LOCAL RIVALRIES will be put to one side as the region’s football community comes together to celebrate the very best of the 2010/2011 football season on Sunday night.

Sponsored by Barclays, the 2011 North East Football Writers’ Association awards dinner at Ramside Hall Hotel in Durham is a regular highlight in the region’s football calendar. It will be attended by a star-studded guest list, which includes players, managers, directors and officials from of all the north east football clubs.

The event was originally due to be held on November 27 but was postponed following the tragic death of former Newcastle United and Wales footballer Gary Speed.

Tributes will be paid to Gary during the evening and the event will raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which is a charity he strongly supported.

“Everyone was devastated by the news about Gary. There was simply no way we could go ahead with the event in November.” said Colin Young, representing the North East Football Writers’ Association.

“He was someone my colleagues and I had a great deal of respect for because of the way he conducted himself on and off the field.

“Many of the guests and journalists at the awards knew Gary personally and this is an ideal occasion to pay tribute to a real football man who is greatly missed.”

This is the third year the North East Football Writers’ Association has supported the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and this year, for the first time, the Association and the charity will be jointly making an award to honour one of the region’s most respected football professionals.

The inaugural North East Football Writers’ Association’s Personality of the Year, in association with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, will be presented to Sunderland AFC’s Niall Quinn in recognition of his five years as the club’s chairman and his wider contribution to the local community.

Lady Elsie Robson was particularly pleased to agree the nomination given Niall’s role as a Patron of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and his close links with her husband.

Commenting on Niall receiving the new award, Lady Elsie said: “My family and I are very proud that the inaugural Personality of the Year is not only going to a great football man, but also to a man who represents our charity so magnificently.

“He truly does maintain the same kind of football and community ethos as my husband.

“After we lost my husband, my family and I realised we needed support from Patrons who could help us continue the important work of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation. Niall was one of the very first people I thought to ask for help.

“I know Bob would have approved whole-heartedly of Niall’s involvement with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and we’re very grateful for his ongoing support.

“As everyone knows, my husband was a Newcastle United fan but he loved to visit the Stadium of Light. He was always very well looked after by Niall and they had a wonderful relationship based on mutual respect.

“Niall has represented Sunderland AFC as chairman with great dignity. His positive influence has extended far into the community and we wish him very well in his new role with the club.”

Newcastle United and England legend Alan Shearer, also a Patron of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, will be supporting the awards evening, when Newcastle’s Fabricio Coloccini will be crowned Player of the Year. There are also awards for, Middlesbrough’s Joe Bennett, who is Young Player of the Year, Hartlepool United’s Ritchie Humphreys, Carlisle United, Darlington and Whitley Bay FC.

Young added: “We’re really proud of our links to the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and we’re thrilled that Lady Elsie and the charity have given their blessing to our new Personality of the Year award in Sir Bobby’s memory.”

“Our annual dinner is about the region’s football clubs and their supporters joining together in harmony and friendship to celebrate the best of each other. There’s no better symbol for that than Sir Bobby, who was universally respected, nor his Foundation, which benefits people right across the region. We think Niall is an appropriate and deserving winner.”

Since Sir Bobby and Lady Elsie launched the charity in 2008, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has raised over £3.9 million to help find more effective treatments for cancer.

It funds projects within the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which directly benefit cancer patients from across the north east and Cumbria, including the clinical trials of drugs at the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre.

To make a donation, view messages of support, or for more information please visit or donate by sending a cheque to Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, Room 203, Cheviot Court, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne NE7 7DN.

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