A GRANDMOTHER who has spent 37 years at the heart of a youth football club has been named Essex Football Association’s Volunteer of the Year.

Ann Longman, who has been club secretary for Stanway Villa Football Club since 1982, was presented with the award by England legend Trevor Brooking.

Although she initially took on the role to support husband, Graham, when he took over as a manager of a youth team at the club, Mrs Longman admits she has fallen in love with the family-orientated club.

She said: “My boys, Simon and Tim, played for the club and are still involved and now manage teams here.

“It is lovely to see the children come through and grow up in front of your eyes.

“I am seeing people come through now whose grandfathers I saw play for the club.”

Over her long association with the football club Mrs Longman has handled pretty much all of the administration duties for the team’s many squads.

She now keeps things ticking over for 28 different groups of players, including the club’s first girls’ team.

Mrs Longman said: “I arrange all of the tournaments we hold and the fixtures for the teams. I even help with the refreshments on the Sunday.

“I have done just about everything over the years. I have helped feed the pitches and I used to put the goalposts up before the games.

“Once you get involved in a football club you are either hooked or you can’t get out quick enough.”

The award came as a surprised to Mrs Longman, who had been nominated in secret by several of the team managers at the club.

She said: “Normally if there is anything which needs sorting like this I am the one who does it, so it was a real surprise.”

Despite giving up her weekends for nearly four decades, she has no plans to give up just yet.

Mrs Longman said: “The club has grown from strength to strength since I started.

“Our 50 year anniversary is coming up in 2021, which we are all looking forward to. My youngest grandson is 11 so he still has a while to go yet. I won’t be giving up before he goes.”