THE long-serving coach of a village football team has admitted being stunned after winning a coveted Essex award.

Keith Berriman, who has run the Tolleshunt Knights Eagles team since 1994/1995, won the ‘Grassroots Coach of the Year for Adults' category.

The awards for Essex were organised by the Essex County Football Association, on behalf of the FA, and sponsored by McDonald’s.

Mr Berriman said: "I was shocked to find out I'd won and can't really understand why, when there are so many other grassroots coaches in Essex.

"However, I'm very pleased and it was great that all my players congratulated me as soon as they found out."

Mr Berriman, 69, has a long and proud history with the Eagles.

He started coaching at the club when his son was in the under-eights.

That was in the 1994/1995 season and he stayed with the team for all their subsequent youth years, when they played in the Blackwater and Dengie Youth League.

The side used to play on the Tolleshunt Knights Parish Council pitch.

They then progressed to become an adult team and started playing at Tiptree Sports Centre.

At the same time, they joined the Braintree and North Essex Sunday League, where they now remain. Many players stayed with the team until they were in their mid-20s.

They have a few players who have been with the club for more than ten years.

"I still hold a level two FA coaching qualification and have been a member of the FA Licensed Coaches Club, and its predecessor, since 1999," added Mr Berriman.

"I still enjoy coaching and, these days, tend to share the role with a couple of my players.

"We have a really great bunch of lads who thoroughly enjoy playing together for the Eagles.

"They've been hit hard by the effects of the virus on their football.

"We managed to get through to a cup final and another cup semi-final last season, before all the matches were cancelled. The lads were obviously upset by that."

Mr Berriman is also club secretary and has been sponsor since 1995.

Last year he was rewarded for his long service when the team arranged a surprise 25 years testimonial, where the current Eagles team played a team made up of previous Eagles players.

"It was an excellent day and I was even allowed to score," he added.