Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe awards season: The unsung heroes - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The awards season: The unsung heroes - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The awards season: The unsung heroes

As we head into the business end of the football season, elite players up and down the country will be casting their votes for the PFA awards. Shortly after, follows the football writers’ choice (I’m still waiting to be asked for my vote.) However, where are the awards for the people who help make professional football what is? Here’s a little thought for some of the game’s forgotten men and women.

Researchers: Wow, those TV pundits are clever aren’t they? Every week, they appear on the box, in their perfectly tailored finery and reel off a list of statistics, making the upcoming action seem ominous for fans of a particular side. How do they do it? How do they hold that many amazing statistics in their brains for that many years, with an anecdote or a quick fact for every possible eventuality? Enter the researcher. These people slave away behind computers to uncover the facts, while the presenters and their colleagues focus on their neatly-groomed hair and finely-honed clichés.

Pitch forkers: Where do they get them from? Those kids we see parading around pitches at half time, armed with a piece of gardening equipment, neatly manicuring the playing surface, ready for battle to re-commence for the second 45. It is these heroes that have a quarter-hour race against the clock to have the playing surface in pristine condition, to eradicate that disproving look to the turf, from a player who has just seen his long-range strike to sail harmlessly over the bar for a goal kick.

The sports drink kids: Are they the same people? The referee calls time on a game. The players shake hands, swap shirts and take a walk over to the officials to congratulate them on their fine performance. However, such activity so close to a 90-minute (or more) battle could prove too much for these professionally-trained athletes. The retreat to the sanctity of the dressing rooms may have devastating consequences, they need their refreshments and they need them instantly. Which leads to our latest heroes, who run, tirelessly, to supply the players with bottles of magic juices, to make sure they make it to the showers intact. The players are re-hydrated, the sponsors see their products in a nice on-screen close up and our heroes retreat silently, ready for their next mission.

Extra officials: Joking. They’re useless.

Mascots: “He must be hot in there!” is the common cry from the terraces, as these brave souls don their oversized animal costumes and parade around pitchside (apart from Fred the Red, he’s a real, child-friendly devil.) They entertain the children, they dance, they cuddle managers and often find themselves at the bottom of a bundle in a cruel, but hilarious goal celebration, and what do they get in return? An annual jump race, where they once again find themselves the butt of the joke, receiving little credibility for the vital work they do.

As the high-profile heroes of football appear at the finest hotels, in the most luxurious of garments and receive the plaudits in the most glamorous of events, spare a thought for the true heroes, the most unnoticed and undervalued figures, that help make professional football the success it is. To all of these people: We salute you.

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