Two Teessiders were recognised for their contribution to North East football during a star-studded annual dinner.
Boro’s head of recruitment operations, Adrian Bevington, was presented with the Bob Cass Award for outstanding contribution to North East football at the NE Football Writers’ Association annual bash at Ramside Hall.
And former Boro press officer Louise Wanless, now head of communications and marketing at Sunderland AFC, also had her achievements recognised.
The Bob Cass Award and the John Fotheringham Award are two prestigious honours presented every year at the annual black-tie event.
The two well-known football journalists were among the small band of writers who formed the NEFWA 39 years ago.
Middlesbrough-based ‘Fothers’ worked for The Weekly News prior to his premature death in the ’80s and his memory lives on through his award which is for an outstanding contribution to North East football.
Previous winners have come at all levels of the game, and included backroom staff at all of the major clubs, as well as leading grassroots figures.
There are also well known Boro figures among its recipients such as David Mills, David Parnaby, Steve Gibson, Willie Maddren, Jack Charlton, John Pickering, Stan Anderson and veteran journalist Ray Robertson.
NEFWA secretary Colin Young explained: “It is also a tradition of the award that the winner is kept in the dark and this year former Sunderland captain Kevin Ball was in on the secret.
“Louise had brought Bally along to the dinner as she had been convinced he would be the recipient.
“In the end, it was the Sunderland legend who presented the award on behalf of the NEFWA.”
Louise, now the longest-serving press officer at the leading three clubs, has worked tirelessly in the background at Middlesbrough and Sunderland for more than 20 years and her nomination for the Fotheringham Award was unanimously supported by the region’s football writers.
Boro-born Louise told Tees Life: “The award came as a complete shock and I am truly humbled by it.
“I began my career in football with MFC 22 years ago, working under then head of communications Dave Allan, and I received a fantastic education in how the industry worked and best practice.
“I still rely today on many of those skills taught to me by Dave, and I remain so grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to embark on what has been an amazing career.”
Bob Cass was another well-respected football writer who sadly passed away three years ago after a lengthy battle against cancer.
‘Cassy’ was a leading figure in the game, and one of the shining lights of the NEFWA’s annual do, and his memory also lives on in an award for outstanding contribution to the region’s football.
Previous winners are John Adamson, owner of the Ramside Hall Hotel, and George Caulkin, The Times’ writer who ran 10 marathons last year to raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
Adrian, who worked with Bob at Middlesbrough and with the Football Association, was chosen by the Cass family, and his award was presented by former national FWA chairman Steve Bates.
Lifelong Boro fan Adrian, who rejoined the club in May 2018 having worked in the club’s communications team in the early stages of his career in the mid-1990s, spent 10 years as the Football Association’s director of communications and four as managing director of Team England.
During this time, he helped to bring several full international England games to the North East including a World Cup qualifier against Slovakia in 2003 and a Team GB versus Brazil match prior to the 2012 Olympics, both played at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.
“It means a huge amount to receive the Bob Cass Award from the North East Football Writers Association,” Adrian told us. “Bob was a great friend and a legend within the football industry.
“To be recognised by the writers and Bob’s family is a real honour.”
Elsewhere on the night, former Newcastle United and England striker Alan Shearer was honoured for his many achievements away from the football pitch with the North East Personality of the Year trophy, a special award given in association with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
Other recipients of NEFWA awards included Men’s Player of the Year (Martin Dubravka), Young Player of the Year (Josh Maja) and Womens’ Player of the Year (Beth Hepple), while presentations were made to Stockton Town FC, South Shields FC and Marske United in recognition of their successes last season.
Former Daily Mail hack Young added: “This is always a special night, bringing together the region’s football family and celebrating the best of the game.
“The focus is often on the Player of the Year awards and we were proud to honour both Martin Dubravka and Beth Hepple.
“However, it’s also very important that we recognise the significant contributions made by dedicated individuals within the game and the wider community, and we were grateful to have the opportunity to do that on Sunday night.”