‘WIGAN ARE PROOF THAT FOOTBALL DREAMS CAN STILL COME TRUE,’ said Roberto MartinezPhotography: Action Images
David Moyes was given a standing ovation, Roberto Martinez reminded everyone that you do not need a billionaire owner to be successful and Phil Parkinson was granted a return visit to the Capital One Cup final later this season even though Bradford City were knocked out by Huddersfield Town in the first round last month.
“Three things are guaranteed at this dinner,” said Paul Hetherington as the chairman introduced the Football Writers’ Association Northern Branch’s 2013 Managers’ Awards Dinner, sponsored by Barclays, at the Radisson Edwardian hotel in Manchester. The first concerned the bar takings which needs no explanation. Hetherington added: “Another is that Sir Alex Ferguson will win an award and a third is that a manager from the north-east will be honoured.”
First up was Jason Ainsley, manager of Spennymoor Town who maintained what is becoming a north-east tradition as Moors beat Tunbridge Wells in the FA Carlsberg Vase. Gateshead-based Dunston UTS in 2012 had followed a hat-trick of wins by Whitley Bay. “I am extremely proud to receive this award in front of so many top-class managers,” said Ainsley. “We’re a small club in the north-east, but this means a lot to everyone here.”
Wembley held bitter-sweet memories for Wrexham player-manager Andy Morrell last season. The Welsh club won the FA Carlsberg Trophy, but were then beaten in the Blue Square Bet Premier playoff final by Newport County. Steve Davis, who led Crewe Alexandra to Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final triumph over Southend United, was honoured as was Parkinson, whose Bradford stunned the big guns of the Barclays Premier League by reaching the Capital One Cup final against Swansea City.
The Bantams lost to Michael Laudrup’s team, but Parkinson had happier Wembley memories after Bradford won promotion to League One via the playoffs. Parkinson said: “We had 64 games last season and you don’t get through those without having good people working with you and [assistant manager] Steve Parkin deserves a special round of applause. To be at Wembley...to win at Wembley...is something I’ll never forget.”
In the charity raffle, which has raised around £100,000 for various good causes over the years – the Friends of Muscular Dystrophy were Sunday’s recipients – Parkinson won two tickets for this season’s Capital One Cup final, which the Bradford manager returned so the prize could go to another guest.
Micky Adams’ recent hip replacement operation prevented the Port Vale manager, whose club secured automatic promotion from League Two, from attending. There were no such problems for Steve Evans of Rotherham United who made it a third promotion from League Two for northern clubs.
The most dramatic promotion in any league last season was surely that of Doncaster Rovers from League One. In the fourth minute of stoppage time in the final game of the season at Brentford – “it was our 46th game of the season and it was winner takes all,” said Rovers’ manager at the time Bryan Flynn - referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot after Dean Furman had fouled Toumani Diagouraga.
Bees substitute Marcello Trotta took the responsibility from designated penalty taker Kevin O'Connor, but the Italian’s effort crashed against the underside of the crossbar. As Brentford cursed their luck the ball was cleared upfield to Billy Paynter who ran half the length of the pitch unchallenged before passing to James Coppinger to score the only goal of the match.
For Doncaster, the title; for Brentford, the playoffs and Flynn said: “Eighteen seconds and six inches but more importantly, the desire of a 32-year-old who ran 70 yards to tap in the winner decided our season. I kept signalling to Billy to stay just inside their half [to remain onside]. The ball came to him and Coppinger ran 70 yards to receive the ball and score...I was thinking ‘oh well, here comes the playoffs’ and then within a minute we were champions.”
Family commitments prevented Steve Bruce, who guided Hull City back to the Barclays Premier League on a thrilling last day of the Championship, from attending. Sir Alex Ferguson, whose last act as Manchester United manager was to secure the Reds’ 20th title by a remarkable 11 points, was similarly absent. “Arrangements have been made to give them their awards over a damn good lunch,” said Hetherington.
Moyes, Ferguson’s chosen successor, was among a star-studded audience and received a standing ovation when introduced by host Vince Miller.
The man who took over from Moyes at Everton, Martinez, was presented with his award for leading Wigan Athletic to their 1-0 FA Cup final victory over Manchester City, the first time the Latics had won domestic football’s most prestigious cup competition.
Martinez paid special tribute to Wigan chairman Dave Whelan and said: “Most people think that only the teams with huge investments are allowed to win the big trophies...the major trophies. I’d like to take this opportunity to tell everyone that that what happened at Wigan Athletic is proof that football dreams can still happen.
*The FA Cup runners-up will not qualify for a place in the Europa League from 2015/16. At the moment, if the FA Cup winners have qualified for the Champions League then the runners-up go into the Europa League. UEFA have changed the regulation after most national associations indicated they would rather have an extra place from their domestic league qualifying for the Europa League rather than a losing cup finalist. The concern was that a side struggling in the top division or a team from the country’s second tier could be handed a European place by losing the final.