Thurston and Stowupland Falcons were among the winners at the glitzy Suffolk FA Awards Night.
Nearly 200 guests gathered at Trinity Park on the outskirts of Ipswich last Friday for the annual end-of-season event sponsored by McDonald’s, Ransomes Jacobsen and The KBB Centre.
During the course of the evening, various awards were made, including The FA Community Awards presented by McDonald’s, a referee long-service award, groundsmen of the year awards and Suffolk FA Representative Team Player of the Year awards.
Thurston won the FA Charter Standard Club of the Year while Stowupland Falcons were awarded the FA Charter Standard Development Club of the Year, for the second year in succession.
Bury Town’s Ryan Yallop, who was last season’s captain, won the Suffolk FA Under-18 Representative Team Player of the Year award.
And a special merit award was presented to former Suffolk FA Football Development Manager Nathan French, in recognition of his services to Suffolk football.
French, who has just stood down as chairman of the Suffolk FA WAYS League, also collected the league’s award for the FA Charter Standard League of the Year.
The guest speaker for the evening was ex-Liverpool and Republic of Ireland defender Mark Lawrenson, now a highly respected pundit, who also took part in a Q&A session.
Lawrenson talked about playing in the great Liverpool side which dominated the domestic scene as well as enjoying considerable success in Europe during the 1980s.
The guests of honour were Shaun Whiter and Joey Abbs, the two local footballers severely injured in a hit-and-run accident in Newmarket last July.
They spoke about the support they have since received from the football community.
They talked about how Shaun has learnt to walk again with the help of prosthetic legs and how Joey has recovered sufficiently to take part in pre-season training with Fulbourn Institute FC.
A total of £1,000 was raised for Shaun and Joey through a game of Heads and Tails — for the chance to win match tickets and corporate hospitality for the England versus Slovakia World Cup Qualifier at Wembley on September 4, courtesy of The FA.
The evening also saw guests enter a draw for the chance to win executive suite hospitality for ten people at a Colchester United home league game next season.
Former local amateur footballer Russell Langham, who co-compered the evening, entertained the guests with a comedian’s spot before taking part in the Q&A with Lawrenson.
Guests also had the opportunity to play on two casino tables once formalities had concluded.
Suffolk FA marketing and communications officer Nick Garnham, who co-organised the event, said: “The Awards Night was the biggest and best that we have organised yet.
“The event was a great way to bring the curtain down on the football season and also celebrate some of the unsung heroes of grassroots football.”
The eight award winners, alongside three that were highly commended in their respective categories, have all been honoured for their commitment to grassroots football and their achievements over the past year.
Former Ipswich Town footballer Jimmy Bullard was due to present but Lawrenson proved a popular last minute replacement.