Thousands of England fans will head to Wembley tonight hoping for a memorable game against San Marino, but for Grimsby’s Neil Barber it will certainly be a day he will never forget.
Neil is one of a handful of grassroots football volunteers attending the FA Community Awards, presented by McDonald’s, after he was named winner of the prestigious Volunteer of the Year category in the annual grassroots football awards ceremony.
The 65-year-old has been involved in community football in Lincolnshire for more than 25 years and founded West Marsh Community Centre Junior Football Club in 1999.
He has held several roles at the club during the past 13 years, but has been a constant force behind its growth and success, including being awarded Chartered Standard status.
Neil has helped the club grow from one team to six and has set up a Friday night inclusion session which offers youngsters the opportunity to participate at the club. The session, run in partnership with the local authority and police, encourages young people to keep active and stay off the streets.
Neil dedicates his time to the club undertaking coaching, development, leadership and improving facilities including securing over £80,000 of public funding investment into a brand new 3G Artificial Grass Pitch.
He will collect his award tonight in front of England World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst before watching England’s World Cup qualifier against San Marino.
“The award is recognition for what’s been going on for 12 years, so we’re all delighted with it,” Barber told the Grimsby Telegraph.
“It’s a great achievement, but people also need to remember it’s a team effort. I might be the spearhead of the outfit but there have been a lot of people supporting me to get that.”
This is the third year of the grassroots awards, sponsored by McDonald’s, which recognise coaches, volunteers, clubs and leagues across England who dedicate their time to football in their local community.
Volunteer of the Year is just one of eight categories with awards being presented.
World Cup winner Hurst, now McDonald’s Director of Football and part of the judging panel said: “Neil embodies the spirit of a volunteer.
“His dedication to football in Lincolnshire is rightly recognised with this award, and his efforts with West Marsh are remarkable. I am looking forward to meeting Neil to express my congratulations on his award!”
Congratulations to all of the award winners from everyone at Club Website.
Volunteer of the Year: Neil Barber, West Marsh, Grimsby
Young Volunteer of the Year: Taome Caville, Lancashire
Coach of the Year: Liam Dart, Cornwall
FA Charter Standard Community Club: Carshalton Athletic, Surrey
FA Charter Standard Development Club: Darwen Rangers JFC, Lancashire
FA Charter Standard Club of the Year: Broadmeadow STFC, Devon
FA Charter Standard League of the Year: Timperley and District Junior Football League, Cheshire
Outstanding Contribution to Community Football Award: To be announced