A RETIRED bank official who worked tirelessly to save a penniless football club has been named this year's Ebac Northern League Unsung Hero.

Alan Hamilton, 62, was formerly the regional manager of a large banking group but it was his hard work rather than hard cash that kept Darlington RA FC afloat.

Mr Hamilton joined the club as secretary two years ago and since then has undertaken virtually every job possible to keep the outfit running.

From groundkeeping to cleaning and providing away day transport, Mr Hamilton’s efforts earned him top recognition from the league’s Unsung Heroes panel.

Team manager Nick Harrison paid tribute to his commitment and said: “There’s little doubt that, but for Alan, we wouldn’t be here at all.

“His dedication is unbelievable.

“In his last job he had hundreds of staff.

“Now he seems to do just about everything himself and definitely isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.”

A modest Mr Hamilton said he was “chuffed” to win the award, but said his efforts were mirrored by others across the league.

He said: “There is plenty to do and it keeps me off the streets, but I don’t see myself as being anyone special.

“You know there are dozens of people in clubs like ours who put in the time because they have to, just to keep the whole thing running.”

Another Darlington-based winner was retired policeman Harvey Harris.

He received a special presentation for his success in organising a series of events that attracted football followers to the North-East from across the country.

League chairman Mike Amos, who himself scooped an award for outstanding service to the league, praised Mr Harris’s work.

He said: “His meticulous organization, professionalism, good humour and integrity were all simply outstanding.”

Other winners included Guisborough Town’s prolific striker Danny Johnson who was named

Young Player of the Year and BBC Newcastle Player of the Year.

Guisborough’s Chris Hardy was named Manager of the Year after leading his side to a fourth place finish in the league and victory over Middlesbrough Reserves in the North Riding Senior Cup final.

North Shields centre forward Gareth Bainbridge was named the league’s Player of the Year after hitting 47 goals, and Sunderland-based referee Kevin McKitterick took the Silver Whistle award.

The awards were sponsored by Ebac, the Newton Aycliffe based dehumidifier and water cooler manufacturer, and its chairman John Elliott said: “The great thing about these awards is that they’re open to all, not just the clubs with best players and the most money.”