TONY Mitchell never got his hands on the national FA award he won last year – but the Winsford football coach will be honoured posthumously tonight.

Tears are likely to be shed when the amazing voluntary work of Tony, who died in January, aged 45, is highlighted and he is finally crowned for the 2020 Grassroots Coach of the Year Youth Award win that was announced seven months ago.

Among his many invaluable involvements he made a huge contribution to children’s disability football and has been sorely missed by all who knew him.

Winsford Guardian:

The FA & McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards celebrate the efforts of volunteers across England who go the extra mile to support their communities.

Normally, the winners are presented with their awards at Wembley Stadium, before the Community Shield match.

This was not possible for the class of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic but Tony's efforts and achievements will be recognised at the virtual awards ceremony that will feature football greats Sir Geoff Hurst, Martin Keown, Casey Stoney and England manager Gareth Southgate.

The event will be streamed live for all to watch on the FA's Twitter channel (@FA) from 8pm.

Winsford Guardian:

As well as his long history with Winsford Over 3 Athletic Football Club, three years ago Tony set up the flourishing Winsford Community Disabled Football Group.

That gave children with disabilities and learning difficulties a chance they would otherwise not have had to play football in a fun and inclusive environment.

He served the group as both coach and chairman.

Winsford Guardian:

Tony racked up almost 30 years involvement in grassroots football in Winsford.

He officiated, managed and coached more than 800 players from the age of 15, won countless awards and held various positions.

He led teams at Winsford Youth Centre, Colts, Athletic, United, Diamonds, Over 3, Woodford and Davenham.

Tony had to give up work after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when he was only 37. He also had progressive supranuclear palsy.

Winsford Guardian:

Upon learning he had won the award last August, Tony told the Guardian: “I’m overwhelmed and very proud, but this award is an award I would like to share with everyone, as without their help, support and putting up with me, I wouldn’t have even got a nomination.

“This is a special day for the Winsford community as well as myself and family.”

In announcing Tony’s award, an FA statement read: “Thanks to him, youngsters who are unable to compete in local teams have been given the opportunity to grow and shine in the junior disability team that he created from nothing.

“Without Tony, there would be no team and those kids would miss out on so much."

Local McDonald’s Area Manager Wayne Emery, who is an avid supporter of grassroots football in Cheshire, said: “Tony is a massive loss to the local community but his legacy will always live on.

"His determination to create an inclusive football space where children with disabilities can still love and enjoy the game is truly commendable.

"Although he was taken too soon, what he achieved in his life is remarkable – and grassroots football in Cheshire is in a much better place for him having been a part of it.”

Hundreds of children, parents and football friends left tributes for the 'great gentle giant' when he died.

He will forever be remembered for all he gave to his family, friends, football and the community.