When the shiny invitation to the Leesa North West Football Awards dropped on the mat at Northern Soul Towers, I stepped forward. As Sports Correspondent, this is my Oscars for goodness sake, with everyone from the National Leagues to the Premier League represented at a glittering black-tie event.
A decade has passed since the first North West Football Awards and this year promised to be bigger and better than ever with honours to recognise and celebrate the brightest and the best in the region, as well as the companies that support them.
Nearly 600 guests were treated to a champagne reception at The Point, part of the refurbished Emirates Old Trafford, followed by the awards dinner hosted by Dan Walker who promised to have the prize-giving part of the evening wrapped up by 11pm as he had an early start. This meant that the poor thing would miss out on the after-party and accompanying bacon sandwiches. Apparently, he wasn’t taking unauthorised early photo entries into his exclusive #EggClub – he’s a stickler for the rules.
This year, an additional category was added with the first Impact Award going to James Milner for his charity work at the James Milner Foundation. Daniel Taylor from The Guardian was awarded Football Journalist of the Year for his sensitive reporting on football’s sexual abuse scandal 12 months ago. His award was presented by Chris Unsworth and Steven Walters, survivors and founders of The Offside Trust (the chosen charity for the night).
The Special Lifetime Achievement Award went to Brian Kidd (who I remember working with at Blackburn Rovers about 100 years ago) for his outstanding career in North West football which was presented to him by Vincent Kompany, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt.
The Unsung Hero was awarded to the late Gordon Lawton of Oldham Athletic Football Club and accepted by his emotional wife, Lorraine.
Special mention should go to our table’s true champion, North West Tonight’s Beccy Barr, who used stealth – and some fancy footwork – to win the ‘first to the bar’ award. In between courses, I also grabbed the chance to chat with one of my heroes – the ever charming and very dapper Viv Anderson MBE. Unfortunately, he had to leave early so I couldn’t go back and get my dad a photo. Sorry, Pops.
After the awards, the hard-core – and those not training in the morning – danced till 3am but copy deadlines wouldn’t allow me to have a late night. Laura Wolfe and her team put together a fantastic evening with Walker keeping us to time.
The remaining rewards:
Player of the Year Premier League – David Silva – Manchester City Football Club
Rising Star of the Year – Phil Foden – Manchester City Football Club (also part of the team that won the U17s World Cup last month).
Player of the Year Championship – Ben Pearson – Preston North End Football Club
Player of the Year League One – David Wheater – Bolton Wanderers Football Club
Player of the Year League Two – Sean McConville – Accrington Stanley Football Club
Player of the Year National League – Andy Cook – Tranmere Rovers Football Club
The Fine Bedding Company Women’s Player of the Year – Caroline Weir – Liverpool Ladies
Women’s Rising Star of the Year – Keira Walsh – Manchester City Women’s Football Club
FAN TV Channel of the Year – The Redmen TV
Community Club of the Year Premier League – Burnley Football Club in the Community.
Community Club of the Year All other Leagues – Wigan Athletic Community Trust
Community Initiative of the Year – Bolton Wanderers Community Trust – Positive Chances
Kick It Out Promoting Inclusion – Non-League – Cerebral Palsy United Football Club
Kick It Out Promoting Inclusion – League – Everton Football Club and Everton in the Community – Positively Promoting Equality and Diversity
Best Club Marketing, Sponsorship & Engagement – Everton Football Club – 2017/18 Season Ticket Campaign – One for All/All for One
Business and Professional Services to Football – Stream AMG – Media Platform.
2016/17 Manager of the Year – Gary Bowyer Blackpool Football Club
Fabrice Muamaba Award for Outstanding Service to Football Medicine and Science – Dr Ian Irving
By Michelle Nicholson, Sports Correspondent
For more information about the Leesa North West Football Awards, visit the website.