Footballers of the Year Sterling and Parris

Raheem Sterling and Nikita Parris made it a win double for Manchester City and England as they collected their Footballer of the Year and Women’s Footballer of the Year awards at our gala dinner on Thursday night.

The two strikers won the Football Writers’ Association awards for their outstanding work on and off the pitch this season, and were presented with their honours by our new Chair Carrie Brown.

‘It’s a massive achievement, a massive honour,’ said Sterling. ‘To be recognised is always a lovely feeling, especially by the writers. It makes it even more special.

‘It is an award that I will cherish, especially with the people that have won it before me so I am really, really glad and proud.’

Sterling collected 62 per cent of the poll by FWA members and beat Liverpool centre-back Virgil Van Dijk to the award by over 100 votes.

Sterling is the first Manchester City player in 50 years to win the FWA Footballer of the Year award, following on from Tony Book sharing the accolade with Derby’s Dave Mackay.

‘Precept and example’ have long been considered when voting for the award – values that Sterling boasts in abundance.

Put to him that he has had a bit of an up and down time with the media in the recent years, Sterling said: ‘Yeah, it’s one of those where I take full responsibility as well because it’s my first time being a professional and everyone makes mistakes, especially being young and not quite understanding what goes on in and around football with the media.

‘As you get older, you mature and understand things much better and I think now people can see me for who I am.

‘Role model, not in terms of saying you set out to be a role model but just in terms of leading by example.

‘You have young kids who do follow you and do look up to you, and you need to try and set the right example for them and the next generation coming through for sure.

‘Certain subjects that I have spoken about this season has been touchy but at the same time I thought it was needed and I tried to do my best to address it in a positive (way) and not come across aggressive or ignorant.’

Thursday night was a double celebration for City as England striker Nikita Parris collected the FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year.

‘It feels amazing to be voted for by the Football Writers’ Association,’ she said. ‘I am really grateful for the award and I hope the night is special, with two Manchester City players getting the award. Many congratulations to Raheem, I think he has been fantastic this year.

‘It has been a fantastic season for us, winning two trophies and will really be fighting for that league trophy next year. It is a fantastic time for women’s football and the England team.’

(Photos PA/Steve Paston)

 

Vanarama Column – Season wrap

Vanarama column (season’s wrap-up) – by Glenn Moore

A gripping Vanarama National League season comes to a climax at the weekend with a quintet of play-off finals to earn promotion into and out of the league’s three divisions. Topping the bill is Saturday’s Wembley clash between two upwardly mobile north-west clubs, Fylde and Salford, with the winner joining champions Leyton Orient in the Football League.

While Orient are a long-established Football League returning reborn after two seasons in non-League the Coasters and Ammies have each achieved a series of rapid promotions after being backed by millionaires. Salford, who are seeking back-to-back promotions, are better known due to their connection with, and television series on, Manchester United’s Class of 92, but Fylde’s rise is no less remarkable.

As recently as 2008 the pair were in the North West Counties League (Fylde were then still known as Kirkham & Wesham). By 2012 they were playing each other in the Northern Premier League North. Fylde reached tier 6 (National League North) in 2014, Salford two years later. Neither had been at that level before. Fylde will return to Wembley the following weekend for the FA Trophy final against Leyton Orient.

Should Fylde win they would become the first club to win both the FA Vase and FA Trophy, having won the former (open to team from tiers 9-11) in 2008 as Kirkham & Wesham. Should Orient win they will be the first to do the non-League double since Wycombe Wanderers, in 1993, under a promising young manager named Martin O’Neill.

Perhaps underlining the need to seize the moment Fylde are the only one of the five teams to fall in last season’s play-offs to qualify this year. One of the others, Aldershot, were relegated.

Sunday brings a brace of play-offs to gain entry into the Vanarama National League. Chorley, long-time leaders of the North division, overcame their disappointment at being pipped by Stockport County to earn a home tie against Spennymoor, both reaching the final through a penalty shoot-out. The southern final pits Woking, aiming to bounce back at the first attempt, against Welling. Torquay United, after a dramatic revival under Gary Johnson, won the division.

With two former Football League clubs in Torquay and Stockport coming into the division, and Notts County and Yeovil coming down, next season’s Vanarama National League promises to be a well-supported and highly competitive one. Half the section will be ex-Football League clubs.

Lower down a couple of big clubs return to the competition with Kettering Town and Weymouth earning promotion to Vanarama National Leagues North and South respectively. Dorking Wanderers, a club that began as a parks team just 20 years ago, also come up along with Farsley Celtic and the winners of Saturday’s ‘super play-offs’. Warrington host Kings Lynn while Tonbridge Angels visit Metropolitan Police (who are run and managed by police officers, but usually field ‘civilian’ players).

A record two million-plus watched the League’s three divisions with Orient the leading crowd pullers with an average 5,445. Good backing for Wrexham (5,056) and Chesterfield (4,503) helped build an average 1,975 in the National League. Stockport (4,002) and Torquay (2,508) topped the regional averages underlining when it comes to attracting fans nothing succeeds like success.

Ups & Downs

Vanarama National League:
Promoted (into Football League): Leyton Orient plus winner of Salford v Fylde (Wembley, May 11)
Relegated: Aldershot Town, Braintree Town, Havant & Waterlooville, Maidstone United
Relegated into National League (from Football League): Yeovil Town, Notts County

Vanarama National League North:
Promoted: Stockport County plus winner of Chorley v Spennymoor Town (May 12)
Relegated: Ashton United, FC United of Manchester, Nuneaton Borough
Promoted into Vanarama National League North: Farsley Celtic, Kettering Town plus winner of Warrington v Kings Lynn (May 11)

Vanarama National League South:
Promoted: Torquay United plus winner of Woking v Welling (May 12)
Relegated: Truro City, East Thurrock United, Weston-super-Mare
Promoted into Vanarama National League South: Dorking Wanderers, Weymouth plus winner of Metropolitan Police v Tonbridge Angels (May 11)

FA Trophy Final: Leyton Orient v Fylde (Wembley, 19 May)

Sterling and Parris at the double in FWA awards

Raheem Sterling is the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year 2019, and in a unique double for Manchester City and England, Nikita Parris is the FWA’s Women’s Footballer of the Year.

Sterling, the City and England forward was a clear winner in the vote of over 400 FWA members, taking 62 per cent of the poll and 100 votes more than Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk. His fellow City forward Sergio Aguero placed third.

Other players to receive votes from FWA members were, in alphabetical order: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal), Bernardo Silva and David Silva (Manchester City).

Sterling, 24, becomes the first Manchester City winner of football’s oldest individual award, first handed out in 1948, for 50 years since defender Tony Book shared the 1969 accolade with Derby’s Dave Mackay.

An integral part City’s battle with Liverpool for the Premier League title, Sterling has also received widespread praise for his courageous stance taken against racism in the game.

The England forward has scored 29 goals for club and country this season, helping drive Gareth Southgate’s side to the UEFA Nations League finals and an impressive start in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Sterling, who could yet also end up with an FA Cup winners’ medal, will be presented with the Sir Stanley Matthews Trophy at the 2019 Footballer of the Year dinner, to be held at the Landmark Hotel in London on May 9.

Newly-elected FWA Chair Carrie Brown said: “Raheem Sterling is a player of style and a man of substance.

“More than 70 years ago Charles Buchan, one of the founding fathers of the Footballer Writers’ Association, suggested there be an award presented to the player who by “precept and example” is considered the Footballer of the Year.

“Raheem Sterling is an exemplar of the talent and values our founding fathers sought to reward when they established the FWA in 1947.

“To have been voted the 2019 Footballer of the Year by our members, and with such an overwhelming majority, clearly acknowledges the contribution from a player over one season

but it also recognises the huge impact of Raheem’s courage to challenge preconceptions and fight racism, which will leave a legacy not just for future generations in football but society as a whole. Eyes have been opened, voices found, we are listening and will be at the forefront of the continued drive for equality.

“On the pitch, Raheem has evolved into one of the most dangerous forwards in the world. A player long admired for his tactical intelligence, link-up play and quick feet has now added a devastating finish to his game. The Manchester City forward’s Champions League opener against Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium drew comparisons with Lionel Messi’s goal against Manchester United. Are we approaching a time where Barcelona’s maestro will be forced to  cast a watchful glance over his dropped shoulder at the rising star of Sterling?

“Raheem didn’t set out to be a leader, but he is setting examples in society and in the game which the world is following with interest.

I look forward to presenting him with the Sir Stanley Matthews Trophy on May 9.”

Nikita Parris will also collect her accolade at the gala event. The 25-year-old City and England forward succeeds fellow England striker Fran Kirby, who won the inaugural award last May.

Parris won by the narrowest of margins from Arsenal & Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema.

The award is decided by a two-stage poll of a panel of experts. The pair emerged as the clear favourites from the first phase, Parris polling one extra vote as both gained at least ten votes more than the next contender. Parris then won by a single vote (11-10) in the second stage.

Steph Houghton, England and Manchester City captain, was third. Other votes in the first stage were cast for Beth Mead, Danielle van de Donk, Leah Williamson (all Arsenal), Magdalena Ericsson, Erin Cuthbert, Karen Carney, Fran Kirby (all Chelsea), Georgia Stanway (Man City), Lucy Bronze (Lyon) and Toni Duggan (Barcelona).

Toxteth-born Parris has been a dynamic and deadly presence in attack for Manchester City and England since joining from Everton in 2015. This season her goals and assists have helped her club to the Women’s FA Cup final, which is at Wembley this Saturday (May 4), and to victory in the Continental Tyres Cup. The FAWSL’s all-time record goalscorer, she was also a key figure in England’s She Believes Cup triumph earlier this year.

Off the field, Parris has joined with the City of Liverpool College to set up the NP17 Football Academy providing sports qualification to students.

 

 

Marie Bowden wins inaugural Ralph Ellis Award

Leicester City’s Marie Bowden has won the first Ralph Ellis Award from the Football Writers’ Association.

The Foxes’ media administrator collected the trophy from Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers ahead of City’s 3-0 win against Arsenal on Sunday.

The award is named in honour of former national committee member Ralph, who ran the Midlands branch and passed away last year.

Marie said: “I’m really shocked, surprised and honoured. I love my job and I love this club. It really is a privilege to win.”

FWA Midlands members voted for a club member of staff – manager, player or member of the media team – who they felt had helped them the most over the season.

The award is a sign of respect from the FWA to club staff and looks to build on the foundations Ralph laid in the Midlands.

Ralph’s son Daniel said: “Dad would have been honoured and completely shocked to have the Ralph Ellis Award for services to the media named after him.

“The FWA want Marie to know that she doesn’t go unnoticed. Like all at Leicester, she carried herself with great dignity in a very difficult time last October when they lost the club’s chairman in an horrific helicopter crash.

“They say that a person’s never really gone while their name’s still spoken.

“From everything we’ve heard and seen since September, things like this award, and with people like Marie helping the relationship between clubs and journalists, my Dad’s legacy is going to live on for a very long time.”

Wolves at the double in FWA Midlands awards

By Nick Mashiter, Press Association and FWA MIdlands branch chairman.

Nuno Espirito Santo and Raul Jimenez completed a Wolves double at the Football Writers’ Association Midlands awards.

Mexico international Jimenez won FWA Midlands Player of the Year while Wolves boss Nuno was named the Manager of the Year on Wednesday April 24.

Members voted for the pair after an impressive first season back in the Premier League for Wolves.

Wolves legend Steve Bull, the club’s record scorer and vice-president, collected the awards on behalf of the pair, who were preparing for their 3-1 win over Arsenal, at the event which was sponsored by law firm Stewarts, along with FWA official sponsor William Hill.

Jimenez, who became the club’s record buy when he turned his loan from Benfica into a permanent £32million transfer last month, has scored 16 goals in all competitions this season.

The striker has netted 12 times in the Premier League and has impressed with his work-rate and the speed with which he has adapted to English football.

Nuno has continued to build on the club’s Sky Bet Championship title win last season and victory over the Gunners put Wolves seventh. They also lost a thrilling FA Cup semi-final 3-2 after extra time to Watford earlier this month.

Wolves have set a new club record points total in the Premier League this season and could return to Europe for the first time since 1981 if they finish seventh and Manchester City beat Watford in the FA Cup final.

Nottingham Forest manager Martin O’Neill, Burton boss Nigel Clough, West Brom interim manager Jimmy Shan and Birmingham boss Garry Monk all attended the lunch, at the Burlington Hotel in central Birmingham.

Ron Atkinson, Steve Froggatt, Kevin Phillips and Geoff Thomas were among other former managers and players in attendance.

A tribute was paid to former Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who was killed in a helicopter crash in October. Sir Doug Ellis and FWA stalwart and ex-West Brom director Jeff Farmer were also remembered, after passing away in the last year.

A raffle for Prostate Cancer UK raised £660 in memory of former national committee member Ralph Ellis who sadly passed away last year. His widow Sue was one of our special guests.

Clubs donated signed memorabilia with the Football Association providing a signed Gareth Southgate England shirt and Leicester donating four hospitality tickets for a game next season.

It was also the first official function for Carrie Brown, our new Chairman, who was with former Chairman Paddy Barclay and Executive Secretary Paul McCarthy.  Jacqui Oatley and Nick Mashiter were also representing the National Committee in what was an undoubted success.

Thanks to Mark Radford photography for the pictures.

 

Carrie Brown becomes first female chairman of the FWA

CARRIE BROWN has succeeded Paddy Barclay as Chairman of the Football Writers’ Association, the first woman to hold the role and the first female chair of a major football organisation.

Carrie, who is Senior Sports Correspondent for beIN Sport, was elected unanimously at the FWA’s Annual General Meeting on April 23.

She has been an FWA member for more than ten years and an active member of the National Executive Committee for the past two years.

Carrie said: “It was first a considerable source of pride simply to be considered for membership of the Football Writers’ Association over a decade ago. In the past two years, I have witnessed and been wholly impressed by the drive and determination of Paddy to promote diversity within the FWA and especially among the Executive Committee. Today, I am honoured to have been voted into the role of Chairman but accept the position in the knowledge this role should have been taken by our late vice-chair Vikki Orvice.

“Vikki was an early and ever-present support and role model in my career. I will not try to emulate or follow her path but I do hope I can make her and our members proud.”

Paddy Barclay has overseen a huge rise in the number and diversity of members over the past few years, and the FWA now has 430 full members and over 100 student members, as well as a mentoring scheme for young journalists.

Paddy said: “Carrie will continue and enhance the development of the FWA in every sense. She has made a great impact on the organisation in a relatively short time and yet the energy she has put into this crucial contribution to our modernisation is balanced by a respect for history.

“Yes, we have made progress in terms of membership and, within that, diversity. But within the next few years progress will harden into true, undeniable and irrevocable character. Nothing could make me more sure of that than the election of Carrie Brown.”

Also leaving the National Committee after more than 20 years is Mike Collett, the former global editor of football for Reuters. Mike has served the FWA with distinction, not least in researching the history of the association back to its founding fathers in 1947. Just recently Mike sourced a collection of memorabilia from the family of Ivan Sharpe, Chairman for the the FWA’s first six years, and handed it over to the National Football Museum, who will have a permanent exhibition space dedicated to the FWA.

Joining the National Committee in their place are three members who demonstrate the association’s drive for diversity in terms of age, ethnicity and gender. Alyson Rudd of The Times has been a mainstay of newspaper football coverage for over 20 years, Kelly Cates of Sky and BBC Radiio is a highly-respected broadcaster, and Joel Beya from Cheeky Sport represents the new wave of multimedia journalists in the digital world.

Their recruitment to the National Committee follows that of Sam Cunningham of The I newspaper, Darren Lewis of the Mirror, Jonathan Liew of the Independent and broadcaster Jacqui Oatley, who have all joined in the past year.

You can see Carrie’s first interview as Chairman of the FWA here: https://youtu.be/S-s-xMGkymA

Pathway to sports journalism and broadcasting

‘The Football Writers’ Association Speakers Event 2019 – Pathway to sports journalism and broadcasting’ took place on April 9 at the Sway Bar in Central London.

Our panelists were interviewed by Snack Media after the event.

Jacqui Oatley, Sports Broadcaster for BBC & ITV

Anna Kessel, Women’s Sports Editor, The Telegraph

Natasha Henry, Freelance Sports Journalist

Vaishali Bhardwaj, Sports Reporter & Broadcaster for the Evening Standard

Alison Bender, Sports Broadcaster for ESPN, BBC & BT Sport

Vanarama Column – Ground grading

Ground grading – by Glenn Moore

Balls, bibs, cones… hard hat, high-vis jacket. At most ambitious clubs in the Vanarama National League the builders are either in, or readying themselves. Each step up the pyramid demands new standards, off the pitch as well as on, and plenty has to be done before promotion is even decided.

Those clubs seeking to climb from the Vanarama National League to the EFL had to confirm by December 31 that they would be capable of meeting an exacting set of criteria covering everything from how many showers are required in the dressing room (six) to how many power points are needed in the media seats (10).

The most costly demand is usually spectator capacity, though there is a degree of leeway.

EFL stadia should have a minimum capacity of 5,000 with 2,000 of those being seated.

However, they have three seasons after promotion to attain that (similar to the deadline for Championship clubs to be all-seater) and need merely to have 1,000 seats by 30th April in their first season. That said clubs seeking to go up needed by March 1 this year to have a capacity of 4,000 including 500 seats, which most should as it is already a National League requirement. Seats, incidentally, have to be covered and have backs – benches or mere moulded bases, as seen on the continent at times, are not acceptable.

None of this should be a problem for recently relegated clubs like Leyton Orient, but those without a Football League background have work to do, especially if they have recently come up from step 2. Which is why Solihull Moors announced in February a process of rapid redevelopment of their Danson Park ground. By July 2020 three sides of the ground will be improved including a new 2,000-seat stand on the Car Park Side.

There is similar activity at Harrogate Town whose swift ascent from Vanarama National League North play-off winners to Football League promotion hopefuls has left them racing to match progress on the field with development off it. They are in a phased process of increasing the capacity of the Wetherby Road ground from 3,000 to 5,000.

The Sulphurites, however, have an extra problem. They have a 3G pitch, which may be good enough for Champions League and FA Cup, but is not accepted in the EFL. The club have thus applied for planning permission to either replace it with grass, or lay a grass pitch over the 3G surface. Sutton United, currently just outside the play-offs, would have a similar problem.

There are a litany of other jobs for promoted clubs to do by July 1 involving minimum standards for the brightness of floodlights, directors box seat provision (24 for home, 16 for away), medical back up, portable goals for pre-match warm-up, CCTV, turnstiles, public address, emergency lighting, facilities for disabled fans, and the training of stewards. Besides the six showers (or individual baths) dressing rooms must have heating, ventilation, a tactics board, fridge and massage table. Fans in each part of the ground should have access to refreshment and toilets with segregation of opposing fans.

It is a long list, though promotion also brings a decent financial windfall. Income from EFL central funds, Premier League solidarity payments, and a one-off payment from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund tallies around £1m. FSIF may also help with stand developments while EFL officials make visits and provide guidance. Nevertheless, one thing the executives and staff of any promoted club cannot afford to do is enjoy a long summer basking in the glory.

Vanarama Column – Maidstone United

Relegation but The Stones will be hoping to bounce back – by Glenn Moore

Even fairytales can have unwanted plot twists as Maidstone United have discovered. Saturday’s 2-0 home to defeat to Salford put an abrupt halt to a quarter-century of progress for the Stones, condemning them to relegation from the Vanarama National League after three years in the non-League elite.

Not many clubs survive having three managerial regimes in the course of one season and Maidstone rarely looked like being the exception being consigned to the drop with five games to play. They won eight of those opening 41 matches, and only two in 20 at the Gallagher Stadium – so much for the presumed home advantage of a 3G pitch.

Jay Saunders, the former player who had overseen three promotions, began the season in charge, but a moderate start following on from a poor end to the previous campaign meant he departed in August with the club 19th. Harry Wheeler, available after leaving Billericay, took over but lasted less than four months, by which time the Stones were 23rd. He subsequently went back to the Blues. In came veteran John Still, who guided the original Maidstone United into the Football League in 1989, and Hakan Hayrettin, but the duo were unable to reverse the slide.

One man who was able to put relegation into perspective was general manager Bill Williams. The 76-year-old played for and managed the original Stones and was at the club in 1992, the year it went bust. “I can remember vividly the heartache of us losing our team in this town,” he said. “It was a shocking day. I can’t emphasise how disappointing it is [but] we’re in a good place. We’re not going out of business or anything – we’ve been relegated.”

Co-owner Oliver Ash concurred. “Relegation is not something we would have wanted but the bigger picture is that the club is in a sound financial position and will be able to bounce back and learn from this season. We have made mistakes this year. There have been too many upheavals.”

Ash said Stones, as a community club with a self-sustaining financial model based around a 3G pitch, had found a big jump from Vanarama National League South to Vanarama National League with its much better-resourced clubs. While eager to return there was no presumption, he added, that the top flight was our ‘rightful place”. The current business model suggested they were between the divisions and he and partner Terry Casey, who bought the club nine years ago, when it had large debts and no ground, would have to look at the model.

For now the club can regroup amid the significantly lower costs of Vanarama National League South. Since reforming barely above parks level the club has climbed eight leagues, moved back to Kent’s county town having played in exile for 11 years, and built a neat stadium which holds 4,200 and even this benighted season averages 2,200.

This is actually the phoenix club’s second relegation. The first was from the Isthmian League Premier in 2011. The Stones rolled back from that, winning three subsequent promotions. They hope this one is also a temporary blip.

For more on the Vanarama National League visit: http://www.thenationalleague.org.uk/

For great deals on cars and vans, visit: https://www.vanarama.com/