A COACH from Ellesmere Port has been officially recognised by the Football Association for his outstanding contribution to the development of the game at grassroots level.
Princes Villa FC's assistant manager Karl Jones, of Woodend Road, is one of only 11 in England to be honoured with the FA's prestigious Volunteer Workforce Awards.
Karl was presented with his prize during the half-time interval of the FA Community Shield clash between Chelsea and Arsenal at the Millennium Stadium.
He received the honour from the FA's head of football development Sir Trevor Brooking and 1966 World Cup-winning hero Sir Geoff Hurst.
He said: 'When I received the letter from the FA, I have to say it was a bit of shock, but I'm delighted and really proud to have been given this award.
'The kids' game is really developing now and moving in the right direction as it's a lot more organised. I love coaching and after nearly a decade at Princes Villa, I'm looking to keep going on for a lot more years yet.
'To be given VIP status at the match was brilliant and it's great to see people like Trevor Brooking and Geoff Hurst who I've now met three times. Andrew Miller MP also sent me a letter of congratulations, which is wonderful.'
Karl was the driving force behind Princes Villa achieving the FA's Charter Standard Development Club status and is also assistant secretary, community officer and manager of the U15s side.
He is fixtures secretary of Ellesmere Port's Mini Soccer League and his passion for developing football in the town is evident by the annual coaching sessions he organises for youngsters in the area in conjunction with the borough council.
FA chairman Geoff Thompson said: 'Football in this country is only possible because of people like Karl who give their time freely and voluntarily to keep the game going.
'Volunteers are the backbone of the game and deserve every accolade that we can possibly give. Without them we wouldn't have football. I say to every volunteer 'grateful thanks' and don't think you're the forgotten army, because you're not.'
Karl was nominated for the award by the Cheshire County FA whose county development manager John Ackerley said: He thoroughly deserves his award as he works tirelessly to ensure that grassroots football flourishes in his local community.'