“And the Winner is… Mike Alden”

By Sian Ellis-Thomas, Friends of Redcatch Park

The BBC Sports Unsung Hero Award is given annually as part of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony. The award is given to the sports person who has made a substantive yet unrecognised contribution to sport in the community.

Mike, who suffers from brittle bone disease and is registered disabled has run the Park Football Club for ten years, was nominated for the award in October by the Friends of Redcatch Park. He now runs 10 teams, including two girl’s teams and five disability teams.

Lesley Powell, from the Friends of Redcatch Park, said: “As soon as we saw the criteria to qualify for this award, it was a no-brainer for us to nominate Mike. He doesn’t seek the limelight at all, he’s so humble. He just quietly goes about making a difference. But we were determined to get him some proper recognition and so this win is just wonderful.”

It wasn’t long to wait to find out that he’d been selected as one of only eight finalists. After qualifying, the BBC sent out a film crew to record Mike in action at football practice at The Park Centre, on the pitch at Redcatch Park and to get soundbites from his supporters. At the end of almost a full day recording, the crew presented him with a Finalists Award. But that was just the start of this journey.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement for this most humble of men, Mike and his wife Linda were then treated to an all-expenses paid overnight trip to the BBC studios in Manchester to take part in the live recording of the final on 21 December.

On the night, while Mike was hobnobbing and getting selfies backstage with Torvill and Dean, 160 miles away, back in Bristol, almost 50 family and friends gathered at The Park Centre to watch a live screening of the BBC ceremony. There was much eager anticipation as they sat patiently through half the show, waiting for Mike to appear on screen and see if he’d won.

All the eight finalists were invited up onto the stage and as Gary Lineker introduced the Unsung Hero Award, the camera panned across to see them all, and there was Mike, on his mobility scooter. Olympians Jonnie Peacock and Denise Lewis were welcomed onto the stage to open the envelope and announce the winner.

At the Park Centre, Sian was poised with her camera to capture the moment of the announcement. Just in case! She says: “It’s a moment I’ll remember forever. When Jonnie Peacock opened the envelope and said Mike’s name, the whole room erupted. Everyone was screaming and crying and jumping up and down. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was immense. I’m so glad we were all there to share his moment. It was truly magical”.

No matter how surprised Mike was to win, there’s no doubt that he is a worthy recipient of this award for his sterling work. His story is one of resilience, dedication, and determination and The Park FC is a truly great example of community volunteering at its best. It’s been bringing purpose and changing lives for over a decade and the community is lucky to have Mike and his entire family dedicating their time and energy to such a successful and vital community asset. He’s an inspiration to us all.

But now the fanfare is over what’s next for Mike and his beloved club? He says: “My hope for the club is that it just continues and grows. My whole family help with the running of the club and I couldn’t do it without them. We’re now busy trying to raise some funds to set up new changing facilities in Redcatch Park for the disability and girl’s teams, which will allow us to invite away teams and play more matches. I’d like my legacy to be a club that runs successfully for generations to come”.

So it looks like the Unsung Hero award joins the shelf with the other 27 football trophies and the work goes on for Mike. If you’d like to more about Park Football Club, please email: mikealden45@hotmail.co.uk