After twice being called in front of the Football Association in recent seasons on disciplinary charges before appointing Simon Howarth and his number two Gareth Roberts last term, the Blues chairwoman brought the PFA Fairplay Award home to Shawbridge after the duo couldn’t make The Non-League Paper’s annual awards.
Held this season at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge with the guest list including England C manager Paul Fairclough, the 2017 ceremony saw the Blues honoured as the best behaved club in the top levels of Non-League in England after completing the entire campaign without picking up a single card for dissent, abusive language or violent conduct.
Blyth Spartans hot-shot and EVO-STIK NPL Player of the Year Dan Maguire collected the 2017 Steps 3 & 4 Player of the Year accolade while Jason Lee’s unforgettable goal celebrations for Corby Town with a supporter’s pint saw the Steelmen head home from May's event with the Marathon Bet Non-League Challenge Celebration of the Year award and a cheque for £10,000!
As well as hailing Howarth and Roberts for transforming the club’s sporting ethos and disciplinary record, Barker heaped praise on EVO-STIK NPL rivals Whitby Town, their closest contenders for the award after the Seasiders also posted an unblemished record for the 2016-17 season on dissent, abusive language and violent conduct.
Barker, pictured at Stamford Bridge with the club’s crystal award, said: “It was absolutely fantastic to do this nationally and well done to Whitby Town too who had no dissent cautions either. We could not have dreamt of being in this position 12 months ago but I am a bit disappointed that it was me collecting the award.
"It isn’t something the club has done other than appointing a new manager so the credit should be Simon and Gareth’s. When the board appointed Simon and Gareth it was emphasied that we wanted to improve our fair play and it’s never been an issue for them. Everybody had bought into it which puts us where we are today and I’m so proud.
“We did offer them the chances to come but they already had things they had to do and I hope they are there next year. I want to us to be ‘Team of the Year’, ‘Manager of the Year’ or the ‘Cup Run of the Year’ winners, that would be fantastic!"
Barker, who was accompanied to May’s awards in the Hollins Suite at the home of the newly crowned Premier League champions by Clitheroe’s finance director Andrew Jackson, is vowing to remain a realist when it comes to giving supporters what they want despite winning national acclaim for their sportsmanship.
“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that people pay their money to come on to the ground to watch a football match," insisted Barker. "They are not that interested in whether their team behaved or not. From a chairman’s perspective, it is easy when it is going well and it has made it an easy season but the footballing side from a supporter’s point of view is much more important. Our man in the street is only interested in where we finish in the league table which, incidentally, was quite good as well."
She added: “I do think our fans are proud though and our attendances are up. I think there are a number of reasons for that. It has been pointed out to us that our home is a nice place to go where people aren’t swearing all the time. People can bring their children and it is a much more relaxed atmosphere, so from that point of view it is another big bonus.”
Images courtesy of Andrew Jackson/Clitheroe FC
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