Albert Sewell funeral details

The funeral of FWA life member Albert Sewell, who passed away two weeks ago, will be held at 12noon on Monday  August 6 at Breakspear Crematorium, Breakspear Road, Ruislip, HA4 7SJ, followed by a small reception afterwards near his home in Greenford.
Dave Sewell, one of Albert’s sons, welcomes Albert’s former colleagues and friends but has asked that anyone wishing to attend can let him know in advance. You can reply to Dave via the comment button below or by contacting

Tributes to Albert Sewell, MBE

John LeyFWA National Committee member, pays tribute to Albert Sewell, MBE, who passed away this week:

“I can honestly say I owe my career to Albert Sewell, who passed away on June 27 aged 90. When I joined Hayters Sports Reporting Agency, in 1977, I was quickly introduced to this small but dapper gent, whose appearance was always immaculate. And so were his football statistics.

“Albert pioneered the word of soccer stats; long before Opta or any other stats-driven body had been thought of,  Albert was BBC Sport’s football stats man from 1968. Des Lynam, the Match of the Day and BBC Grandstand anchor-man for so many years, would often refer to him as ‘Uncle’ Albert.

“He was more than that to me. He showed me how to edit football programmes, compile stats, and use them to embellish stories.

It was because of Albert that I quickly developed a love for stats, and that enabled me to use them to further my career, firstly at the Oxford Mail and, for 27 years, at The Daily Telegraph. My office at home is full of stats books, all carefully put together in the same if not quite as impeccable, as Albert’s.

“Albert was a man of habit; not only were his stats perfect but every Friday lunchtime he would disappear from our office, just off Fleet Street, and reappear with a large bunch of flowers for his wife. Albert, MBE, was a gentleman and a thorough professional, a man who set trends that still exist today.”

Gerry Cox, former FWA Chairman who now runs Hayters with Nick Callow said: “When we we started at Hayters in the 1980s, the four directors were formidable figures, each with their own strengths. Reg Hayter ran the show, Denis Signy dispensed brilliant advice on getting stories and cultivating contacts, Frank Nicklin, who reinvented newspaper football coverage at The Sun, refined our writing and subbing skills. And then there was Albert; quiet, dapper and immaculate in his style and eye for detail. His insistence on absolute accuracy was a lesson learned for life, and his love and use of statistics was way ahead of his time. He set in place a a football statistical archive that was gold-dust for every football writer long before the internet – and infinitely more reliable.  He was a lovely man who loved football almost as much as his family, and will be much missed by everyone who knew him.”

Gary Lineker, worked closely with Albert at the BBC, paid tribute on air and tweeted: “Really sad to hear that Albert Sewell has passed away at 91. And to do so during a World Cup makes it all the more poignant. He was the BBC MOTD statistics man for decades. A lovely man who will be much missed. #RipAlby.”

Bob Wilson, the former Arsenal and Scotland goalkeeper who hosted Match of the Day for many years said: “So sad to hear of the death of my great friend Albert Sewell, the unsung hero and stats expert for years at ⁦⁩ Grandstand and .”

Richard Pigden: I had the pleasure of meeting Albert Sewell during a visit to Grandstand when he was the BBC stats man (known as our Albert). Lovely guy who was a bit embarrassed by my blatant fan worship & slightly scared by my encyclopaedic knowledge of his Chelsea programmes. RIP Albert #CFC

A great read here from Neil from Game of the People:

Dan Levene, who covers Chelsea for Eurosport and others tweeted:  “RIP Albert Sewell, first editor of Chelsea’s match programme, and one of the great chroniclers of the English game. If you grew up between about 1945 and 1985, you almost certainly read his stuff.”

Albert Sewell, MBE, RIP

Tributes have been pouring in after the passing of Albert Sewell MBE, who died aged 90 earlier this week. Albert was a life member of the FWA, the first employee and then director of Hayters sports agency and long-time editor of Chelsea’s club programme. He was also the BBC’s football statistics expert from 1968 until his retirement in 2005, often referred to by Match of the Day host Des Lynam as ‘Our Albert’.

Albert was a prolific author of football books, especially on Chelsea, whom he worked closely with for many years. It was Albert who reinvented the matchday programme to the format we know today, when he persuaded Chelsea to replace an advertising-led publication to a newsy, features-based magazine. Other clubs followed suit and the modern programme was born.

Chelsea paid tribute to Albert on their club website:—1927-2018

Albert was born in Leytonstone, east London in 1927 and grew up supporting Chelsea. After National Service he started in Fleet Street at 16 with the Daily Sketch and began as Chelsea’s programme editor in 1949. He later became the first employee when Reg Hayter started his eponymous agency in 1954 and went on to mentor many budding sports journalists who developed into leading football writers, broadcasters and statisticians. For many years Albert edited the News of the World Football Annual, the pocket-sized stats ‘bible’ that was an essential accessory for every football writer long before the late lamented Rothmans Yearbook or the internet.

Albert’s insistence on absolute accuracy meant a small army of Hayters employees would check and double check the appearances, goals, birthdates and other vital statistics of every player and club in the professional game. For years John Motson relied on Albert and Hayters to provide him with the briefings for his famous commentary notes, saying: “Every week I’ve received Albert’s notes – six pages of editorial gold dust.”

Gary Lineker, who worked closely with Albert, tweeted: “Really sad to hear that Albert Sewell has passed away at 91. And to do so during a World Cup makes it all the more poignant. He was the BBC MOTD statistics man for decades. A lovely man who will be much missed. #RipAlby.”

Bob Wilson, the former Arsenal and Scotland goalkeeper who hosted Match of the Day for many years said: “So sad to hear of the death of my great friend Albert Sewell, the unsung hero and stats expert for years at ⁦⁩ Grandstand and .”

Albert formally retired from the BBC in 2005, and received an MBE from the Queen, which he described as the proudest moment of his career. He kept up to date with football events and his friends for many years, and a select group of privileged individuals would look forward every Christmas to receiving a copy of “Alby’s Almanac”, his annual collection of stats, quizzes, quotes and news.

His beloved wife Betty passed away last year, and now Albert has joined her. They leave behind a large and loving family, and Albert’s legacy is an outstanding contribution to football journalism.

RIP Albert.


Ray Wilson RIP

The FWA sends condolences to family, friends and fans of Ray Wilson, the former Huddersfield and Everton full-back who won the World Cup with England in 1966 and has passed away at the age of 83.

Wilson was an unsung hero on Sir Alf Ramsey’s side that beat West Germany at Wembley to lift the World Cup, for which he was later awarded an MBE.  He was a tenacious left-back with Huddersfield Town and Everton, who both posted messages of condolence.

Everton posted on Twitter: “Everton Football Club is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former player, FA Cup winner and World Cup hero, Ray Wilson MBE.”

Huddersfield Town said:

Huddersfield Town is devastated to learn of the passing of World Cup winner Ramon ‘Ray’ Wilson MBE at the age of 83. 

Ray is arguably the most successful and best-known player ever to pull on a Huddersfield Town shirt, having been a key member of England’s World Cup-winning team in 1966.

He made 283 appearances for the Club between 1952 and 1964, scoring six goals, and is still Town’s most capped England player ever, representing his country 30 times as a Huddersfield player. Until very recently, he was a regular supporter of the Terriers at home match days alongside his eldest son Russell despite battling Alzheimer’s disease, which he was diagnosed with in 2004.

The thoughts of everyone at Huddersfield Town are with Ray’s wife Pat, his sons Russ and Neil and the rest of his family and friends at this difficult time.

A defender, Ramon Wilson was born in Shirebrook, near Mansfield, on 17 December 1934 . Named after pre-war film star Ramon Navarro, he was working as a railwayman when he was recommended to Town as a 17-year-old.

He signed for the Club as an amateur initially but was given his first professional contract by manager Andy Beattie just three months later. Ray broke into the team during the 1955/56 season as Town battled against relegation from the First Division, making his debut at Manchester United in October 1955. He became a regular under Bill Shankly the following campaign, with Shankly converting him from a left half into a left back, where Ray went from strength-to-strength. Wilson was part of a fantastic Town team that included the likes of Denis Law, Bill McGarry, Les Massie, John Coddington, Kevin McHale and many others.

The first of Ray’s 63 England caps came in April 1960 in a 1-1 draw with Scotland; the first of 30 he received as a Town player. To this day, he is the Club’s most capped England player and the last to feature in a World Cup whilst at the Club (the 1962 World Cup in Chile).

After flirtation with both promotion to the top-flight and relegation in following seasons, Ray left Town for Everton for £25,000 plus Mick Meagan in the summer of 1964. His final Town appearance came in a 3-2 win over Scunthorpe United at Leeds Road on 25 April 1964.

Two seasons later, Ray reached the pinnacle of his career with the Toffees as an FA Cup winners medal was followed by World Cup victory with England, when he was the eldest member of the team. His final England cap followed in the 1968 European Championships.

Ray eventually went on to join Oldham Athletic in 1969 before retiring in 1971, when he spent a short spell as Caretaker Manager of Bradford City.

He chose not to stay in football and enjoyed a career in a successful undertaker’s business in Huddersfield. Alongside several of his World Cup winning teammates, Ray was given an MBE for Services to Football in 2000 and was subsequently inducted into English Football’s Hall of Fame in 2008.

Ray Wilson, England


Football Book of the Year shortlist announced

The shortlist for the Football Book of the Year has been announced with former winner James Montague among the six contenders for this year’s top prize in the 16th Sports Book Awards.

His probe into football’s super rich owners — The Billionaires Club — contrasts sharply with Tom van Hulsen’s book — Game Changers — on Dutchmen Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen, who were the outstanding stars of Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town team three decades ago.

The shortlist, decided by the books commitee of the Football Writers Association, includes three studies of managers past and present, with biographies of Sir Matt Busby by FWA chairman Patrick Barclay, Bob Paisley by Ian Herbert and current Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino by Guillem Balague.

Staying with the ‘managerial’ theme, but on a totally different playing field,  is Owen Amos’s book “From Delhi to The Den”, recounting the fascinating story of lesser known globetrotting coach Stephen Constantine.

FWA Books Committee chairman Mike Collett, at the shortlist announcement at Coutts Bank in The Strand, said; ‘We had a bumper crop of fantastic books this year, and so many others could have made the short list. In the end though, the committee were unanimous in their choice of winner and runner-up, but it was a very close run thing.”

The winner of the football book, and books in other categories which include cycling, cricket, rugby, autobiography, biography, international autobiography,  and illustrated book of the year, will be announced  at a gala dinner at Lord’s Cricket Ground on the evening of June 7.

After the individual awards are announced, an online public vote determines the overall winner of the Sports Book of the Year.

Coutts Football Book of the Year Shortlist  

The Billionaires Club James Montague (Bloomsbury)

Quiet Genius: Bob Paisley, British Football’s Greatest Manager Ian Herbert (Bloomsbury)

From Delhi to the Den: The Story of Football’s Most Travelled Manager Stephen Constantine with Owen Amos (deCoubertin Books)

Brave New World: Inside Pochettino’s Spurs Guillem Balague (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

Game Changers – The Remarkable Story of Dutch Masters Arnold Mühren and Frans Thijssen Tom van Hulsen, translated by Jolanda van Boeijen (Portman Road Producties)

Sir Matt Busby: The Definitive Biography Paddy Barclay (Ebury)

Jurgen Klopp’s remarkable message to Mo Salah, the FWA, Rhian Brewster and Gareth Southgate

Jurgen Klopp sent a remarkable message to Mo Salah, the FWA, Liverpool teenager Rhian Brewster and Gareth Southgate on Thursday evening (May 10) as the ‘Egyptian King’ collected the Footballer of the Year award.

Klopp was unable to attend the FWA dinner because he was at Liverpool’s own awards ceremony, from which Salah jetted down to London in time to be presented with his trophy.

Instead the Liverpool manager prepared a thoughtful and at times moving speech which, was read out by FWA Chairman Patrick Barclay. In it he paid tribute to Mo Salah as a model professional and role model, thanked the FWA and football journalists for their dealings with him and in particular for highlighting the racism suffered in Europe by Liverpool and England teenager Rhian Brewster, who was on the club’s table at the dinner, along with Troy Townsend from Kick it Out and Matt McCann, Liverpool’s head of communications. Matt worked tirelessly to ensure Mo made it to the dinner, and we thank him and his team for their efforts.

Jurgen Klopp’s message was so well received by the audience of journalists, football personalities and their guests, that we have reprinted it in full here:


Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen,

Firstly – please accept my apologies for not being with you in person tonight.It is the club’s own award ceremony at Anfield and as such I need to prioritise being here with the rest of the team. Given this is the Football WRITERS Association I thought a written acknowledgement from me – that someone could read out on the evening – would make more sense than a recorded message.  In terms of a Liverpool presence at your event tonight, hopefully we have managed to show the respect it deserves – despite the clash with our own annual awards.

Your winner – Mr Salah is either with you now or on his way – depending when this message is read out. It is typical of Mo’s character that he was so keen to attend. And I don’t mean greedy for awards – but being gracious and good mannered to make every effort to be there in person and thank you for the honour.

There’s not much I can say about what he does ‘on the pitch’ that you guys haven’t already seen and written about. The fact you have voted for him as your ‘player of the season’ reflects that you have witnessed his incredible quality as a footballer. But it’s his qualities as a person that should not be overlooked.

I read and hear about him being a wonderful role model for Egypt – North Africa – for the wider Arabic world and for Muslims. This of course is true – but he is a role model FULL STOP. Regardless of race or religion – country or region of birth. The only ‘labels’ we should put on Mo is what a good person he is and what a fantastic footballer he is – and by the way – the first part of that is more important in life than the second.  Mo is someone who sets an example of how to approach life and how to treat others.

Around Melwood – with his teammates and the club staff – he is gentle and humble – despite being the international superstar he is now. The attention and acclaim has not changed him even by 0.01% percent.

He arrived at Liverpool humble and warm and this is the same boy who comes to be with you all tonight to accept your generous recognition. Although – maybe a little more tired and weary of selfies and autographs – so keep that in mind please. Mo, we are very proud of you and thankful for what you have done for this team and club – and of course we look forward to sharing many more seasons with you at Liverpool.

In a season when Manchester City have been outstandingly good – and played outstandingly well – football from another planet – you have won the two major awards. The one voted for by your fellow professionals and now the one voted for by the football writers. You are World Class Mo – truly world class – and what’s even more exciting – for you – for Liverpool – and for the public who get to watch you play – you can and will get even better.

Congratulations my friend. 

Aside from Mo – I have another member of my team with you all this evening – and his presence is – I believe – recognition of the importance of your industry. Writing and journalism.

Rhian Brewster is just 18 years old. During the past 12 months Rhian has established himself as one of the most exciting prospects in English football. He has grown and risen in status at Liverpool. He won the world cup for your country at his age level – he won the golden boot at that very same tournament. He made his family – his friends – his club – and his country proud in doing what he did on the football pitch.

But it was away from the football pitch – and instead in the pages of a UK newspaper – where Rhian made an even bigger impact on the game we all love and even a significant impact on society. Aged just 17 at the time – and at his own behest – albeit with the support of his family and friends – plus the support of the incredible academy staff at Liverpool – he sat and spoke about racism in modern football with the same power, command and composure that he shows when playing.

The newspaper who carried the original story was then supported by other journalists – and other publications – many of whom I am sure are in the room tonight – in making sure Rhian’s voice was loud and clear in articulating that racism and discrimination still exists and persists in our game. That it takes a 17-year-old boy to do this is as frustrating and depressing as it is inspirational and uplifting. That many of you in the room were so supportive in spreading his message is testimony to journalism in this country.

It is fitting that alongside Rhian – as part of the LFC table tonight – is Troy Townsend and other colleagues from Kick it Out. Troy and Kick It Out supported Rhian, Liverpool and other players during the very difficult periods following the occasions of racist abuse. They do so for players, staff, supporters up and down the country.

Troy and the team at Kick It Out help to educate players and staff at Liverpool – be it first team, academy or Ladies – on the importance of recognising we all still have lessons to learn in football – and in life – to ensure we are inclusive and not discriminatory.

As Rhian articulated so well in his interview – in England we are fortunate that big strides have been made whereby his own experiences have been largely restricted to European and International competitions – but sadly racism and discrimination is not exclusive to football overseas and therefore Troy and Kick It Out are still as important as ever to the game in this country. I would like to finish with two points – and I hope they do not in any way sound ‘preachy’ – if they do – blame the person reading it – it is their fault clearly.

The first is to thank the English media for the coverage it continues to give football in this country. I am probably guilty – like many on my side of it – of bemoaning “THE PRESS” at times – lumping everyone in together – but I know the game enjoys the prominence and profile in England because the media devotes so much time and energy to covering it.

In some respects, those of you in this room share the same journey as the players you cover. You have to show dedication and sacrifice – you have to constantly keep learning your job and adapt to changes – you make mistakes and learn from them – you are under huge pressure to deliver. And maybe it is good old English irony that in the age of social media many of you are now subjected the same security and comment on your performance.

And that brings me to my second and final point – in a world cup year – where many in this room will no doubt be writing and broadcasting on the players performing for their country. Clearly as a German I will be supporting my own country – and I have actually lost count of the number of countries I have claimed to be backing as my second team In Russia. I suppose that depends on the nationality of the reporter asking – I think to date I have said “if not Germany then…” and declared for Egypt – Senegal – Croatia – Serbia – Brazil and even Iceland.

If Mo Salah is in the room – then Mo – ignore this next bit – because of course if not Germany then it must be Egypt. But – England is a team I now have great interest in and I really wish Gareth, his staff and the team the best of luck. Gareth is still a relatively young manager – and both for him as a coach and many of his players – I think this will be a first World Cup at senior level.

I think as the English media you can help them – if you are minded in doing so. And that doesn’t mean be ‘cheerleaders’ or ‘ignore’ failure and mistakes. It just means remember they are a group of relatively young people who will be giving their best and trying their hardest to make a nation proud and happy.  You are blessed in this country with wonderfully talented, skilful, honest, committed and tactically astute players. You are blessed with a coach who is brave and innovative.

England has the tools – because the manager and the players have the mentality – attitude – character… it is all there for you. Maybe reduce the pressure a notch or two – that is where you can help I think. Maybe take the numbers 1966 off your computer keyboards for the summer and let this team write their own history and memories. Regardless – I hope those of you travelling to Russia have a tournament to enjoy and remember for the right reasons.

Enjoy your evening and thank you for making the right decision when voting, and for once, I don’t mean BREXIT.


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp PA Images

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp with Mohamed Salah. PA Images

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah poses with his FWA Footballer of the Year 2018 award alongside team-mate Rhian Brewster during the FWA Footballer of the Year Dinner at The Landmark Hotel, London.  PA Images

Salah and Kirby collect FWA awards

Mo Salah of Liverpool and Fran Kirby of Chelsea Ladies collected their Footballer and Womens Footballer of the Year awards at the Football Writes’ Association’s annual dinner in London on Thursday May 10.

Both stars were enormously popular winners and gave thanked the FWA and their football colleagues in their speeches. Both had other commitments in their busy schedules – Kirby left later in the evening to attend Chelsea’s awards night, while Salah flew in by private jet from Liverpool’s own awards event.

FWA Chairman Patrick Barclay handed Salah’s award to the Liverpool striker, who is the first African and Arabic player to win the award, which has been running since 1948.  Phil Neville, manager of the England Women’s team, presented Kirby’s award and raised a toast to the FWA.

The evening was attended by a host of stars from the world of football including former Footballers of the Year Pat Jennings and Gary Lineker. Chris Hughton of Brighton was one of the many managers in attendance, along with other players from past and present, including Peter Crouch, Joe Jordan, Pat Nevin, Lawrie McMenemy, Tony Cascarino, Alan Smith, and many more.

Mo Salah said: “I am always happy when I think I’ve achieved something and get awards. I work hard for that. I always want to work hard for my team. I was here four years ago (with Chelsea) and a lot of people were saying ‘he couldn’t play in the Premier League and it is very difficult for him’, so it was always in my mind to come back

“From the day I left Chelsea it was always in my mind to come back to make them wrong. So now I make them wrong. I’m not the same player. I improved a lot in Rome but I can’t say everything is down to me. The team-mates maybe different, the coach and staff, they make my game easier and they always help me ion and off the pitch, so I have to thank all of them.”

Fran Kirby said:  “This awards is massive for me and my family, it is amazing for the women’s game. Hopefully you can see the dedication we are putting into it, on and off the pitch. It is a massive achievement for me and for women’s football. I hope we continue to get your support throughout all the seasons, because it really is going to the next level.”

Phil Neville raised a toast to Sir Alex Ferguson as his former manager recovers from illness. The England women’s team manager then presented the FWA’s first Women’s Footballer of the Year award to Fran Kirby saying: “She is my little number 10, the one I look to to unlock the door with individual brilliance.

“She has had an unbelievable season for England and Chelsea, I saw her score a fabulous goal in the FA Cup final at Wembley. She is a special player who has had an unbelievable season, which I have seen week in and week out, as well as three or four camps with England. She wants to be the best footballer in the world and she will achieve that with her dedication, but Fran is a fantastic person as well.”

Former FWA chairmen Steve Bates and Paul Hetherington were also awarded life-memberships of the FWA for their tremendous service over the years.

Chelsea Ladies Fran Kirby poses with FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year 2018 awards during the FWA Footballer of the Year Dinner at The Landmark Hotel, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday May 10, 2018. Photo credit: Steven Paston/PA Wire

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah the FWA Footballer of the Year 2018 awards during the FWA Footballer of the Year Dinner at The Landmark Hotel, London.

Vanarama Column May 9 – Brackley Town

Brackley Town – racing to the top, by Glenn Moore.

Football puts places on the map. Blackburn businessmen noted that, after Rovers won the Premier League in 1995, clients in far-away places were more familiar with the town. Talking football provided them with an opening gambit.

The Northamptonshire town of Brackley is the base of Mercedes-AMG Petronas, the F1 team of Lewis Hamilton, Britain’s four-time world champion. Its proximity to Silverstone means it has long had close links to globally recognised names. However, motorsport’s focus on drivers, cars and sponsors, rather than production locations, means few people outside the immediate environs will know of a town whose population is less than 15,000 and has no railway station.

Awareness, however, is growing, thanks to the local football team. Until recently Brackley Town had an unremarkable history. Founded in 1890 they played in county leagues until 1977, using a local pub as a dressing room as late as 1968. Until 2007 they had not played beyond the eighth tier or reached the FA Cup proper. However, in the last decade the Saints have begun to make headlines. In the FA Cup they have twice beaten a Football League club – Gillingham on both occasions. In the league they began to make a mark, winning promotion to the Conference North and establishing themselves there.

This season Brackley have forced people to take notice. On Saturday they meet Harrogate Town in the final of the Vanarama National League North promotion play-offs. The following Sunday they make their first trip to Wembley, to face Bromley, of the Vanarama National League, in the FA Trophy final.

Harrogate, who pushed champions Salford City, the club revived by a quintet of Manchester United legends, all the way, will start favourites in the play-off final. They are full-time and at home. Bromley, making their first appearance at this stage since winning its precursor, the FA Amateur Cup, in 1949, will also be favourites. Former Gillingham and Fulham midfielder Neil Smith has fashioned a good side that just missed out on the play-offs for a Football League place.

But Brackley are growing used to upsetting the odds. They attract average crowds of little over 500 to St James Park but finished well ahead of such relative giants as Stockport County, York City and Darlington. In the FA Trophy Kevin Wilkin’s team have already defeated two Vanarama National League clubs, Sutton United and Barrow.

Wilkin took Wrexham to the FA Trophy final three years ago, only to be unexpectedly beaten by North Ferriby United on penalties. A former Northampton Town player he has been at Brackley since September 2015 finishing 19th (after inheriting a poor start), seventh, and now third. Making the difference this season has been Aaron Williams whose 36th goal of the campaign saw off Bradford Park Avenue in Sunday’s play-off semi-final. Williams is only 24 but has already played for ten clubs at six different levels of the pyramid from Walsall and Peterborough in League One to Romulus of the Northern Premier League Division One South, picking up an England C cap on the way. Young enough to have a third stab at full-time football he, like his club, now has two finals to put his name in the public eye.

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Play-offs, Sudden-Death and Beery Breath

Luke Coulson gives a first-hand account of the high drama of the playoffs

Our season at Ebbsfleet United began 10 months ago, and 46 games later we have achieved what we set out to do – securing a place in the Vanarama National League playoffs.

Two weeks ago, our win against my former club, Eastleigh FC, extended our unbeaten run to eleven games and edged us ever closer to securing a chance to play off for a place in the Football League. However, our next match against Sutton United saw our opposition also desperately in need of a win – and they succeeded.

The atmosphere was electric at Stonebridge Road, with 3,000 passionate fans packed into the stadium watching every kick of the ball. Unfortunately for our fantastic supporters, the away side grabbed all three points with a 1-0 victory in our final home game. Although the loss was deflating, we knew that four points from our final two games would cement a playoff spot and therefore our fate was in our own hands.

Firstly, we made the dreaded journey to Gateshead for our Tuesday night fixture. Whilst Liverpool dominated Roma to win 5-2 in the Champions League, we similarly wore red and won convincingly with the same scoreline, except it was in the Vanarama National League.

Gateshead FC is 300 miles from Stonebridge Road and I can assure you that at 11pm after a football match, the journey home is not what your body needs. It would have been made easier if our final game of the season had been a local away match; sadly it was at Torquay.

Preparing for the match, we knew that one point would be enough to extend our season and give us a chance of playing at Wembley. The match was a scrappy affair against the already relegated side and it was evident that tiredness began to creep in towards the end of the game. In the second half, Jack Connors gave us the lead with an arching finish from a tight angle and although Torquay equalised two minutes later, the 1-1 score line gave us the result we needed.

The point in our last game of the season meant that we finished 6th in the table, setting up an exciting playoff game against Aldershot. What an evening it was, on the same Wednesday night as Liverpool’s triumphant semi-final second leg in Rome.

The days leading up to the game seemed to drag. I had never been involved in a playoff match before and I was excited by the prospect. When we arrived at Aldershot’s Electrical Services Stadium, we were confident of winning despite the fact that we were underdogs.

From kick off, we allowed Aldershot to control possession, trusting that they wouldn’t be able to break us down because of our shape and work ethic off the ball. Our tactics worked and the biggest chance of the game fell to Danny Kedwell from the penalty spot. Our number nine uncharacteristically missed, however, and the score was 0-0 after 90 minutes.

I was taken off just before extra time began and it was agonising to watch from the bench, especially when the home side took the lead with a glancing header from their striker, Nicke Kabamba. With two minutes left on the clock, I thought the season was over until our captain, Dave Winfield, equalised with a powerful header at the back post. I jumped off the bench to celebrate, a moment my swollen knee didn’t appreciate.

Penalties ensued and it was tense, gripping and a rollercoaster of emotions. After three penalties, we were losing 3-1 and the game was all but over. However, Aldershot failed to score their last two penalties which allowed Norman Wabo and Danny Kedwell to keep our playoff dream alive. In sudden death, Lewis Ward, the Aldershot keeper stepped up and missed but Dean Rance did not make the same mistake as he coolly slotted home and sent us through to the Vanarama National League Playoff Semi Final.

The celebrations were brilliant in front of our faithful supporters, yet I didn’t exactly appreciate the kiss from a fan with the strongest beer breath I have ever smelt. Having said that, the celebrations are now over as we prepare for the semi final on Saturday against Tranmere, live on BT Sport.

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Mohamed Salah is the Football Writers’ Association’s Footballer of the Year.

The Liverpool forward narrowly beat Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne in a ballot of over 400 FWA members, with the winning margin less than 20 votes.

Tottenham striker Harry Kane was placed third.

Between them, Salah and De Bruyne polled more than 90 per cent of the FWA member votes.

The Egyptian, 25, becomes the first African winner of the football’s oldest individual award, which has been running since 1948. Salah will be presented with his trophy at the 2018 FWA Footballer of the Year dinner, to be held at the Landmark Hotel in London on May 10.

Patrick Barclay, FWA Chairman, said: “It’s been the tightest call since 1968/69, when there was a dead heat between Tony Book of Manchester City and Derby’s Dave Mackay.

“Right up to the last week or so we thought it might happen again, so strong was the support for Kevin de Bruyne, but Mo Salah’s relentless match-winning form, exemplified by his two great goals against Roma, seems to have swung the vote by a very narrow margin.

“What a race it has been between two players who, in a relatively short time, have reached genuine world class. But Mo Salah is the worthiest of winners. He is also the first African to receive the award and we congratulate him on a magnificent season.”

The FWA has also introduced the inaugural FWA Women’s Footballer of the Year Award, which was won by Chelsea and England forward Fran Kirby, who will collect her accolade at the gala event.

Both Kirby and Salah were also voted PFA Players of the Year last month.

Other players to receive votes from FWA members were, in alphabetical order: Sergio Aguero (Man City), Christian Eriksen (Tottenham), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Nick Pope (Burnley), David Silva (Manchester City), Raheem Sterling (Man City) and Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham).

You can see the full list of previous winners, starting with Sir Stanley Matthews in 1947, here:

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