The Football League Awards and Fried Egg Sandwiches
Having somewhat nervously accepted an invitation to Sunday Night’s Football League Awards, my tension was only heightened as I negotiated a cabal of smartly turned out livery men to enter into the Xanadu like surrounds of mega-venue The Brewery, at the heart of the City of London, a few paces south of hip Whitecross Street.
Nervous not only due to the fact that I had forgotten my tie and every man jack in the room seemed to be sporting one, even the females; nervous not only because the highest point of the pyramid I have ever performed at is the East Berks League First Division; nervous not only because the amount of hits we receive on this blog once resulted in a silence of superhuman awkwardness during a discussion with a national newspaper journalist.
No — my chief anxiety was due to my embarrassment at the thought of being stationed on a ‘table of death’ alongside one of those Football League personages whom we at TTU like to occasionally have a pop at — an overexcited Italian with questionable political beliefs, a mardy Yorkshire based manager whose residence is the South West of England and a troop of new towners from just north of Bletchley. Phil Brown, however, I could have handled — even if I would have spent all night blaming my fellow bloggers for the odd negative article — ‘it wasn’t me Phil…honest’
So, this had the potential to NOT be the best trip I have ever been on — but, a quick perusal of the table list and an audience of 630 allowed me to believe I could hide well enough. Indeed, relief came when I realised I was to be sit on a table of journos — although the only name I recognised, the BBC’s Paul Fletcher, was on the second of these.
Imagine, my horror, however, when, surveying the floor plan, I noted that the adjacent table 33 was given over to the staff and personnel of Milton Keynes Dons Football Club and would involve the presence of Karl Robinson and Mick Harford — a man for whom the phrase ‘hard as nails’ never quite seemed to do him justice.
Settling down to a lengthy dinner, the mood around me was upbeat even if the fellow occupants of my table were mainly concerned with the stories that could be run. I was near to Tony Leighton of The Guardian and Roger Clarke of Sky Sports News — both very affable gents, with the latter in particular in constant contact with his mobile and those fabled ‘Sky Sports Sources’.
The flabbergasting news about Paul Sturrock’s departure from Southend United was discussed and the even more bewildering decision to allow that lover of fried egg sandwiches to lead his team out for one more game at the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy in a fortnight’s time picked over. Had Phil Brown been there, I could well have asked him how he felt about this of course.
Nor would the ex-Dundee United hero have been impressed with the food. For my part, however, I was spellbound, enjoying a rare occasion to chow down Heston Blumenthal style while hearing myself murmur in the style of fellow baldie Gregg Wallace, ‘this get’s better and better and better’ — celery sorbet anyone?
The awards themselves were perfunctory but heartening — that the vast majority go to behind the scenes folks, community club of the year, family club of the year etc., rather than pampered stars is exactly how it should be of course and indeed, the whole occasion seems mainly designed as a reward for those club officials who beaver away for little money in the background.
Hence, true celeb presence is smaller than one might think and one finds oneself in a room of folks akin to those who take up the county association seats at the FA Cup Final. That said, I was far too vulgar not to go celebrity spotting and the likes of Phil Parkinson, Matt Ritchie and the aforementioned Dons duo were sat very near to me. LOOK AT ME!
Pauls Elliott and Ince, an unsurprisingly jovial looking Gianfranco Zola and a cheery Helen Chamberlain were also present, even if the latter’s appearance made me wonder if a new series of ‘I Love the 1990s’ was in the offing. Thankfully, her egregious partner in crime Tim Lovejoy was nowhere to be seen.
The final word fell to England goalkeeper of yore and a man whose troubled post-playing career recently took yet another turn for the worse. Hence, Peter Shilton looked a bit bashful as he ascended the stage to collect a lifetime achievement award from Manish Bhasin — no matter though, as I scurried back into an icy cold London night, I had escaped unembarrassed and back to my non-football related day job without feeling too out of place.