Claridge treasures latest accolade

Steve Claridge, second right, with his outstanding contribution to sport award, along with runner-up Colin Rees, second left, St Vincent College principal Di Lloyd and Sports Awards presenter Fred Dinenage, right

Steve Claridge, second right, with his outstanding contribution to sport award, along with runner-up Colin Rees, second left, St Vincent College principal Di Lloyd and Sports Awards presenter Fred Dinenage, right

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Steve Claridge has enjoyed the remarkable highs of scoring winning goals in both a play-off final and a league cup final at Wembley.

He score bucket loads of goals for his hometown club and played on most of English football’s grandest venues.

But the recipient of the outstanding contribution to sport for 2012 admits his latest accolade will hold a particularly special place in his trophy cabinet.

The former Pompey striker said: ‘It was absolutely fantastic.

‘It’s nice that people have taken the time to vote for me and it’s great to get that recognition that I have worked hard in my career and that I stayed in the game for as long as I have.

‘But massive thanks to everyone who bothered to vote for me.

‘I’ve won player of the year at just about every club I have been at.

‘But when you’ve finished playing and people still remember what you did – that’s really special.

‘It brings it home that you are appreciated and remembered.

‘It’s lovely when you have been at a club and know you have made an impression there.’

Claridge finished his glittering career with a stint at Gosport Borough last season at the tender age of 46.

But he showed he had lost none of his quality as he fired Borough to promotion in their play-off decider at Poole Town.

He said: ‘It was brilliant to finish like that.

‘It doesn’t matter what level it is and when you play at the top level or the bottom level, you realise that everybody has a certain amount of commitment to it.

‘Everybody gives up a proportion of their lives for football.

‘Those players, coaches and backroom staff at Gosport give up an awful lot of their time and put in a huge effort for their rewards.

‘I take my hat off to all of them.’

While Claridge is still fondly remembered for his time at Fratton Park – including the now famous 1-0 win over Stockport – he refused to write off yet another playing comeback.

He smiled: ‘Before I come back, I’m going to enjoy my retirement!

‘But looking back, hopefully, I didn’t short-change too many people and the feeling of that being recognised is about as good as it gets.

‘People come up and talk to you about certain games from years ago that they remember.

‘And Pompey fans are always coming up to me and talking about that Stockport game.’

Runner-up in the outstanding contribution category was highly-respected local swimming coach Colin Rees, who has been passing on his knowledge to youngsters for more than 40 years.

Although he is now battling a serious illness that means he is unable to continue his work at the pool, the popular former Fareham Nomads coach courageously attended the ceremony to pick up a richly-deserved award to recognise his efforts.

Rees said: ‘Although I can’t coach any more, this award means a lot to me.

‘It’s been so enjoyable and rewarding to coach so many talented swimmers down the years.’

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