Awards

The Footballer of the Year Award

It was Charles Buchan, the publisher and writer of Football Monthly as well as one of the founding fathers of the FWA, who suggested that an award should be given “to the professional player who by precept and example is considered by a ballot of members to be the footballer of the year.”

That was back in 1947 and since then the Footballer of the Year Award has become the most prestigious award in the British game.

Voted for year on year by the FWA members, the first recipient was the legendary Sir Stanley Matthews and ever since players have been honoured for their achievements.

THIS YEAR’S WINNER:

Mohamed Salah  

Mo Salah was voted the Footballer of the Year for 2018 by the Football Writers’ Association.

The Liverpool winger topped the poll ahead of Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, with Tottenham’s Harry Kane coming in third.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League, Quarter Final at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester.

Previous Winners – Footballer of the year

FWA Tribute Award

The FWA Tribute Award is presented on an annual basis to an individual that the committee feels has made an outstanding contribution to the national game.

The Award is presented at a gala dinner at The Savoy hotel every January.

THIS YEAR’S WINNER:

Pele

The legendary Brazilian was honoured at a Gala dinner at the Savoy Hotel in January 2018 to mark the 60th anniversary of his arrival on the world stage, when he Pele helped Brazil win the 1958 World Cup

Previous Winners – Tribute

Winner:   George Best

A player who certainly lived up to his surname, George Best was football’s first superstar and if he pulled the curtain down on his first- class career when he was 27 the Belfast boy gave us 10 wonderful, unforgettable years.

Playing on pitches that resembled ploughed fields against opponents who had a licence to kick, Best still showed remarkable skill, balance, vision, ball control and speed as hatchet men tried (and usually failed) to halt the genius.

The Best story began on Sept 14, 1963 when Manchester United played West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford, the Reds winning 1-0. Matt Busby used Best sparingly at first but it was obvious he wAs a player who did not need protecting and by the end of the season he had made 26 appearances, scoring six goals.

In 1964/65, in a forward line also including Denis Law, Bobby Charlton and David Herd, Best, nominally a right-winger, was a key figure as United won their first title post-Munich. It was the following season when Best truly arrived on European club football’s biggest stage, scoring twice as United destroyed Benfica 5-1 in the European Cup quarter-final in Lisbon. A measure of United’s achievement that night is that before the match Benfica’s European Cup home record was: played 19, won 18, drawn 1, lost 0, for 78, against 11.

Returning from Portugal Best was dubbed El Beatle and his fan club now included many outside of football. Night clubs and boutiques were opened and Best became what is now called a brand.

A second title followed in 1967 when United finished four points ahead of Liverpool and in one of the most emotional nights in United’s history Best again proved the scourge of Benfica as Matt Busby’s dream of winning the European Cup came true. Best scored once as United defeated Benfica 4-1 after extra-time, his 28 goals that season making him the Footballer of the Year and the European Footballer of the Year.

He was United’s leading scorer over the next four seasons but as the Busby era came to an end Best was battling against the excesses that would eventually prove his downfall. Best’s last competitive match for United was on Jan 1, 1974 and aged 27 after a series of on-off retirements he quit the club for good.

Best had made 470 appearances, scoring 179 goals. One record that seems likely to stand for many years is held by Best - the post-War record for the most goals by a United player in a single match – six against Northampton Town in the 8-2 1970 FA Cup fifth round victory.

The globe-trotting Best played for numerous clubs around the world, starting with the Jewish Guild in South Africa, then came Stockport County, Cork Celtic and the Los Angeles Aztecs before enjoying a brief resurgence with Fulham in 1976/77 where he famously tackled team mate Rodney Marsh during game.

The world tour then took in the Aztecs again, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Hibernian, the San Jose Earthquakes, Sea Bee (Hong Kong), Hong Kong Rangers, Bournemouth, Brisbane Lions and finally in Feb 1984 Tobermore United, the only team in Northern Ireland Best played for professionally.

Best won the first of his 37 Northern Ireland caps aged 18. He scored nine goals but it is one that was disallowed that is remembered most. England were the visitors to Windsor Park in May 1971 and as Gordon Banks released the ball in the air in order to clear downfield, Best managed to kick the ball first, sending it over their heads towards the open goal. Unsurprisingly Best outpaced Banks and headed the ball into the empty goal but his audacious effort was disallowed by referee Alistair Mackenzie .

Sadly, Best never played at a major international finals, probably the greatest player never to have graced the World Cup. Billy Bingham briefly considered him for Mexico 86 but at 36 and his fitness dulled by off-field problems he was not selected for the squad.

George Best died, aged 59, on Nov 25, 2005.

HONOURS

As a player

First Division 1965, 1967

European Cup 1968

Footballer of the Year 1968

European Footballer of the Year 1968.


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