Shearer leads North East FWA award-winners

Alan Shearer led a glittering line-up at the North East FWA’s annual awards dinner, as the former Newcastle and England captain collected the region’s Personality of the Year award, in association with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.

Shearer was one of many famous football faces at the Ramside Hall, Durham, for another great evening that was superbly organised as ever by Colin Young, secretary of the North East branch of the FWA.

Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka collected the Player of the Year award, while Sunderland’s manager Jack Ross picked up the Young Player of the Year award on behalf of the club’s former striker Josh Maja.

Beth Hepple of Durham was voted Womens’ Player of the Year, and presentations were made to Stockton Town, South Shields and Marske United in recognition of their successes in non-league football last season.

There were also special awards for two people who have worked closely with the FWA over the years. Adrian Bevington, former head of communications for Middlesbrough and England who is now Boro’s head of recruitment, was presented with the Bob Cass award for his outstanding contribution to North East football.

And Louise Wanless, who also worked at Boro before becoming head of communications at Sunderland, won the John Fotheringham Award.

Steve Harper spoke wittily about his good friend Shearer, who then gave an insight to his life as a player turned pundit, in a Q and A session with BBC’s Ian Dennis who conducted his Master of Ceremonies duties with superb professionalism.

Shearer has raised over £11m for charities since retiring, and said he gets more satisfaction from his charity work than any of his many achievements on the pitch. The Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, for whom Shearer is a patron, was also represented.

Other former players included Gary Pallister, Kevin Ball, Jim Montgomerie, Craig Hignett, Martin Gray and John Hendrie. The FWA National Committee was represented by former Chairman Steve Bates, Gerry Cox and Paul McCarthy, and the evening was supported superbly by our sponsors William Hill.

“This is always a special night, bringing together the region’s football family and celebrating the best of the game,” said Colin Young, who paid special tribute to the Ramside Hall for hosting the event.

“The focus is often on the Player of the Year awards and we were proud to honour both Martin Dubravka and Beth Hepple.

“However, it’s also very important that we recognise the significant contributions made by dedicated individuals within the game and the wider community, and we were grateful to have the opportunity to do that last night.”


Vikki Orvice’s funeral – important notice

Information on Vikki Orvice’s funeral, Tuesday February 26th, 2pm,

St Leonard’s Church, Flamstead, Herts.

From her husband, Ian Ridley:

It was Vikki’s wish that her funeral be conducted in the parish church where we were married and which she loved dearly, St Leonard’s, in Flamstead, Herts, then buried in the village.

This has produced some logistical challenges as neither of us was expecting the outpouring of love and respect for her, and the number of people wanting to attend. The church holds about 150 people seated and another 125 standing.

As a result, seating is being allocated in the nave of the church in the first instance to family, close friends both in the village and beyond, and to representatives of the organisations and charities that she worked with and for. Other non-allocated seating, and standing in the church, will be on a first-come, first-served basis on the day. 

This is not to keep anyone away. All who want to pay their respects are welcome and I want to accommodate everyone. To that end, there will be a large overspill marquee in the church grounds and the funeral will be live-streamed in to it on big screens.

After the funeral, there will be a procession the few hundred yards to the cemetery for those who wish to join the short burial service, then refreshment in that marquee and the village hall where we can all meet and reminisce and share our memories of Vikki.

Please note that there is parking in the village dotted here and there, and there will be marshals to help ease traffic flow, but spaces are limited and people are asked to park considerately, following the instructions of the marshals. Car sharing would be an idea, if possible.

A better alternative may be a train from King’s Cross to the nearest railway station at Harpenden, which is about a 15-minute, £15/£20 taxi ride away. People might like to share cabs.

It will be marvellous to see all those people who knew, loved and admired Vikki, and I’m sure we will somehow manage to cope with the numbers on what I hope will be both funeral and celebration of her life.

She asked that there be no flowers, but if people do want to make a contribution, donations instead to the Royal Marsden Hospital.

Vikki also requested that people wear black or bright at the service. I will be wearing some of both.


Clive White funeral details

Clive White’s funeral service will be this coming Monday February 18th 10.00 at West Hertfordshire Crematorium, High Elms Lane, Gartson, Watford, Herts WD25 0JS.

Afterwards at Aldwickbury Park Golf Club, Piggottshill Lane, Harpenden, Herts, AL5 1AB

Clive’s family have requested no flowers, but donations to cancer research if possible.

Please feel free to wear any colour.  If you are thinking of going, please inform the funeral directors

The Vanarama Column – Wrexham AFC

The Vanarama column  – Wrexham, by Glenn Moore

Having four managers in a year is not usually associated with success, but Wrexham may prove an exception. The fan-owned club handed the reins to assistant manager Graham Barrow in December after Sam Ricketts, himself only appointed in May, moved to Shrewsbury Town. It seemed a sound choice as Barrow had enjoyed a successful spell as caretaker but it did not take long for the veteran to decide the altered dynamics associated with being No.1 were no longer to his liking.

He stepped down and in has come Bryan Hughes, a 42-year-old of much more limited managerial experience but with a long association to the club. A teenaged Hughes began his career at Wrexham in the mid-Nineties and was a key figure in the club’s 1997 FA Cup run. A busy midfielder he went on to have a decent career, twice winning promotion to the Premier League and playing more than 150 matches in the top flight for Birmingham City, Charlton Athletic and Hull City.

On Saturday his second spell at the Racecourse Ground began with a win over Dagenham & Redbridge that moved the Red Dragons into the top three of the Vanarama National League. More than 5,000 were present to welcome back Hughes and with the club moving within two points of the only automatic promotion slot the promotion dream is back on.

When Hughes played for Wrexham they were the best team in Wales. Indeed, they were as recently as 2001. That season, with Denis Smith in the dug-out, Darren Ferguson leading on the pitch, and a burst of goals from a non-League discovery called Lee Trundle, the Red Dragons finished 10th in what was Division Two and is now League One. Swansea were heading for the fourth tier after relegation, replaced by Cardiff City, promoted from the basement behind Brighton. Newport County were in the Southern League.

However, Wrexham went down in 2002 and while they briefly bounced back to the third tier they soon began a precipitous slide that involved two relegations in four years and a period in administration. They have now been in the Vanarama National League since 2008. They made three trips to the play-offs in the first five seasons plus an FA Trophy win in 2013, but have subsequently been mired in mid-table.

Meanwhile Cardiff are in the Premier League, Swansea, after enjoying seven seasons in the top flight, are in the Championship, and Newport, having climbed out of non-League, are established in League Two and making headlines in the FA Cup.

While football in South Wales has prospered it has been a bitter decade for North Wales, but there are signs of a revival. Average gates are, astonishingly, at their highest in more than 30 years and in March the national team returns to the Racecourse Ground for the first time since 2008.

Hughes, whose only previous managerial experience consists of a few months as joint-boss at Scarborough Athletic, is aware he has been given ‘a wonderful opportunity’. With the Vanarama National League title very much up for grabs it is one he hopes to seize.

for more on Wrexham, visit

For more on the Vanarama League, see:

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Gordon Banks – The Greatest

A tribute to Gordon Banks

By Brian Scovell, ex Daily Mail and now FWA Life Vice President

I’ve been lucky to meet many gentlemen footballers – one thinks of the three Bobbies, Moore, Charlton and Robson, Geoff Hurst and Walter Winterbottom – but top of the League of Gentlemen was Gordon Banks.

He never changed, friendly, smiling and cheerful despite his handicaps in life. Born in Sheffield, son of an illegal bookmaker, he left school at fifteen and started work delivering coal. His father’s business had collapsed and his handicapped brother died after he was attacked. In 1972 he was in an accident in 1972 when he lost the sight of one eye and his majestic reign as Britain’s finest goalie was brought to an end.

I first met him during the World Cup in England in 1966 when he was reaching his best. When he collected his winners’ medal in 1966, he held on to it until he boosted his failing income in 2001 and sold it for £124,750.

A cricketing friend named Peter Presence, who ran a company First Features selling sports columns to newspapers all around the world, asked me to approach Gordon and wondered whether if he would be interested. Gordon didn’t have a proper agent and he accepted the modest weekly payment which was slightly higher than his wages as a player.

Every week he would ring me on the dot, and as a struggling goalkeeper myself for the Daily Sketch team I learned from a vast amount of tips from him, like standing up when a forward is bearing down on you and not go down too soon. Too much of that still going on today!

He preached being calm and the great keepers like Pat Jennings, Lev Yashin, Dino Zoff and David Seaman all had that valuable quality. Joe Hart and Jordan Pickford, in particular, still get over-excited.

Over the years I lost contact with him but at the FWA Gala Night at the Savoy I met up with him again in January last year and he was the same but older Gordon. He had kidney cancer and you wouldn’t have guessed it.

His great adversary Pele was supposed to be the speaker but exhausted by attending the World Cup draw in Russia he had to withdraw through illness. Gordon was one of the speakers and, inevitably, he talked about his unbelievable save to deny Pele a goal in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

The packed diners of the elegant Lancaster Room of the Savoy were enthralled by hearing him recall his preparation to take on the world’s number one player, saying “The pitch was rock hard like a road, the temperature was 103F and on the last training session before the match I noticed the ground was bumpy and shots were bouncing up higher than you would expect. So I asked the players to shoot from distance so I work out what I had to do.”

No football fan will ever forget when The Greatest keeper foiled The Greatest footballer.

Gordon Banks RIP

We at the FWA join the rest of the football world in mouring the death of Gordon Banks, our former Footballer of the Year, who has passed away at the age of 81.

Banksy, or the Banks of England as he was nicknamed, will always have a special place in football history as England’s goalkeeper when Sir Alf Ramsey’s side won the World Cup in 1966, but arguably his most famous save came four years later, at the 1970 World Cup finals.

England were playing Brazil in Guadalajara in a group game between the reigning champions and champions-elect, and when Jairzinho crossed from the right and Pele headed the ball towards the far post, the watching world – and the great striker himself – thought it was a goal.

Banks flung himself from one side of goal to the other, dived low and clawed the ball up and over the bar from a seemingly impossible position. It was a stunning save, and although Brazil went on to win the game and win the trophy, Banks’ save is one of the most famous images of that tournament, and has been replayed ever since.

Speaking at the FWA’s tribute to Pele in London last January, Banks said: “He always says to me ‘wherever I go in the world people talk about the goals I scored, but when I come to England, all people talk about is that save you made from me!’”

See the full interview here:

Gordon Banks was born in Sheffield and started his career down the road at Chesterfield, but it was at Leicester City that he first found fame. A year after winning the World Cup, he was surprisingly sold to Stoke City, and played with them until the end of his top-flight career, which ended prematurely when he lost an eye in a car crash in 1972. He played on with Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the US in the late 1970s, had a brief spell as manager of non-league Telford before leaving football in 1980.

He was honoured repeatedly, not least when the FWA voted him Footballer of the Year in 1972. Fifa voted him Goalkeeper of the year five times running from 1966 to 1971, and he was awarded the OBE in 1970.

Having won a battle with cancer in 2015, he continued to watch his beloved Stoke City and attend football events until the end. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Ursula, family and friends.

Gordon Banks 1937-2019.

Clive White RIP

The FWA is saddened to learn that another of our dear friends, Clive White, has passed away. On the same day that Vikki Orvice lost her battle with cancer, we heard that Clive, who was an extremely popular and friendly colleague on the football and tennis circuits, had also succumbed to the illness. He passed away peacefully at his daughter Chloe’s home.

Below is the story carried on the Sports Journalists’ Association website, followed by a tribute from Paul Newman, his friend and former sports editor of The Independent.

CLIVE WHITE joined The Times in 1981 becoming deputy sports editor from 1982-84 and then deputy football correspondent where he covered three World Cups and two European Championships before leaving in 1991.

From there Clive – often known as Chalky – joined The Independent where he covered tennis and football and in 1995 moved to the Sunday Telegraph as tennis correspondent and football writer for the next 13 years.

At the Sunday Telegraph he wrote the columns of both John McEnroe and Gary Lineker. He also co-wrote Lineker’s 2010 World Cup diary.

Tennis played a major part in his career. He was author of the ITF Davis Cup yearbook between 2010-12 and worked for the federation in a writing and broadcasting capacity.

He had also written the programme notes for Wimbledon and was back at the All England Club in 2012 as tennis team leader for the Olympic News Service.

Clive also worked for ONS at Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, reporting on cross-country skiing. At the Baku 2015 European Games he covered boxing and karate.

Thoughts go out to his children Chloe, Phoebe and Elliott and the rest of Clive’s family and close friends.


There have certainly been sports reporters who had a better record of hitting deadlines and there have been a few who could write as elegantly about football, but I doubt whether many cared more about their words than Clive White.

News of his death, after a long illness, brings back memories both of a colleague who always wanted to do his very best and of one of the most likeable people in sports journalism. As a mutual friend said to me today: “Clive was the original Mr Nice Guy.”

Somewhere in a box of papers in my study I have a piece of copy which Clive wrote for The Times when we were both working there more than 30 years ago. I was the chief sub-editor on the sports desk and was one of the last to leave the office late one Friday night when a messenger dropped into our in-tray a late item dictated to our copytakers.

I imagined it might be a late-breaking story about an impending transfer or maybe news of a manager who would be sacked the following morning. Instead it was a message from Clive, who had written the main football preview for the following day’s newspaper.

It said simply this: “In the ninth paragraph of my football preview, please change the words ‘with two-thirds of the season gone’ and replace them with the words ‘with one-third of the season remaining’.”

I can just imagine Clive having worried all evening about what he had written, wondering whether he had got the tone right or always found the mot juste. The importance of stressing whether there was one-third of a season left or whether two-thirds of it had gone clearly mattered to him.

Nevertheless, it would be wrong to give the impression that Clive was in any way nerdish or obsessive about his work. He was a smiling, sociable character who was always popular with his colleagues and always willing to help. A personal memory is of my second day working at The Times. I introduced myself to Clive, who could not have been kinder or more helpful to a raw and nervous newcomer.

Clive worked at The Times for 10 years. He joined as a sub-editor and eventually became deputy sports editor and then deputy football correspondent. He had a deep understanding of football and wrote about it with insight and elegance. He could turn his hand equally well to match reports, news stories, features or interviews. If Clive missed a deadline or two, it was nearly always because he wanted to polish his work to perfection.

He left The Times in 1991, by which time I had become sports editor at The Independent. With Clive going freelance, I welcomed the chance to bring him into our pages. His writing style suited us perfectly and he was an excellent addition to our football team.

Clive eventually joined the Sunday Telegraph, where he wrote about football and tennis for 13 years. He ghost-wrote excellent columns by Gary Lineker and John McEnroe. Ghost-writing is an art that not many journalists can master, but Clive knew exactly how to bring out in the written word the voice of whoever’s name would be appearing above the column. Lineker, learning of Clive’s death, described him on Twitter as a “brilliant and trusted journalist”.

After leaving the Sunday Telegraph Clive focused more on tennis. He used to write the programme notes for Wimbledon and was also a regular contributor to International Tennis Federation publications.

His latter years were dogged by ill health, but throughout his troubles he retained his sense of humour. For those of us who were lucky enough to have known him, we will remember the man as much as the journalist.

RIP Clive

Tributes flow for Vikki Orvice


Tributes have been flooding social media after Vikki Orvice, FWA vice-chair and The Sun sportswriter, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 56.

Her husband Ian Ridley, one of our most esteemed members and a fine sportswriter in his own right, announced on the morning of February 6th that Vikki had finally succumbed after a long battle with cancer.

Tributes from all over the world followed and obituaries were carried by The Sun, whose former chief sportswriter Steve Howard penned a lovely tribute to his friend and colleague, The Guardian, British Athletics Writers’ Association and many more.  Jacqui Oatley, whom Vikki introduced the FWA’s National Committee, wrote movingly for our own website.

BBC Radio 4 broadcast a tribute from Anna Kessel, Vikki’s co-founder in Women in Football, and there were messages from many other journalists and sports stars, including Sebastian Coe, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Paula Radcliffe, Kelly Holmes and many more.  Sports federations and clubs, including her beloved Sheffield United, paid tribute, too.

When Ian returned to social media later on Wednesday, he admitted to being “overwhelmed” by the messages on the medium.

He added, poignantly:

and Ian added thanks, particularly to close friends, Vikki’s MacMillan nurse and the Royal Marsden Hospital.

There are far too many tweets to list here, but you can see most of them by typing Vikki’s name into the searchbar in Twitter.

Her legacy lives on.

Links to Obituaries:

Vikki Orvice (1962-2019)

Vikki Orvice’s legacy – Sun Scholarship scheme

The Sun are launching a scholarship scheme for aspiring female sportswriters in honour of Vikki Orvice, who passed away on Wednesday.

Vikki was the Sun’s athletics correspondent and also covered football for the paper, having become the first female sports journalist to be employed by a tabloid newspaper in 1995.

Sadly Vikki succumbed to cancer after a 12-year battle, but her legacy will be the Vikki Orvice Memorial Sports Journalism Scholarship, which is seeking a “young woman who has all the qualities Vikki held so dearly” to join The Sun’s sports team.

Shaun Custis, a fellow FWA member and The Sun’s sports editor, said: “Vikki lived and breathed the job every day and was so proud to work on The Sun’s sports team. There could be no finer tribute to her wonderful work than to have a scholarship in her name.”

Details of how to apply will be released in the near future.