150,000 freelancers still struggling would benefit.

The extra grants would cost just £600m but would give a massive boost to freelancers who have suffered significant drops in income. Many have been pushed to the brink and left struggling.

Marcus Rashford receives FWA Tribute Award

Marcus Rashford says he is honoured to become the latest Manchester United player to receive the FWA Tribute Award.

The United and England striker was honoured today for his outstanding work on and off the pitch, and says in an exclusive interview with FWA Chair Carrie Brown that he is honoured to follow in the footsteps of United legends Sir Alex Ferguson, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and David Beckham in receiving our tribute award.

Sir Alex and Wayne Rooney also pay tribute to Marcus in the video clip, which you can see the interview on our YouTube channel here https://youtu.be/tVI24GAF88M 

Keep coming back here and on our social media channels for more…

Remembering Tommy Docherty

We at the FWA were saddened by the news that Tommy Docherty had passed away on New Year’s Eve.  A fine player for Celtic, Preston, Arsenal and Chelsea, he then moved into management with the west London club and went on to manage a number of clubs including Rotherham, QPR, Aston Villa, Manchester United, Derby and Wolves, as well as Scotland, for whom he won 25 caps.

He was a great friend of the FWA, and as Life Member and former Chairman Paul Hetherington explains here, once saved the day at the NE branch’s annual dinner.

TD by Paul Hetherington
FOOTBALL lost one of its most-colourful characters on New Year’s Eve with the death of Tommy Docherty at the age of 92 – and the FWA lost a great friend.
The Doc was a journalist’s dream, he’d help you with a story and his rapid-fire quotes and wit were great copy. And as a former Manchester United, Chelsea and Scotland manager – among many roles as a boss – he regularly had the stage to maximise his often-controversial views.
But I’ll remember TD, as his family often called him, for coming to the rescue of the North East branch of the Football Writers’ Association in 1986.
I was chairman of that branch of the FWA at that time and had lined up Lawrie McMenemy, then manager of Sunderland, to be guest speaker at our annual dinner.
Five days before the function, however, Lawrie phoned me to say he wouldn’t be available. I knew why, Sunderland were in relegation trouble and had a make-or-break match against Stoke on the Saturday – the day before the North East dinner in Durham.
Lawrie knew his position would be untenable if his team lost that match. It left me needing a substitute speaker at short notice and I thought of Tommy Doc. I contacted his son, Mick, a close friend and asked him to sound out his dad.
Doc junior, a former Sunderland captain, coach and caretaker manager, got back to me to say Tommy would do it, but there was a snag – he was managing a Scotland X1 at Hampden Park that afternoon in a testimonial match for Kenny Dalglish!
A driver was arranged and Tommy was in a car heading for Durham within 20 minutes of the final whistle in Glasgow, meaning he missed the after-match banquet.
He arrived in Durham, after a 168-mile dash, half way through the dinner as he said he would, but in time for his speaking slot – as promised. By then, McMenemy had turned up following Sunderland’s win the previous day!
Lawrie told me he was attending in his capacity as Sunderland manager – not as guest speaker. But I persuaded him to say a few words and Tommy brought the house down with a hilarious speech, laced with football anecdotes.
He told me on his arrival: “I’m here because of your friendship with our Michael.” So I was grateful to two Docs that night.
Just as I was grateful every time I was in Tommy’s entertaining company. He’ll be missed – but certainly not forgotten.
Tommy Docherty led Manchester United to FA Cup victory in 1977

Gerard Houllier – an appreciation by Patrick Barclay

Patrick Barclay, our former Chairman, knew Gerard Houllier better and for longer than most of us, and here is his heartfelt and eloquent appreciation of his friend;

The word ‘’bonhomie’’ might have been invented for Gerard Houllier. Friendly almost to a fault, he was rare among football men in sharing himself with equal generosity between his beloved coaching fraternity – no photograph of a FIFA or UEFA seminar was ever complete without his smiling face – and the game’s media followers.

Away from football, he even shared the rest of his life with a journalist: his elegant and lovely wife Isabelle, whose attempts to acquire an interest in the passion that consumed too many of his hours were never wholly convincing.

During the 1998 World Cup, the United Kingdom ambassador in Paris hosted a reception in the garden of his fine residence and Isabelle, while waiting for Gerard to arrive from a meeting at the French squad’s headquarters, found herself amid a mixture of great-and-good and press, none of the latter wishing to be indelicate enough to ask, on such an occasion, the question on everyone’s mind. ‘’Well,’’ someone else blurted, ‘’is your husband going to take the Liverpool job?’’

Isabelle broke the embarrassed silence with a sweet smile. ‘’Oh, Gerard,’’ she said, ‘’he never tells me anything about his work.’’

It was part diplomacy, and part truth. And yet Isabelle, her own work permitting, was usually there to help Gerard offer hospitality to his friends in the football media; an indication of how many we numbered is that, in the hour after his death became public, I made or took more than a dozen calls.

An example of the affection he inspired was a text message Gerard received from Phil McNulty, the BBC’s chief online football writer, shortly after Liverpool had so dramatically won the Champions League in Istanbul in 2005 under the management of Rafa Benitez, who had replaced Houllier after it seemed the Frenchman’s powers had been diminished by a brush with death (caused by a ruptured aorta). After celebrating Liverpool’s victory over Milan on penalties, Houllier glanced at his phone and grinned at what McNulty had sensitively taken time out to write: ‘’See all those crap players you bought have become European champions!’’

Like all managers, Houllier suffered criticism and, like most of them, he could brandish questionable statistics in his defence. As if completing a hat-trick of cups in his most memorable Liverpool season – 2000/01, when the UEFA Cup was added to the domestic double – were not enough, he would always throw in the Charity Shield and European Super Cup as well. You could have a laugh with him about most things, but possibly not that.

We met a couple of years after, having guided Lens from the second division in Europe and Paris-St Germain to their first league title, he had begun work on the restructuring of French football that was to culminate in World Cup triumph in the summer of the ambassador’s garden party. Houllier, who spoke perfect English – he had taught in Liverpool for a year in his early twenties – was guesting for the English press team on the morning of a full international somewhere or other. As I recall he lined up in central defence along a mate he’d brought along, a tall guy called Arsene Wenger.

When Wenger was appointed manager of Arsenal, I naturally rang Houllier to ask what to expect. ‘’He’s a great coach and a great lad,’’ came the reply, ‘’but why don’t you ring him to get a better idea?’’ Upon which he gave me a number in Japan, where Wenger was completing his contracted span with Grampus 8 of Nagoya, and a most fascinating exclusive interview ensued.

That was typical of Houllier’s anxiety to help anyone he trusted. Once my friend Colin Malam reached a career milestone with the Sunday Telegraph, whose sports editor, Jon Ryan, knowing Colin was a Liverpool fan and that I got on well with Houllier, asked if some sort of congratulatory message could be arranged; Houllier did better, inviting Colin to bring all of us to what proved a memorable lunch with him in the Anfield boardroom.

Lunch after Houllier’s near-death experience fell into a pattern: while the rest of us tucked in to cassoulet or some such calorific classic, he appeared to watch his waistline, ordering salad and asking that it be dressed without too much oil. And then, as we sat back replete and loosened our belts, he’d ask for pudding with cream.

One lunch was designed to show off his pride and joy, a Melwood – Liverpool’s training ground – that he had completely redesigned to see the club into the new age of English football.

Among the many features was a restaurant where he let me eat with the players. One was very young – lean, almost gawky – and seemed shy as he shook hands. As we sat down I asked Houllier to remind me of the boy’s name. ‘’Steven Gerrard,’’ he said. ‘’I’ve brought him into the first-team group because he’s going to be a great player.’’ Houllier puffed out his cheeks and exhaled, as he always did for emphasis.

It was a joy to share his relish for football and for life (though they usually overlapped) and, as is customary, the legacy is the survivor’s wish for more. Houllier always offered a spare room at his house near the Roland Garros tennis stadium in Paris and much though I enjoyed evenings there, watching football on one of several wide screens, it is always difficult to know whether one is taking advantage of a friend’s generosity. He was a true friend, to the FWA and to so many of its members.

Let the tributes elsewhere do justice to his work, which will be forever etched in the annals of clubs either side of the Channel and the French national team; we shall remember Gerard Houllier as a football man to whom we were part of football.