Football Book of the Year longlist announced

The 12 titles chosen by the FWA for the longlist of the Football Book of the Year award have been revealed. The FWA books committee has chosen the 12 titles below and congratulate the authors.  They will be further reduced to a shortlist for the final award, which is due to be held at Lord’s Cricket Ground in September, along with other Sports Books of the Year.

Sponsored by CLOC Printing, the Football Book of the Year is one of 10 Telegraph Sports Book Awards categories. The directors of the Telegraph Sports Book Awards have made the regrettable decision to postpone this year’s shortlist and winners events, but are pleased to announce they will take place later in the year, with a September date soon to be confirmed for the annual winners’ ceremony at Lords Cricket Ground.

Carrie Dunn’s superb deep-dive into the changing face of Women’s Football, The Pride of the Lionesses, looks beyond the headlines, reflecting on growth at grass roots level, as well as that of the professional game. Tobias Jones delves into a facet of Italian footballs subculture, examining the sinister side of footballing fandom in Ultra. Daniel Fieldsend’s Local looks at Liverpudlians uniquely intertwined relationship with both the City of Liverpool and their beloved football club.

Jonathan Wilson’s excellently researched assessment of how Hungarian football in the 1950’s shaped the modern game, The Names Heard Long Ago, is up against Michael Cox’s Zonal Marking, an insightful overview of tactical development in European football over the last three decades. Leo Moynihan’s The Three Kings tracks the life and careers of three of the greatest ever managers, Stein, Shankly & Busby, undoubtedly the central architects of the modern game. The tactical theme continues with Pep’s City, Spanish journalists Pol Ballus & Lu Martins’ behind the scenes profiling of Pep Guardiola’s success at Manchester City. David Tossell’s Natural, makes the longlist with a revealing and comprehensive biography of a past superstar, one England’s most loved footballers, Jimmy Greaves.

Steven Scragg pays homage to the European Cup Winners Cup with Frozen In Time, charting its distinct history through the unique, eccentric stories it created. Amy Raphael’s, A Game of Two Halves, pairs football’s superstars with their celebrity superfans, resulting in plenty of funny conversations and revealing some uplifting commonalities. Completing the shortlist are Stephen O’Donnell’s brutally honest account of the rise and fall of Rangers FC, Tangled Up In Blue, and John Nicolson’s Can We Have Our Football Back?, a polemic against the premier league, including a passionate pitch for an alternative future.

David Willis, Chairman of the Telegraph Sports Book Awards said: ‘We are delighted to be announcing the Football Writers’ Association Book of the Year Long List and working in partnership with CLOC Printing for the first time, and honoured to continue an excellent relationship with the highly esteemed Football Writers’ Association.’

Philippe Auclair, Chair of the Football Writers Association Books Committee, commented: “One of the most striking features of this longlist is the sheer variety of the selected titles, which shows how football writing continues broadening its horizons from year to year. In this regard, this season’s crop is probably the most diverse and the richest in the award’s history, with twelve outstanding books dealing with a huge range of interests – from biography to sociology, tactical analysis to history, polemic and politics to women’s football, to name a few. “

The winners of the 2020 Sports Book of the Year Awards will be announced at a gala awards dinner to take place at Lord’s Cricket Ground in September, with the exact date to be confirmed shortly.

Alongside CLOC Printing, The Telegraph Sports Book of the Year Awards partners include VAARU Cycles, Pinsent Masons, Sky Sports, Tim Rice’s The Heartaches & The National Literacy Trust. The final short lists for the 2020 Sports Book of the Year Awards will be announced at a reception in Pinsent Masons London Headquarters. As with the main ceremony, we have regrettably decided to postpone the original May date, and will confirm the rescheduling as soon as possible.

The Telegraph Sports Book Awards Categories 2020:

Autobiography of the Year

International Autobiography of the Year

Biography of the Year

Children’s Sports Book of the Year

Cricket Book of the Year

Football Book of the Year

Cycling Book of the Year

Illustrated Book of the Year

General Outstanding Sports Writing Award

Rugby Book of the Year

For more information about The Telegraph Sports Book Awards 2020, visit






Important notice – FOTY dinner postponed

The National Committee of the Football Writers’ Association has been in continuing discussions with the game’s authorities over the impact of the coronavirus.

Given the current suspension of all fixtures and the potential threat to our members, we have taken the decision to postpone the Footballer of the Year Dinner on Thursday May 14.

The Committee considered the health and safety of our members and their guests to be paramount plus the logistical impossibility of holding an awards dinner when the season may still be far from completion.

We will seek to rearrange the event but obviously will be governed by the football calendar and so no replacement date has yet been identified.

We would like to thank The Landmark hotel and general manager, Andrew Batchelor, for their understanding. Also our title sponsors, William Hill who have been supportive of any decisions taken.

Finally, we will continue the tradition of crowning the Footballer of the Year and Women’s Footballer of the Year and will provide details of voting procedures and timings at a later date.

Paul McCarthy

Executive Secretary

Manchester City’s Nikita Parris and Raheem Sterling with poses with both of their FWA Footballer of the Year awards alongside Chair of the FWA Carrie Brown during the 2019 Footballer of the Year Dinner at the Landmark Hotel, London.

“Special moment” as Steph Houghton collects FWA award

Steph Houghton said it was a “special moment” for her when she collected the FWA’s North East Personality of the Year award in Durham on Sunday evening.

The Manchester City and England captain returned to her hometown for a star-studded evening at the Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham, where her outstanding contribution to the region was recognised by the Football Writers’ Association.

Accompanied by her husband Stephen Darby and other family members, Steph raced hotfoot from Manchester, where she captained City in their thrilling 3-3 draw with Chelsea.

And she said it was well worth the journey as she picked up her award, with last year’s recipient Alan Shearer and many other famous faces from the world of football in the room.

Looking through the list of past winners, there are some prestigious winners and absolute legends from the North East, so to have won, and be the first female to do so too, is a special moment for me and my family,” said Steph.

The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation sponsor the award, and Steph added: “Unfortunately he is not with us today, but his legacy lives on through this foundation and it is great that I am able to come here with my family to support such an amazing cause, and hopefully over the next few years we can keep pushing to raise as much money as we can.”

Newcastle United provided both the North East Player and Young Player of the Year, with Fabian Schaer and Sean Longstaff collecting their awards, while Kathryn Hill of Durham and Scotland was named Women’s Player of the Year.

The Bob Cass award for his outstanding contribution to North East football went to former FIFA World Cup referee George Courtney, who reminded us that he is still officiating at youth level and available for hire!

Kevin Ball received the John Fotheringham award for his outstanding service with Sunderland, as both player and manager, and now as a club ambassador.

There were honours too for non-league sides Gateshead, Morpeth Town and Dunston, and the evening was rounded off with the unique comedy of Josh Daniels.

Funds raised on the night went to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, and the event was hosted with wit and style by Ian Dennis, Chief Football Reporter for BBC Radio Five Live.

The FWA were well represented by our Chair, Carrie Brown, Executive Secretary Paul McCarthy, former chairmen Paul Hetherington and Gerry Cox, and finally Colin Young, who once again organised the evening superbly.

Our thanks go to Claire Stephens and her staff at Ramside Hall, and to our title sponsors William Hill for their generous support.

CHANGE OF DATE – NE FWA awards now Sunday Feb 23

Please note that the FWA’s North-East awards night has been put back to Sunday February 23rd at the Ramside Hall in Durham.

Originally scheduled for Feb 2, it has been put back to allow for the attendance of our winners.

More details of the event can be found here:

For details of tickets, at £58 including a three-course meal, contact Colin Young of the FWA or Claire Stephensat the Ramside Hall hotel on 0191 375 3080 or

Steph Houghton is NE FWA Personality of the Year

Steph Houghton will receive the North East Football Writers’ Association’s Personality of the Year trophy, which is given in association with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation to recognise someone who uses their position in football to benefit the wider community.

The 31-year-old Manchester City captain, described by The Football Association as, “a role model in every sense,” will receive recognition for her off-the-field activities, which include official roles with the Professional Players Association, UEFA, The James Milner Foundation and the NSPCC.

She will also be recognised for campaigning to end period poverty and for her great commitment to The Darby Rimmer MND Foundation, a charity launched after her husband, Stephen Darby, was diagnosed with the disease in 2018.

Steph, who is from Durham, will be following in the footsteps of Alan Shearer, who received the North East Personality of the Year trophy last year.

It will be presented at the North East Football Writers’ Association Awards, sponsored by William Hill, which are held annually at Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham to celebrate the best of North East football. The event will, once again, raise funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.  PLEASE NOTE  CHANGE OF DATE TO SUNDAY FEBRUARY 23rd

Lady Elsie Robson said: “This is the sixth year we’ve helped the Football Writers’ Association choose a recipient for this award and Steph is the first woman to receive it. That seems very fitting given as she’s been such a pioneer in the women’s game.

“Steph has worked extremely hard to achieve her success and she’s also done so much to help others in that time. She’s a very worthy winner of this special award.”

In addition to the presentation to Steph, the North East Football Writers’ Association will be taking the opportunity at the awards night to pay tribute to the seven Lionesses who are from this region.

The chair of the Football Writers’ Association nationally, Carrie Brown, says: “In the week the Football Writers’ Association pays tribute to Vincent Kompany, it’s fitting we announce Steph Houghton as the winner of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation Personality of the Year.

“The England and Manchester City captain can stand shoulder to shoulder with Kompany after leading club and country to unprecedented success in, arguably, the most important and influential decade in the history of the women’s game.

“Off the field, Steph has been an impeccable ambassador for the sport and the sport, in turn, has come out in support for Steph and her husband, former Liverpool player Stephen Darby.

“Stephen was diagnosed with motor neurone disease last year and, with his close friend Chris Rimmer, has set-up the Darby Rimmer MND Foundation in hope of finding a cure for the disease.

“I am delighted the North East branch of the FWA has recognised Steph, and all seven players from the region who represented the Lionesses in France last summer.

“Congratulations also to Scottish international Kathryn Hill, whose imperious form in defence for Durham Women has won her the Women’s Player of the Year Award.

“The FWA looks forward to hosting what promises to be a wonderful night of celebration for the men’s and women’s game.”

Appointed England captain in 2014, Steph has appeared at two World Cups and two European Championships, as well as starring for Team GB at London 2012. She is the most recent player to earn a century of England caps.

At club level, her career began with Sunderland Ladies, before joining Leeds United Ladies, where she won an FA Women’s Cup medal, and then winning numerous honours with Arsenal.

Steph moved to Manchester City six years ago and has been instrumental in helping the club become one of the powerhouses of the women’s game, guiding her team to trophies in all three domestic competitions.

Other recipients of North East Football Writers’ Association awards this year include Men’s Player of the Year, Fabian Schar (Newcastle United), Young Player of the Year, Sean Longstaff (Newcastle United) and Womens’ Player of the Year, Kathryn Hill (Durham Women FC).

The previous winners of the North East Personality of the Year trophy, in association with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, are:

• Alan Shearer
• Jermain Defoe
• Steve Harper
• Robbie Elliott
• Niall Quinn

Tickets for the North East Football Writers’ Association Awards are available from Claire Stephen at Ramside Hall Hotel (0191 375 3080 or

Vincent Kompany honoured on Gala Tribute Evening

Vincent Kompany said he was honoured and humbled to be the recipient of the FWA’s Tribute Award at The Savoy on Sunday January 12.

The former Manchester City and Belgium captain was our special guest at a star-studded event, and spoke eloquently about his career, his family and charity work. Accompanied by his father Pierre, he was joined on the top table by Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester, with whom Vincent has set up Tackle4MCR, a charity that helps the homeless and rough sleepers in the city.

Andy Burnham spoke in glowing terms about Vincent and his charity work, before FWA Chair Carrie Brown joined in with the praise, and handed over Vincent’s award.  He thanked the FWA, not only for his award but for our help in highlighting racism in football, and he called for more diversity in the game at all levels.

Vincent received a standing ovation, and spent hours afterwards mingling with guests.  Our thanks to Vincent and his colleagues for making it another special occasion, and thanks also to our sponsors William Hill for helping us stage the event.

There was sadness, too, as we remembered absent friends, and Paul McCarthy our executive secretary announced that the evening was dedicated to Steve Curry, our great friend, colleague and Life Member, who passed away in 2019. Steve’s widow Carol and son Mike were in attendance.

You can see our interview with Vincent here:

Thanks to Steve Paston of PA images for photography

Schar, Longstaff and Hill win North East FWA awards

Newcastle United defender Fabian Schar is the 2019 North East Football Writers’ Association’s Player of the Year.

His Newcastle team-mate Sean Longstaff is the NEFWA Young Player of the Year.

And Durham Women FC defender Kathryn Hill has been named Women’s Player of the Year.

All three will be presented with their awards at the 40th North East Football Writers’ Association annual dinner at The Ramside Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa, Durham, WHICH WILL NOW BE HELD ON SUNDAY FEBRUARY 23rd

The awards night will also feature the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation personality of the year award which has previously been awarded to Alan Shearer, Jermaine Defoe, Niall Quinn and Robbie Elliott. This year’s recipient will be announced later this week.

As well as recognising success in non-league football, the NEFWA also present the Bob Cass Award and the John Fotheringham Awards, named after two renowned North East football writers, and recognising outstanding services to the region’s football.

Switzerland international Schar narrowly beat Newcastle midfielder Isaac Hayden in the player of the year vote, which is held among the North East’s football writers, with Middlesbrough and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph in third place.

Schar, 28, joined Newcastle from Deportivo La Coruna in summer 2018 after spells with FC Wil 1900, FC Basel and 1899 Hoffenheim. He has 52 Swiss caps, playing in the last two World Cup Finals and Euro 2016 Finals, and also represented his country in the 2012 Olympics in London.

The stylish centre-back scored four goals last season, including the 30-yard screamer against Burnley which won the Premier League and Match of the Day goal of the month in February. He scored his first goal of this season against Everton as a near ever-present under Steve Bruce, until a hamstring injury over the festive period.

Schar becomes the fourth Newcastle player in a row to win the annual award following keeper Martin Dubravka last season and joint winners Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie in 2017. 

In total Newcastle players have won the award 19 times, with Sunderland on 11, Middlesbrough nine and Hartlepool United’s Joe Allen taking the large silver trophy home in 1991. 

Newcastle academy graduate Sean Longstaff was the unanimous choice for the young player award, which also has an impressive list of previous winners.

He takes the awards from former Sunderland striker Josh Maja and follows the likes of Jordan Pickford, Ayoze Perez and the first winner, Steven Taylor. 

The 22-year-old midfielder joined the club as a schoolboy and after loan spells with Kilmarnock and Blackpool, made his first team debut under Rafa Benitez in December 2018.

He made a real impression on Newcastle fans in the win over champions Manchester City at St James’ Park and scored his first Premier League goal in that 2-0 win over Burnley. 

Although he was ruled out for the season with a knee injury the following month, Longstaff, whose brother Matt has also made an impressive breakthrough to the first team, continued where he left off when he returned to the side this season.

Scotland international Hill is the second Durham Women FC player to win the annual award, following last season’s recipient Beth Hepple, the local youngster, who started her career at New Ferens Park.

The tough-tackling defender, signed from Rangers two years ago as part of the club’s link with Durham University, has been an integral part of the FA Women’s Championship side’s promotion pushes this season and last.

Hill has made nearly 50 appearances since her debut for Lee Sanders’ side which narrowly missed out on a place in the FA Women’s Super League last season.

Tickets for the awards night are £58 and available from Claire Stephen on 0191 375 3080.


Previous player of the year award winners

Newcastle 19 (2 joint)

Sunderland 11 (1 joint)

Middlesbrough 9

Hartlepool 1

Player of the Year:

1980 David Armstrong (Middlesbrough)

1981 Jim Platt (Middlesbrough)

1982 Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson (Sunderland)

1983 Kevin Keegan (Newcastle)

1984 Kevin Keegan (Newcastle)

1985 Chris Waddle (Newcastle)

1986 Peter Beardsley (Newcastle)

1987 David McCreery/Neil McDonald (Newcastle)

1988 Tony Mowbray (Middlesbrough)

1989 Marco Gabbiadini (Sunderland)

1990 Mick Quinn (Newcastle)

1991 Joe Allen (Hartlepool United)

1992 Stephen Pears (Middlesbrough)

1993 Lee Clark (Newcastle)

1994 Peter Beardsley (Newcastle)

1995 Barry Venison (Newcastle)

1996 Les Ferdinand (Newcastle)

1997 Juninho (Middlesbrough)

1998 Paul Merson (Middlesbrough)

1999 Niall Quinn (Sunderland)

2000 Kevin Phillips (Sunderland)

2001 Thomas Sorensen (Sunderland)

2002 Shay Given (Newcastle)

2003 Alan Shearer (Newcastle)

2004 Gareth Southgate (Middlesbrough)

2005 Stewart Downing (Middlesbrough)

2006 Shay Given (Newcastle)

2007 Nyron Nosworthy/Dean Whitehead (Sunderland)

2008 David Wheater (Middlesbrough)

2009 Danny Collins (Sunderland)

2010 Darren Bent (Sunderland)

2011 Fabricio Colocinni (Newcastle)

2012 Simon Mignolet (Sunderland)

2013 Yohann Cabaye (Newcastle)

2014 Lee Cattermole (Sunderland)

2015 Daryl Janmaat (Newcastle)

2016 Jermain Defoe (Sunderland)

2017 Jamaal Lascelles/Matt Ritchie (Newcastle)

2018 Martin Dubravka (Newcastle)

2019 Fabian Schar (Newcastle)

CHANGE OF DATE North East FWA Awards now February 23

The FWA’s North-East awards night has been put back to Sunday February 23rd at the Ramside Hall in Durham.

Originally scheduled for Feb 2, it has been put back to allow for the attendance of our winners.

It is the North East branch’s showpiece event of the year, featuring the region’s Player of the Year, Women’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year and many other awards.

Last year’s main awards were won by Martin Dubravka of Newcastle, Beth Hepple of Durham and Sunderland’s Josh Maja.  There was also a special award for the region’s Personality of the Year for Alan Shearer, after the former Newcastle and England captain raised over £11m for a wide range of good causes and charities.  One of them, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, will again be the recipient of much needed funds on the night, which is supported by the FWA’s headline sponsor William Hill.

It is sure to be another star-studded evening, and tickets sell out quickly.  Contact organiser Colin Young or  Claire Stephen at the Ramside Hall directly for details: 0191 375 3080



Change of date – Vincent Kompany Tribute night now Sunday January 12


Please note that the FWA Tribute Night for Vincent Kompany has a change of date, brought forward from Jan19 to SUNDAY JANUARY 12. This is because Belgian TV requirements have led to a re-scheduling of Anderlecht’s game on the 19th.

All other details remain exactly the same and those who have booked tickets and tables at our annual Savoy event will be receiving tickets and passes within the next 10 days.

As a matter of urgency, can you please let Paul McCarthy, FWA Executive Secretary, know if you are NOT able to take your allocated table or tickets.

Our sincere apologies for the change but it was completely out of our control.

The FWA’s National Committee chose to honour Kompany not just for his outstanding contribution to English football, having won every domestic trophy (four PL titles, two FA Cups and four League Cups) but also for his charity work, not least via Tackle4MCR, a co-operation with the Mayor of Manchester’s office to tackle homelessness in the city.  He also studied for and gained an MBA when he was in Manchester, and is a FIFA ambassador for the SOS Children charity.

Kompany wlll travel to London on January 12 to collect his award in what is sure to be a star-studded event and memorable night.

You can see a list of previous winners of the FWA Tribute Award here:

Ivan Sharpe – the FWA’s Founding Father

 MIKE COLLETT, FWA member and resident historian, has done more than most to revive the name of Ivan Sharpe, one of our founding fathers, back to prominence in the history of the game. Now that the National Football Museum have taken over Ivan’s personal collection of memorabilia from over 60 years as player and journalist, Ivan’s remarkable story and lasting legacy to the beautiful game can be told.  This article by Mike first appeared in BackPass magazine. Our thanks for permission to reprint it:

THE LONG journey to restore the name of Ivan Sharpe to its rightful place in the history of English football, after his phenomenal contribution to the game in the first half of the 20th century, started with a fire at the home of the late Ken Montgomery, the former Sunday Mirror journalist.

At the time the avuncular Scot was the executive secretary of the Football Writers’ Association and had the entire history of the FWA – all of it on paper and none of it backed up on a computer – in a suitcase at his house.

Thankfully, Ken survived the blaze, but the FWA’s historical archive, dating back to the organisation’s foundation in 1947, did not. All the minutes of committee meetings, annual general meetings, members records, past chairmen, photographs, Footballer of the Year dinner menu cards, treasures and trivia went up in smoke.

And remarkably, to all intents and purposes, in terms of the FWA and the wider game in general, so did the name of Ivan Sharpe. The former England amateur international and Olympic gold medal winner was one of the most important figures in the English game as an amateur player, later as an influential journalist and also as the first chairman of the FWA. He was the man who presented Stanley Matthews with the first Footballer of the Year Award in 1948.

But we will come to that later.

Today though, his name is back in the limelight. The National Football Museum in Manchester is collating his own personal archive with a view to a future permanent exhibition and new life members of the FWA are now recipients of the Ivan Sharpe Life Membership Award with his name writ large on their handsome commemorative certificates.

The game may have changed considerably since he was playing it 100 years ago and then writing about it for the next 50 years but the standards he set on and off the field, for both players and journalists, are as valid today as they were then. And Sharpe’s past included tangible links to the very beginning of League football in England, as well as a direct connection to one of the game’s greatest-ever managers.

Born in St Albans in 1889, he was the fifth son of a boot-maker. His father, noticing he was a natural right-footed player, made the young Ivan a football attached to a ten-foot cord which he then tied to his left ankle and sent him out to the backyard to kick it back and forth, again and again for hours on end.

As a result, he ended up with a left foot as strong as his right and went on to play for Watford, Glossop North End, Derby County, Leeds City and Leeds United – one of only two players to play for the two Leeds clubs. He also played a combined 12 times for England and Great Britain’s amateur sides between 1910 and 1914 and in 1912 won the Second Division title with Derby and was part of the British team that won the football gold medal at the Stockholm Olympics, scoring once in the 4-0 semi-final win over Finland.

At 18, he was working as an apprentice journalist covering sport for the Herts Advertiser newspaper as well as the St Albans Times and had been playing locally for the juniors of St Albans Abbey when his talent and speed as a winger came to the attention of Southern League Watford and so impressed player-manager John Goodall that in 1907 he signed him.

Goodall was a member of the ‘Proud’ Preston North End Invincibles who won the double in the League’s inaugural season in 1888-89, lifting the title without losing a match and the FA Cup without conceding a goal, so Sharpe’s association with Goodall provides a path straight back to the very beginning of English League history.

His career as a player continued after the First World War with more than 60 appearances for Leeds City (17 goals) and one for Leeds United and it was while at City that he came into contact with a man destined to have a huge impact on the game in the 1920s and 1930s and beyond, manager Herbert Chapman.

As an amateur at Leeds, Sharpe managed his time playing League football on a Saturday and writing for an evening paper during the week and so by the time his playing days ended his credentials for a journalistic career were well established.

He edited the influential Athletic News and later worked for Kemsley Newspapers and the Sunday Chronicle, editing the pocket bible Football Annual for more than 30 years as well as contributing other articles to magazines and newspapers throughout his life.

He was a man of his time and ahead of his time too. He covered the first Wembley FA Cup final between Bolton and West Ham in 1923, interviewed Benito Mussolini – with a photo signed by Italy’s fascist dictator in his archive – and, according to one source, “had an interview with Adolf Hitler lined up but the Fuhrer chickened out.”

Years before UEFA introduced their goal-line assistants, he wrote in the Athletic News in April 1930 that “a goal judge should be stationed at each goal. The goal judge’s duty is to watch all incidents inside the penalty area at his end and to advise the referee concerning all doubts. The referee, as now, to be supreme.”

I’d suggest we can forgive him if he didn’t actually come up with the idea of VAR at that time as well.

He knew everyone in the game from Stanley Rous to Stanley Matthews, from England team-mate Vivian Woodward, another outstanding amateur of the early part of the century, to the legendary great scorer of old Steve Bloomer, a team-mate at Derby.

In 1958, in recognition of his contribution to the game the Football League bestowed a rare honour by presenting him with an inscribed silver salver as a token of their appreciation of his 50 years involvement with the League.

And as a journalist he rarely toed the party line. He often set the agenda. Even towards the end of his career he had his own view of things. For example, when Spurs won the double in 1961 they were widely acclaimed as the ‘Team of the Century’ but Sharpe saw it differently.

In an article for his old friend Charlie Buchan in his Football Monthly in July 1961, he posited that perhaps the Huddersfield Town team that won a hat-trick of titles in the 1920s, or the Arsenal team that achieved the same feat in the 1930s might deserve the honour more. But could there have been a little bias here perhaps? After all, both were managed by his old Leeds City boss, Herbert Chapman!

“The players of the past may not look so good because of their old-fashioned equipment, but would you judge Alex James because of his long pants? These are matters of opinion of course, but age and experience have given me the advantage of having seen these pre-war teams – half a dozen times or more each season.”

One man who has fond memories of Sharpe as both a child and adult is his grandson, the acclaimed Sunday Times journalist and author Anthony Holden, whose middle name is Ivan, as is that of his eldest son Sam.

“Ivan’s wife Ada died in 1941 six years before l was born, so he lived with us in Southport throughout my childhood and I was very close to him indeed,” he recalls. “When l was still a pre-teen kid, he would take me with him to the games he was covering in the north- west. To keep me quiet in the press box, he would give me pencil and paper to keep count of the fouls, corners, bookings etc.

“l loved hearing him make the transfer- charge calls to file his report within minutes of the game ending – and in that pre-stats era, l would see my very own numbers in the next day’s Sunday Times, which I’m sure is why I too eventually became a journalist – which was not at all what my middle-class parents had in mind for me! His colleagues and friends would also feed me sweets to keep me quiet. Many of them were to die in the Manchester United air crash at Munich, which Ivan missed because he had flu.”

Sharpe produced two hugely influential and popular books, the first a fabulous memoir 40 Years in Football published in 1954, followed by Soccer Top Ten in 1962, detailing his ten favourite players in the positions of goalkeeper, full-backs, wing half- backs, centre half-backs, outside-forwards, inside-forwards and centre-forwards. They are a window to another era, another world of football and they still make for wonderful reading today. He also compiled the Football League Jubilee Book to mark the League’s 75th anniversary in 1963 and was the natural choice to oversee that official publication as the leading football journalist of the day.

As the old scribe Walter Pilkington wrote in his review of Soccer Top Ten for the Evening Post in November 1962: “The agile mind behind this well-stocked memory box has produced a fascinating cavalcade of the English scene covering half a century spent in football at home and abroad. You start reading and before you realise it, the time is 1.00am.”

Sharpe’s agile mind was still active at the 1966 World Cup finals, the last major event he attended and his press card for the finals (below) remains in the archive. Tony Holden remembers going with Ivan to Goodison Park to see the momentous Portugal v North Korea quarter-final, which Portugal won 5-3 with four goals from Eusebio after North Korea stunned the world by going 3-0 up after 24 minutes.

Above – Ivan Sharpe’s press card for the 1966 World Cup

“But he never went to the final because he thought he might have ‘a bloody heart attack’,” recalls Holden. “At times he couldn’t bear to watch and left 18-year-old me to keep an eye on developments at Wembley while he paced tensely around the garden.” England’s subsequent victory over West Germany on that historic July afternoon was the first major tournament success for these islands since Sharpe’s own Olympic triumph with Great Britain 54 years previously.

Great Britain team that won the 1912 Olympic football tournament. Back (left to right): Joe Dines, Ron Brebner, Arthur Berry, Harry Walden, Viv Woodward, Gordon Hoare, Ivan Sharpe, Arthur Knight. Front: Douglas McWhirter, Tom Burn, Henry Littlewort . (Backpass)

He continued writing a column for the Wolves magazine until his death at the age of 78 in February 1968. And inevitably, with his voice stilled as the years passed, so Sharpe’s name and achievements slipped further from public view and deeper into the past. His experiences and writings belonged to another era. The devastation of Ken Montgomery’s fire had extinguished his proud record with the FWA and may well have been lost forever until the winter of 2012 when I was invited to attend the annual Rugby Union Writers’ Club dinner in London.

At some point in the evening I glanced at the dinner menu card and noticed not only were the names of the Rugby Writers’ Players of the Year listed, but also those of their chairmen dating back to their foundation in 1960 and a thought popped into my head. The FWA only ever listed the names of the Footballer of the Year at our dinners, but surely we should also recognise the names of the great journalists of the past who have chaired the world’s oldest football writers’ association. As a member of the National Committee, I raised the matter at our next meeting.

“Its an impossible task” said a colleague, “all the records were lost in the fire at Ken Montgomery’s house. They have all disappeared. There is no way of ever finding the names of all the old chairmen, certainly not from the 1940s and 1950s. Where would you even start to look?”

I thanked him for his advice and completely ignored it. The search was on.

The decision to form the FWA was made on a cross-Channel ferry on September 22, 1947 by a group of journalists on their way home from reporting on England’s 5-2 victory over Belgium in Brussels the day before.

Sharpe was not among them, but Charles Buchan of the News Chronicle, Frank Coles of the Daily Telegraph, Roy Peskett of the Daily Mail and Archie Quick agreed to form the FWA and when they reconvened in London a month later, Sharpe, who was working for the Sunday Chronicle, was appointed chairman. That much was well documented and Sharpe duly presented Stanley Matthews with the first

Footballer of the Year trophy the following May at the long-gone Hungaria Restaurant in London on the eve of Blackpool’s FA Cup final defeat to Manchester United the following day.

Having established Sharpe as the first chairman and being able to talk to many colleagues and friends, it was relatively easy to list every chairman from the late 1970s through to the present day.

All that was now left was to fill in the 30 missing years from the late 1940s onwards. But where to start? Unlike today, the chairman of the FWA, while a leading and highly respected journalist, was rarely quoted in the papers, even when the Footballer of the Year was announced.

However, the chairman’s name was always on the menu cards for the FWA dinners, so I searched for old

menu cards on football trivia sites and eBay – and went to the British Library in London to see if perhaps the chairman was quoted at the time the announcement was made. I couldn’t find any. I looked in old yearbooks, looked everywhere, and gradually the gaps started to be filled in … 1948 Ivan Sharpe, 1949 Ivan Sharpe, 1950 Ivan Sharpe, 1951 Ivan Sharpe, 1953 Ivan Sharpe, 1960 Ivan Sharpe, 1961 … yes, Ivan Sharpe.

There were many others too – 1954 Bernard Joy, 1963 Geoffrey Green, 1964 Alan Hoby, 1967 Sam Leitch, 1968 Frank McGhee, 1970 Peter Lorenzo, 1971 Reg Drury, 1974 Mike Langley and on to the already known chairmen like Ken Jones, Jeff Powell, Dennis Signy and Brian Scovell. The list was coming alive!

By the April of 2017 I had found every past chairman’s name except for one year … 1952. Paddy Barclay, who has just stepped down after three years as FWA chairman, mentioned that he knew Sharpe’s grandson, Anthony Holden, and perhaps he could help and after making contact, Tony said he was in possession of all of Sharpe’s memorabilia going back over 100 years. We duly met at Tony’s flat in London and inside an ancient and battered, but handsome, liner-style suitcase containing Sharpe’s remarkable treasure trove was a newspaper cutting with a photo of him presenting the 1952 Footballer of the Year award to Arsenal’s Joe Mercer.

The Eureka moment! The final piece of the jigsaw – found in Sharpe’s very own suitcase and proving that he was chairman of the FWA for the first six years of its existence from 1947 until 1953, before two more stints in 1960 and 1961. He was chairman eight times in all. No one else comes close.

Norman Giller, resident golden oldie columnist for BACKPASS, remembers Sharpe well too. “I was chief football writer on the Daily Express when Ivan was coming to the close of his exceptional career. I used to bow the knee to him and listen in awe to his kaleidoscopic memories. There is no football writer from my generation who was not influenced by Ivan’s prolific chronicling of the Beautiful Game, whether by his prose or maze of facts and stats. He deserves to be in the same hall of fame as his hero Sir Stanley Matthews. Come to think of it, why on earth was he never knighted? His services to football on all fronts was phenomenal.”

In recognition of Sharpe’s outstanding contribution to the FWA and his involvement for the first seven decades of the 20th century, the FWA marked its 70th anniversary in 2017 by inaugurating the Ivan Sharpe Life Membership Award and included the list of all the previous FWA chairman on its menu card at the Footballer of the Year dinner for the first time. And the archive has now been gifted to the National Football Museum.

Tim Desmond, the museum’s chief executive, told BACKPASS Magazine: “The museum is all about exploring the Game of our Lives, and we were delighted to be approached by the FWA to become custodians of the Ivan Sharpe collection. Our aim now is to conserve and research his fascinating life in football for the benefit of future generations.”

Rising like a phoenix from the flames, Ivan Sharpe’s name will never be forgotten again.