FWA to support Prostate Cancer UK

FWA to support Prostate Cancer UK
Following the sad passing of our colleague and lifetime member Ralph Ellis, who lost his battle with prostate cancer last weekend, the FWA is proud to announce we will be supporting Prostate Cancer UK as our designated charity for the remainder of this season.

When his illness first struck, Ralph went out of his way to support PCUK including a bike ride to Amsterdam in June where he and his family and friends raised over £15,000 for the charity. Before that, a wide-reaching interview he conducted with Ray and Stephen Clemence, including words on Ray’s own diagnosis and the impact on his family, reached more than 500,000 people across Prostate Cancer UK’s channels.

This tie-in is particularly apt as Vanarama, the sponsors of the FWA Golf Day have also pledged their support and, as many of you will have seen, they have changed the name of the National League to MANarama for the remainder of September and until Non-League Day on October 13th to raise awareness of the disease while also pledging to raise £150,000.

It seemed a logical time to show the FWA’s support of the charity that was close to Ralph’s heart and we would urge all members to back the MANarama initiative throughout the next six weeks on social media by means of an RT or Like. Please feel free to contact gary.haines@prostatecancer.org if there are any stories or features that will heighten the awareness of prostate cancer and with which Vanarama can assist.

Ralph’s family have also asked us to pass on their thanks for all the kind words and tributes over the past few days but have also stressed how important it is for men to be aware of the dangers of prostate cancer. It claims the life of a man every 45minutes in the UK, and there is more information here about this terrible disease and what’s being done to counter it.




RALPH ELLIS – Funeral details

Ralph’s family have sent their thanks for the many tributes and messages that have appeared in the days since his passing last weekend.

They have asked us to notify friends and colleagues that his funeral will be on Monday October 15 at Weston Super Mare Crematorium at 1.30pm

Afterwards at The Nut Tree pub in Worle.

The family would like some idea of the numbers likely to attend, so if those who are definitely going could email johnwragg21@yahoo.co.uk  and he’ll pass on to the family.


TRIBUTE TO RALPH ELLIS by Paul McCarthy, FWA Executive Secretary
“Not bad for a bricklayer’s son from Forest Gate.”

And that just about sums up Ralph. Modest, self-deprecating, dead straight and one of the very few people I’ve met in journalism for whom nobody had a bad word, just genuine warmth. That description of himself came in a conversation he had with his son, Matt, just a few days before his sad passing on Saturday.

They were reflecting on Ralph receiving Life Membership of the Football Writers’ Association after his failing health forced him to relinquish his place on the National Committee.

Nobody wanted him to leave and I did my best to talk him out of his decision. True to form, he didn’t let on just how seriously his health had declined, he just said: “No, I’ve had my time, you don’t want an old git like me hanging around.”

But we would all have wanted him to hang around just that little bit longer. Because his leaving has been too soon, far too soon. The FWA has lost one of its driving forces and journalism has lost a powerhouse, even if it was a quietly understated one who was never in the business for glory and fame, but for getting the job done.

It was his honesty and straightforward approach to landing outstanding stories which singled Ralph out as special. You’d never hear him boasting or even humble-bragging when he outstripped his peers to land another exclusive or get the most elusive of England line-ups when he was covering the national team.

He just went about the job in the most old school of ways – cultivating brilliant contacts with a combination of absolute trustworthiness, friendship and the assurance he would never let them down. And he didn’t, not for a minute. If Ralph thought he’d upset anybody – be it a colleague or contact – he’d have been mortified.

Except, of course, on the football pitch. Then he became a different beast. He was what you would probably call ‘dogged’ and if he thought somebody wasn’t pulling their weight, he was never backward in letting them know.

You’d take it from Ralph, though, because he was utterly reliable, always the hardest worker on the pitch and a great man to have alongside you, even when (as was usually the case) we were getting our legs run off us by younger, quicker and more talented opponents.

He was probably the most supportive of colleagues I’ve ever met, always ready with a quick word of advice for young journalists or a pat on the back and quiet praise for a pal who might have pulled a good story.

His energy and enthusiasm were boundless. As the leading light of the Midlands FWA, he was the man who delivered some of the great nights of the social calendar and the leading managers and players in his patch would do anything for him. He never let them down and they reciprocated.

In recent years, he WAS the FWA Golf Day, organising a splendid event, helping to raise huge amounts for charity and working tirelessly behind the scenes. Even as recently as June he defied his doctors and cycled to Amsterdam to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK, the horrible and wicked disease which ultimately claimed his life. He may not have wanted the spotlight or praise, but he deserved them nevertheless.

There wasn’t a pompous or posturing bone in his body. All Ralph ever wanted to do was the job to the absolute best of his ability, that was enough for him.

His bravery was unquestioned. Where many of us have pontificated that we could do a better job than some in football authority and administration, Ralph had the courage to actually make the switch to commercial director at Bristol Rovers.

And when he came back to journalism, he simply picked up where he left off but with an even keener insight into the game than those who may have shouted louder.

At the FWA, we’ll miss his generosity and wisdom. His friends will miss somebody you could trust with your life. His family will miss a wonderful husband, father and grandfather who believed in the rewards of hard work and determination and never for a moment flinched from that path.

Honest, modest, talented and with a legion of friends who have lost a great, great pal.

Yes, Ralph, not bad for a bricklayer’s son from Forest Gate.

Ralph Ellis RIP

We at the FWA are heartbroken to hear the news that our dear friend Ralph Ellis passed away this weekend.

Ralph, who was a hardworking member of the FWA’s National Committee, was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year at the age of 60. In typical style, Ralph battled the illness with determination, optimism and good humour, and only three months ago he cycled to Amsterdam to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK.

Ralph was enormously popular with his colleagues and a top football writer from his early days at Hayters in the 1980s through to 12 years on the Daily Star, a two-year spell working for Bristol Rovers, and then freelancing since 2002 for a number of newspapers, including the Mail, Star and Mirror. Although he was born and brought up in the east end of London, and a lifelong West Ham fan, Ralph covered the Midlands beat where he built up a formidable contacts book and made many, many friends, both in journalism and football. For many years he ran the Midlands branch of the FWA, organising dinners and other events, and in the past few years was the driving force behind the FWA Golf Day.

Paul McCarthy, executive secretary of the FWA, said: “Desperately sad news that our colleague and friend Ralph Ellis has passed away. A fantastic journalist and an even finer person, husband and father. He was a driving force in the FWA and he will be terribly missed by all who knew him and worked with him.”

John Etheridge, The Sun’s cricket correspondent said: “Terribly sad news. First met Ralph in the late 1970s when we worked together at Hayters. He ghost-wrote Ian Botham’s first book.”

Tom Ross added: “I am absolutely devastated- Ralph was a lovely man who would talk football all day. He wasn’t ever fooled by the BS around the game. To be honest I saw him at Villa Park towards the end of last season and thought he was beating it.”

James Nursey of the Mirror said: Awfully sad news. Ralph’s passion for sport & the profession will be hugely missed in the press box. Admired him for numerous attributes – not least his stoic & brave attitude in the face of recent adversity.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sue, family and friends at this time. More tributes will follow along with details of Ralph’s funeral.

The MANarama National League

We at the FWA are pleased to support a ground-breaking charity initiative from Vanarama, sponsors of our Golf Day and regular National League column.

Vanarama are supporting Prostate Cancer UK and for the month of October will rename the National League, which they sponsor, the MANarama National League, as well as pledging to raise £150,000 for the charity.

See full details here:

  • Prostate Cancer UK has been named as the National League’s first ever official charity partner for Season 2018/19.
  • In celebration of this partnership, for the first time in English football history, a league will re-brand its name during the season.
  • Title sponsor of the league Vanarama has changed its name to MANarama throughout the month of September, and to support this initiative the National League will rebrand as the MANarama National League until Non-League Day on 13th October.
  • Vanarama has also pledged to raise £150,000 for the charity ahead of Non-League Day

The National League has chosen leading men’s health charity Prostate Cancer UK as its first ever official charity partner, to unite in the fight against the UK’s most prevalent male cancer.

In a first for English football a national football league will change its branding midseason. Vanarama, the title sponsor of the National League, is changing its name to MANarama throughout the month of September to raise awareness of a deadly cancer that kills one man every 45 minutes.

The rebranding to the MANarama National League features a striking new league logo to highlight their support for Prostate Cancer UK – and Vanarama’s own site has also been completely rebranded to reflect its commitment to a fundraising drive which will see them aim to raise £150,000.

A new captain’s armband, which will be worn by all MANARAMA National League club captains on Non-League Day on Saturday, October 13th, has also been unveiled The 34 matches will see all skippers proudly displaying the unique bright orange band, which includes the iconic Prostate Cancer UK logo, to illustrate their clubs’ united stand against the most common cancer in men.

Vanarama has also pledged to raise £150,000 in just 43 days from a vehicle-leasing incentive that runs across September, as they tell the nation to ‘lease a van, save a man’. Vanarama and its newly-launched car leasing platform, Motorama, will donate £50 for every vehicle leased from the start of September until Non-League Day, when a cheque will be presented on October 13th at FC Halifax Town vs Chesterfield live on BT Sport. From September 1 until Non-League day 688 men will die from prostate cancer, emphasising the need to take action.

On board with Non-League Day for the fifth time, Prostate Cancer UK raised £15,000 last year as more than 50 clubs joined the fight against the deadliest opponent of all, and this year’s day is shaping up to be bigger and better than ever with clubs from across the Non-League pyramid joining forces in a jam-packed day of activity.

The ground-breaking move has been hailed by long-serving television presenter Jeff Stelling, a lifelong Hartlepool United fan. Stelling, who has raised £800,000 for the charity during two March for Men walking events: “This partnership reinforces Prostate Cancer UK’s work in football and how hugely important it is to raise awareness and funds to make a difference to the lives of men and their loved ones.

“One man dies every 45 minutes from this disease, so we need to take action. The passionate fans in the National League – including my lot at Hartlepool United and throughout the non-league pyramid – represent the perfect platform for us to unite against the toughest opponent of all. I know Vanarama have been long-time supporters of the charity so it’s great to see them taking the bold move of rebranding the league to MANarama to help raise even more awareness.

“Although more women now go to matches, it’s still a stronghold of male life. A lot of these supporters at some stage in their life may get prostate cancer. The more they understand that the better, the more we can help beat it. For them, and for their friends and families.”

Andy Alderson CEO and founder of Vanarama said: “We’re ready to help tackle prostate cancer with the National League and Prostate Cancer UK. The charity does great work in football and so we thought we’d do our bit too. The decision to change our name from Vanarama to MANarama was an easy one. The fact that more than 11,000 men die from prostate cancer in the UK each year is staggering and if us changing the league’s name helps raise awareness of the disease for even one man, then that’s a success for us.”

James Beeby, Director of Fundraising at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “It’s terrific to see the National League join us in the fight against the deadliest opponent of all, and, after backing us for a number of years, we once again thank Vanarama for their ongoing support.

“We stand together in our quest to change the game for men and their families and the grassroots game is the perfect platform to do this. The money raised will fund ground-breaking research to help fight this disease and the awareness generated across the length and breadth of the country will be vital in helping stop prostate cancer being a killer.

 “We thank the National League and Vanarama for creating this milestone moment and look forward to our most successful Non-League Day in October.”

National League Chief Executive Michael Tattersall said: “We’re thrilled to announce our first ever official charity partner, Prostate Cancer UK. We couldn’t think of a charity that better reflects our football values. Just like Prostate Cancer UK we want all our men united against the fight of this deadly disease. 

“In celebration of our partnership, and with the support of our title sponsors, Vanarama, we will re-brand the league to the MANarama National League. This temporary change is a first for English football and we’re proud to be a part of this historic moment.”

To find out more information about Prostate Cancer UK’s work in football go to: www.prostatecanceruk.org/football

Vanarama Column – Harrogate Town

The Vanarama National League column – by Glenn Moore

Harrogate Town

At first sight Harrogate Town’s climb to the summit of the Vanarama National League appears a story to irk non-League folk. Construction millionaire father owns the club, son manages it. Conversations are imagined:

‘Dad, can I have a new 3G pitch?             ‘Yes, son.’

‘Dad, can you pay for the squad to go full-time?’            ‘Yes son.’

You get the drift. It used to be a train set for Christmas, now it is a centre-forward.

The rise of the Sulphurites is not, however, as simple as that. To begin with Simon Weaver was manager for two years before father Irving bought the club. This wasn’t the case of an indulgent Dad buying his son a new plaything, it was more a supportive parent investing in his son’s ability, and enabling him to continue in business. As Irving, owner of Doncaster-based Strata Homes, told The Times this week, “I’ve got another son who’s in my main business. Why shouldn’t [Simon] deserve the same opportunity? He’d earned it. He’d already shown that he could do it.”

Simon Weaver, a former Sheffield Wednesday trainee who had two seasons with Lincoln City, but mostly spent his playing career in non-League, had demonstrated his management abilities during two difficult seasons at Wetherby Road having become player-manager at the age of 32 in 2009.

Harrogate had already flirted with glory. Under owner Bill Fotherby and manager Neil Aspin, respectively former Leeds United chairman and player, they had climbed from Northern Premier League First Division to the Conference North play-offs, and made several appearances in the FA Cup Proper. But then the cash began to run out. Aspin, now manager of League One Port Vale, moved on and Weaver arrived to a shrinking budget. In his first season the club finished bottom but survived due to others’ financial problems. In Weaver’s second season Harrogate were mid-table.

However, Fotherby, by then 80 years old, had had enough. Weaver senior came to the rescue. With a fortune estimated in excess of £150m he could have immediately bankrolled a series of promotions into the league but has been more prudent, investing to increase cashflow rather than simply writing cheques. As at fellow Vanarama clubs Sutton, Maidstone and Bromley the 3G pitch has enabled the club to play host to hundreds of local players, especially youngsters, building links with the town. This, plus success, has helped swell attendances from around 200 in 2011 to 1,709 at the weekend. Planning permission was granted in April to redevelop the ground taking capacity from 2,800 to 5,000.

Now, having 19 points from seven matches a place in The Football League is suddenly coming into view. Given Town were only promoted through the play-offs last May it is a stunning start.

“No-one is getting carried away, we’re trying hard to keep the players grounded because we have to keep raising the bar,” said Weaver junior after the weekend’s 3-2 win over Havant & Waterlooville, but you have to enjoy the moment.”

Accusations of nepotism, oft-muttered in the early days, are rarely, if ever, heard now.

For more on Harrogate Town, visit https://www.harrogatetownafc.com/

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

For great deals on cars and vans visit: http://www.vanarama.co.uk/


Guardiola to be honoured at Northern Managers Awards dinner

Pep Guardiola will lead the list of successful managers to be honoured by the Football Writers’ Association at the 38th Northern Managers’ Awards Dinner on Sunday November 4 in Manchester.

The Manchester City manager will be rewarded for leading his side to the Premier League title at our annual gathering in Manchester, which is always a star-studded event and will again be in association with FWA sponsors William Hill.

This year’s event, at the Radisson Blu Edwardian in Peter Street, Manchester, will also honour other trophy-winning managers from the North, including Paul Cook of Wigan Athletic, Tony Mowbray of Blackburnm Rovers, Paul Warne of Rotherham United, John Coleman of Accrington Stanley, John Askey formerly of Macclesfield Town and Mickey Mellon of Tranmere Rovers.

As usual, there will be an array of stars from the world of football, and funds will be raised for a nominated children’s charity. BBC Radio’s Ian Dennis will be MC for the evening and also host the traditional quiz.

Tickets are £70 for FWA members and £75 for non-members, available by contacting FWA NW branch secretary Richard Bott on rbottmanc@aol.com Discounted rooms are available at the Radisson. Reception will start at 6.45 and dress code is lounge suit.

You can find out more details from FWA NprthWest branch chairman Andy Dunn, Paul Hetherington or Steve Bates.

More details to follow closer to the event.

Some clips here from last year’s event, when David Wagner was among the winners:




Vanarama National League Column – Tim Flowers

Tim Flowers going against tradition and succeeding in management as a goalkeeper, by Glenn Moore

The most eye-catching result in the Bank Holiday Vanarama National League programme was at Damson Park where Solihull Moors became the first team to defeat early-season front-runners Wrexham.
In front of a bumper 2,412 gate, three times last season’s average, the West Midlands club won with Alex Gudger’s late goal. That delighted Tim Flowers whose first season at the Moors helm has begun promisingly.
Goalkeepers have traditionally not become managers. While there are some notable historic exceptions such as Raymond Goethals, Dino Zoff and Tony Waiters those that did – even outstanding players such as Ray Clemence, Peter Shilton and Neville Southall – were rarely successful. Perhaps the most celebrated ex-English keeper with a management role was Brian Clough’s assistant, Peter Taylor. Goalkeepers, it seemed, were regarded by chairmen, media, fans, and maybe themselves, as too detached from the outfield players, too individualistic, to be managers.
That view, though, may be changing. The current Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui was a ‘keeper along with Wolves’ Nuno Espirito Santos, Nigel Adkins of Hull, former Hull and Russia manager Leonid Slutsky, now at Vitesse Arnhem, and David James, currently of Kerala Blasters.
Flowers, like Shilton, Clemence, Waiters and James, is a former England No.1. The 51-year-old was the most expensive goalkeeper in Britain when Blackburn paid Southampton £2.4m in 1993, a move that paid off when Rovers won the Premier League title. Flowers won 11 caps and made 500 league appearances before moving into coaching. Initially, like so many former keepers, he was a specialist teaching his old role, but he became assistant to Iain Dowie at Coventry, QPR and Hull.
He took his first crack at management in October 2010, at Stafford Rangers, then of the Conference North, but resigned after nine matches. He returning to coaching and pitched up at Moors last November as assistant to Mark Yates.
At the time Moors looked doomed having taken 11 points from 19 matches after a rapid turnover of managers. As late as Boxing Day Moors were bottom, 12 points adrift of safety. However, the pair oversaw a revival that garnered 37 points from the last 20 matches enabling Solihull to stay up in comfort.
This revival prompted Macclesfield to hire Yates for their return to the Football League, John Askey having moved onto Shrewsbury Town after leading the Silkmen to the Vanarama National League title. Flowers, who had been interviewed for the post separately from Yates, before the board suggested they work as a pair, stayed at Damson Park. 
“The great escape ranks as one of my biggest achievements in football, and now to have the opportunity to build on everything we achieved last season is the icing on the cake,” said Flowers. “This club’s got ambition, make no mistake.”
These are heady times for Moors. Formed by a merger of Moor Green and Solihull Borough in 2007 neither the club nor its predecessors have never finished above 16th in the fifth tier. With Moors currently in the play-off places history beckons

Latest Members’ Handbooks delivered

The latest 2018/19 Members’ handbooks have been sent out and all FWA members should have received this invaluable guide.

The 42-page book contains contact details for all FWA members, Press Officers at all 92 league clubs, as well as other leading organisations such as the FA, Premier League, Football League, UEFA and FIFA.

There is also a comprehensive history of past FWA Chairmen and Footballers of the Year, as well as a list of key dates in major football competitions over the coming season.

It is a unique resource for FWA members, and if you have yet to receive yours, contact us via the usual channels.

Vanarama National League Column – Gateshead

Gateshead’s miraculous start following a summer of upheaval

By Glenn Moore


Four matches into the new Vanarama National League season the table has a surprising look. Pre-season favourites Salford City are lower mid-table, having not won until their fourth match. Last season’s play-off finalists Boreham Wood are only a point higher. Three other fancied clubs, Leyton Orient, play-off regulars Aldershot, and newly relegated Barnet, have also been slow to settle.

Meanwhile, in second, level on points with early leaders Wrexham, are Gateshead, which is remarkable considering the Heed nearly folded in the summer and were without a contracted player two months ago. When a takeover failed to materialise chairman and then-owner Richard Bennett considered closing down the football club, already the third such incarnation in the Tyneside town.

Instead the budget was slashed and the club reverted to part-time with an emphasis on building a squad of young, local players. Steve Watson, the former Newcastle United defender who had returned to the area to manage the Heed, agreed to sign on for another year. However, at best it looked as if it would be a season of fighting relegation, with a view to buying the club time.

Then, ten days before the season started, Dr Ranjan Varghese, a Hong Kong-based businessman with a background in ship-building design, bought the club. He has since installed a locally-based operations director, Michael Williams, and a London-based sporting director, former agent Chris Hawes. Watson retains control of playing matters and, in a major coup, has signed former Newcastle centre-half Mike Williamson, a veteran of more than 400 senior appearances, 134 of them in the Premier League.

Like Watson, who quit promotion-bound Macclesfield to join Gateshead last season, Williamson wanted to move back to the north-east. With the rest of the squad an average age 24 the 34-year-old brings valuable experience. Williamson made his debut in the 2-1 win over Dover Athletic that completed an impressive opening trio of victories with successes at Maidstone United then at home to Salford City. Gateshead then took home a point from them 500-mile midweek round-trip to Boreham Wood with a late equaliser from Steven Rigg.

The new owner, Williams told supporters, has a five-year plan to establish Gateshead as ‘an established, self-sustaining League Two club rooted in the community’ and maintaining the focus on recruiting young players from an area with a notable football heritage.

The 2,264 that turned out for last season’s FA Trophy semi-final home leg with Bromley indicated there is some potential on the east bank of the Tyne, but it will not be easy to realise. That was an unusually big match with the crowd boosted by neither Newcastle nor Sunderland playing that weekend. Gateshead International Stadium, built for athletics rather than football, with a running track and rarely fans behind the goals, is usually less atmospheric. Attendances averaged just 853 last season, less than ten per cent of capacity.

Nevertheless, at a time when so many of the area’s passionate football fans are feeling frustrated by their clubs Watson’s young team could offer a refreshing alternative.

For more on Gateshead, visit: https://www.gateshead-fc.com/

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

For great deals on car and van hire, visit: http://www.vanarama.co.uk/

Brian Scovell becomes 1st Life Vice-President

The Football Writers’ Association is delighted to announce that Brian Scovell has been made the first Life Vice-President of the Association.

Brian, who was chairman in 1980, has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to the FWA as both a Life Member and the longest serving member of the National Committee.

Following changes made at the AGM on August 7, Brian will no longer be a part of the National Committee but it was felt his devotion and passion for the FWA fully merited the new title.

Chairman Patrick Barclay said: “We are delighted to bestow this unique honour on a unique personality.

“In his distinguished career, our beloved ‘Scovs’ has conveyed wisdom with a frequently deployed light touch – and we at the FWA have benefited from these qualities too.

“We hope he will serve for years to come, as we hope soon to announce plans to log the history of football journalism, of which Brian has been very much a part.”

The Association has also agreed to grant Life Membership to Christopher Davies, Ralph Ellis, Tony Hudd and William Powell who have also left the National Committee.

Executive Secretary, Paul McCarthy, said: “Of course, it’s always sad when the National Committee loses members but the departure of five people allows us to bring in fresh faces who will add a new impetus to the Association.

“We want the FWA to be reflective of its membership. We have had a 60 per cent increase in new members in just over two years including far more women and BAME journalists as well has a huge influx of the younger generation involved in the industry.

“The National Committee has to echo the changing dynamic of the Association and we are determined it will be far more diverse in its constituency.”