Football Trade Directory

Former Arsenal star Martin Keown in Essex spotlight

 Football News 24/  
Former Arsenal and England defender, Martin Keown was a special celebrity guest at Channels Golf Club in Chelmsford on Tuesday 19th July as he helped to recognise and reward some of the grassroots game’s most deserving characters at the 2016 Essex County FA Awards Evening.
Around a hundred people, totalling thousands of hours of dedication to local football, enjoyed a meal and celebrations with mementoes presented for achievements ranging from long service to groundsmanship. “It’s the backbone of English football,” said Match of the Day pundit of his experiences of the game at the lower levels.
“I’ve loved hearing the stories tonight of the hours people are spending and it’s great to see such young people as well being involved in leadership and as coaches. These people are the lifeblood of grassroots football. Without them we’d be nowhere - never mind the professional game. All this stuff creates communities and draws people together. There are friendships forever.”
The ex-Everton star also revealed it was the careful and devoted style of one of his first coaches which guided him in the direction of his eventual success as a centre-back in one of Arsenal’s greatest ever defences, claiming: “I was lucky I had a very good PE teacher and they could see something that was coming through, but they treated me no differently to anyone else. Those teachers were good role models and they still do the same today.”
“In the Sunday league I used to play under a gentle-type manager, not one who was ranting and raving at me but one who was delighted with whatever I did. I was a goalscorer but, as I got older we got to a very important cup final and I was put at the back. I thought it was quite easy as I was very quick, then I was spotted by Arsenal and my journey was made a lot easier after that. There wouldn’t be professionals without that step up from grassroots football.”
During an opening address, Essex County FA Chairman, Wayne Deller, introduced McDonald’s Head of English Football Keown, who plays an active role up and down the country in supporting grassroots. After the guests enjoyed a meal, Essex’s FA Representative, Alec Berry, was the narrator for the evening’s prize-giving.
Martin then handed over the individual FA Community Awards presented by McDonald’s while County FA Director, Lawrence Segal, was responsible for the club awards. New Director Andy Chaplin recognised the Groundsman of the Year, as did Youth Council Chair, Rhys Elmer, with the Football Futures Awards. Council Members Roger Crane and David Emerton gave mementoes to the winners of the Fair Play Awards for 2015/16.
Following on, trophies were allocated for long service of between 20 (Exemplary Service) and 30 (Outstanding Service) years. These were presented by Directors Andy Chaplin, Barry Fitzgerald and David Threadgold, plus Council Member, Chris Singh. Finally, prior to his closing speech, Chairman Deller joined the room in a standing ovation for Thurrock FC’s own Chairman, Tommy South, who received an Award of Merit for 40 years of volunteering.
Wayne told the room: “This is an opportunity for those of us at the Essex County FA to acknowledge and thank some of the many hundreds of volunteers who freely give their time, effort, knowledge and experience to keep football running in our county. I am proud and honoured to be the current chairman of our great association and, on our behalf, I thank all our nominees and winners for their hard work, enthusiasm and skills.”
In the commemorative event programme, Chief Executive, Phil Sammons, commented: “You should be proud of your achievements and I hope you spread the message that volunteering is not only important to the development of football, but also a very rewarding pastime. I encourage you all to champion our awards and support us to ensure Essex’s fantastic football workforce has the opportunity to be recognised.”
After the event, Keown continued: “Every single player you see today played somewhere on a cold, rainy Saturday or Sunday morning on a mudheap of a pitch or an Astroturf and mucked in with everybody else. It’s how you learn and how you develop, so grassroots football is vital for that stepping stone to the top leagues. But I think we have to recognise that it’s far more than that. When you play a game of football you’re learning disciplines and respect.”
“Get out there and jump into the football community - you’ll never look back. People recognise me when I’m around but it’s really gratifying when someone I might have played football with at a young age comes across to tell me what a pain I was when I ran past them! You suddenly see a face within a face and remember. The football family is a massive part of my life - in the core of it with the people who want to play for fun.”


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