Just days before the World Cup kicked-off in South Africa, England's 1996 World Cup winning legends Gordon Banks and Roger Hunt were in Milton Keynes to present awards to the winners of The Football League Trust's 'Every Player Counts' project.
Players from clubs across the country were shortlisted for the Player of the Year award for their respective regions. The winners were not only chosen for prowess on the football pitch but also for their volunteering and dedication to their clubs.
Every Player Counts is a leading initiative of The Football League Trust which receives vital funding from its partner The New Football Pools. As a pan-disability scheme, it provides sporting opportunities for those with disabilities across England and Wales.
Jon Sheehy, Marketing Director at The New Football Pools said: "The winners of these awards are inspiring. This programme really demonstrates the power of football and how sport can provide a real driving force for change.
"This stems from our core heritage as a football business committed to supporting local and national initiatives within the clubs' communities. Creating opportunities and pathways for players of all abilities is a central theme of the Every Player Counts scheme and we hope recognition through these awards will add to the individual's motivation and success."
Speaking on the Every Player Counts initiative Dave Edmundson, General Manager of The Football League Trust, said: "To celebrate this success the New Football Pools have provided trophies to recognise Regional players of the year, overall player of the year and Unsung Hero. These awards form a key element of providing new sporting challenges and involvement by Football League community schemes for over 10,000 people with disabilities."
The winners are as follows:
National Unsung Hero 2010
Mustafa El-Bayati, 38, has been involved with Northampton Town Multi-Disabled club for 20 years. Although being in a wheelchair he doesn't let it stop him from helping children and adults with disabilities get involved with football. Mustafa and his family have raised a substantial amount of money over the years through sponsored walks, raffles and curry nights. His dedication to the club sees him attend all home and away games as well as attending training and festivals throughout the year. Mustafa is an excellent communicator who loves coaching children and adults while also mixing with parents and fans at the club.
Regional Winner of Player of the Year for the North West
Ian Watson, 51, plays for a mental health team at Crewe Alexandra, his involvement spans nine years, his achievements include building his own full time business and has improved his game on the pitch. Throughout his time at the club he has found time to help and encourage other team members thus becoming a much valued team member of his team. Despite running a successful painting and decorating business he has still made time to play football on a Tuesday and travel to play in matches in Lancashire and Manchester.
Regional Winner of Player of the Year for Yorkshire & North East
Francis Linskull, 34, found his way into his team through the Leeds Mental Health Service which supports service users to partake in physical activities in the local community. Francis' achievements include working towards a Level 1 Coaching Certificate and appeared as an extra in 'The Dammed United'. Francis is an exceptional goalkeeper, who in his youth played at the Leeds United School of Excellence against a number of now renowned international icons including Robbie Fowler, David Beckham and Paul Scholes. Francis is very supportive of the younger players in the team and while he encounters many personal challenges he always retains a strong, positive and polite regard for others.
Regional Winner of Player of the Year for the Midlands
Ben Clark-Monks, 17, has been at Leicester City Woodgate Inclusive (Disability) Football Club for three years. As the Captain of his team he has become a good leader always encouraging other players. This has helped Ben to overcome his own disabilities which include Dyspraxia and Development and Learning Delay. Despite being told to 'find another sport to play' he remained undeterred becoming more resilient and determined to succeed in the sport he loves. As a result of his hard work Ben was selected for the Centre of Excellence at Leicester City. The EPC funding has given Ben the opportunity to both play and achieve qualifications in football, therefore boosting his confidence, self esteem and overall football and life skills.
Regional Winner of Player of the Year for London & South East
Spencer Radley-Martin, 16, joined Brighton & Hove Albion's Seagulls Specials, a football club for disabled children and adults 11 years ago. His commitment and dedication to his club is first class and it was for this reason that the decision to nominate Spencer for the award was unanimous among both the staff and volunteers in the 'Making a Difference' project. Spencer's achievements include being part of the Duke of Edinburgh Mentoring Scheme 7 working toward his gold award, giving hundreds of volunteering hours to help the junior section of the club, completion of a referee's course and volunteering on match days.
Regional Winner of Player of the Year for the South West
Lance Corporal Craig Lundberg, 24, was left seriously wounded and blind in Iraq, he also sustained considerable damage to his left arm and suffered serious burns. Craig's injuries present him with a challenge every day and his attitude and courage is first class showing an unbelievable desire to train during his extremely busy life. He is an ambassador for Help for Heroes and takes part in many interviews to raise awareness for blind football and maintains a very high level of fitness which is credit to his commitment. Craig is always motivating his team-mates at Hereford United and Also finds time to visit soldiers that have been injured in war.