Earls Barton stalwart Tony claims national award

Sir Geoff Hurst and Karl Standley present the Grounds Team of the Year award to Tony Sanders. Picture courtesy of Robyn Leonie for The FA
Sir Geoff Hurst and Karl Standley present the Grounds Team of the Year award to Tony Sanders. Picture courtesy of Robyn Leonie for The FA

Earls Barton United stalwart Tony Sanders has picked up a prestigious national award.

Sanders attended the 2019 FA & McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards national ceremony at Wembley Stadium to collect his award after being named winner of the prestigious Grounds Team of the Year award.

The FA & McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards recognise and celebrate the tireless volunteers who dedicate so much time to the grassroots game. The awards are now in their 10th year and Sanders joins a long list of inspirational grassroots football heroes who marched down Wembley way to collect their coveted awards.

Now in his 70s, Sanders has become a pillar of the Earls Barton United community. He is responsible for some of the best prepared pitches at this level of the game, covering two grounds located a mile apart. He supports every one of the club’s teams and approaches each job with the same diligence and modesty.

But preparing the pitch only covers a fraction of his impact. From cleaning the changing rooms and putting up and taking down nets, to setting corner flags and welcoming referees or stepping in as a linesman, Sanders is the rock on which community clubs like his are built. Impressed judges had no hesitation in selecting him for Grounds Team of the Year 2019.

He accepted his award from football legend Sir Geoff Hurst ahead of The FA Community Shield, which saw Premier League and Emirates FA Cup champions Manchester City defeat Champions League winners Liverpool.

During the half time break, Tony joined World Cup hat-trick hero Sir Geoff Hurst on the pitch in front of 77,000 fans.

“I have been involved with the Grassroots Awards since the beginning and the stories of the winners never fail to impress me,"England legend Hurst said.

"Tony should be extremely proud of his work and grassroots football in Northampton is a much better place with Tony a part of it.

“The English game is in a very good place at the moment with the Three Lions boasting a number of young and talented players, while the Lionesses have enjoyed a superb World Cup in France.

"Our national teams simply wouldn’t be in this place without the hard work of our grassroots volunteers – every player has to start somewhere. It was a pleasure to meet Tony and I hope he continues his extraordinary commitment to football for many years to come.”

Local McDonald’s franchisee Perry Akhtar, who is an avid supporter of grassroots football in Northamptonshire, said: “It’s an honour to recognise the work of people like Tony within the grassroots football community in Northamptonshire.

"His commitment to keeping Earls Barton United a well-run club is one of the reasons the grassroots community thrives, and I hope he is thrilled with this achievement. I’ve been supporting grassroots football in Northamptonshire for 13 years, and Tony’s story really highlights the difference the volunteers make in the local community.”

Having worked with The FA over the past 17 years, McDonald’s is the longest-standing supporter of grassroots football in the UK. Through this partnership, McDonald’s continues to champion the tireless volunteers who dedicate countless hours to provide enjoyable football to children and young adults regardless of age, gender or disability.

In addition to championing volunteers, McDonald’s has committed to providing over 5 million hours of fun football to 5-11 year olds and giving 500,000 children the chance to play football for the first time by 2022 through Fun Football Centres and other initiatives across the UK.

For further information on how to get involved in McDonald’s Fun Football initiative visit www.mcdonalds.co.uk/funfootball

To find out more about all of the 2019 FA and McDonald’s Grassroots Football Award winners, visit http://www.thefa.com/get-involved/grassroots-football-awards/winners