OUR chairman Mark Grazier has spoken of his pride at being honoured in a prestigious award for his tireless work in promoting walking football.

Mark was short-listed in the Mayor of Dudley’s Civic Awards 2017 which celebrate voluntary heroes across the community.

He was in contention for the Duncan Edwards Award for Sport which pays tribute to ‘those who give their time to working behind the scenes in our local sporting clubs and groups’.

The award category is named in memory of Dudley-born Duncan Edwards, the legendary star of Manchester United and England, who died at the age of 21 in the Munich air disaster in 1958.

Mark was named Runner Up at the glittering Mayor’s Ball and Civic Awards at The Copthorne Hotel, Merry Hill, on Friday, March 24.

He was pipped to the top spot by Andy Poutney, chairman of Stourbridge FC, for his work in steering the club on a great run in the FA Cup.

Mark, who is also our club’s general manager, told this website: “I was absolutely delighted to finish as Runner Up in these fantastic awards.

“I can understand why Andy won the title; it was highly deserved.

“But I am extremely proud to have finished in second place and to have been honoured in this way – both personally and on behalf of the club which we all love.

“It was a great evening – attended by 250 guests – and I went up on stage to receive a certificate and a handcrafted glass trophy from the Mayor of Dudley, Councillor Mohammed Hanif.

“While I was in the spotlight on stage, I couldn’t have built the club into what is it today without the support and hard work of the committee and many other members – so it is truly an award for the whole club, not just me.

“All I ever wanted to do was to let older guys re-live their glory, glory days on the football pitch; it was never a matter of personal pride.

“I am absolutely delighted that Hartshill Strollers has grown from such humble origins to become one of the leading walking football clubs in the country.

“This would have been impossible without the fantastic support I have received from members all along the way.”

Mark single-handedly launched Hartshill Strollers at the Dell Stadium, Pensnett, in August 2014.

It was an unpromising start as just four players turned up for the first training session.

But – since then – the club has grown to be one of the leading and most respected walking football clubs in the West Midlands, and beyond.

We now have 50 members – with an active waiting list.

Last November, our club’s Over 60s team won the Walking Football United (WFU) National Tournament – walking football’s equivalent of the FA Cup - at Cirencester, Gloucestershire.

So – in just over two years – Hartshill Strollers has risen from nothing to beating the best in the country, picking up many other tournament wins along the way.

In nominating Mark for the Mayor’s Civic Awards, club vice chairman and assistant manager Bob Haywood told the judging panel: “None of our success would have been possible without the unremittingly drive, abundant enthusiasm, unswerving hard work and endless good humour of Mark Grazier.

“He has given men in the later years of their lives a new pride and confidence in themselves and their abilities. He has also instilled an amazing camaraderie among the players, the vast majority of whom were complete strangers to each other before joining the club.

“Mark has also been a standard bearer for walking football regionally and nationally and has helped other clubs to get started.

“At Hartshill Strollers, he has turned poor players into good players and good players into highly skilled players.

“Many club members just want some gentle regular exercise; others are still fuelled by a fierce competitive streak.

“But Mark – the beating heart of the club he created entirely on his own – treats them all equally. He is a truly remarkable man.”