HEROES of the thriving grassroots football scene in Erewash were saluted at a Pride Park Stadium ceremony organised by Derbyshire FA where six of them netted coveted awards.
The inspirational winners at Derby County’s ground included secondary school teacher Ryan Parkes, who was named Coach of the Year for his dedication to West Hallam Junior FC.
He began coaching seven-year-olds there when he was just 15. Almost a decade on he continues to mentor lads who are now older than he was at the time.
A tribute to him by judges revealed: “Some of the boys have struggled with anxiety and this coach knows what to say and how to encourage when needed. He goes above and beyond.”
The 2023 Derbyshire Grassroots Football Awards were a triumph for Long Eaton United FC, which was named Club of the Year.
Its under-10s coach Nick Rippon-Smith clinched the Positive Football Environment Award. He also coaches Stanton Girls Under-11s.
The judges said: “Nick sleeps, eats and breathes grassroots football.
“As Nick always said, the cost of living has had an effect on us all and no child should be affected by this stopping them from playing football.
“When it comes to bringing a positive environment to football, Nick has it all.”
Plaudits also went to Ilkeston Town FC’s club secretary Mark Frost – who carried off the Unsung Hero Award – and referee Bob Green, who was named Match Official of the Year.
Bob’s colleague in the Erewash Referee Society Chris Hodson earned a Referee Recognition category award.
Erewash Councillor Claire Marie Poole, who is the borough’s Lead Member for Health and Wellbeing, was among some 150 guests at the awards night. She said:
“Congratulations to all the winners – especially those from Erewash. Boosting sport and fitness across the borough is a key goal of the council.
“These awards are a testament to how football here is flourishing at the grassroots level.”