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Knowle West volunteer finalist in BBC Sports Personality Unsung Hero awards

Main image: Mike Alden and his wife Linda at The Park receiving his finalist award with members of The Park Knowle football teams (and below) Mike and Linda with the award in The Park sports hall.

Pictures Sian Ellis-Thomas.

Local volunteer Mike Alden who has been tirelessly running The Park Knowle Football Club for ten years has just been named as one of the finalists for the BBC Sports Personality Unsung Hero awards.

The award is given to celebrate the best volunteers in sport whose work is making a real difference in communities across the UK.

Mike (56), who has lived in Knowle West all his life, has made it to the national shortlist of eight – with the winner announced live at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2022 ceremony on December 21 – which he and his wife Linda will be attending.

It was in 2011 that Mike was approached by The Park Centre in Daventry Road to start a football club there for local kids – as he was already running a club in the community.

He says his aim was “to give the children of Knowle something positive to do, to get them off the streets and interested in sport.”

In 2012, with the help of The Park and a grant of £3,500 from SportedThe Park Knowle Football Club was born.

Today the Centre has a cabinet which proudly boasts 27 trophies – but the real achievement is that The Park Knowle FC now has 11 teams that play regularly – and is open to everyone.

As far as Mike is concerned: “Nobody gets turned away. If you want to join the club, you get to play.”

Members of The Park Knowle FC girls’ team and (below) one of the boys’ teams who are all rooting for Mike to win.

There are four boys’ teams, two girls’ teams and a veterans’ team as well as five disability teams – with an estimated 250 children and young people coming through the club. Many of these have gone on to become team managers themselves.

Members of one of the disability teams at The Park.

The club only manages to survive because Mike, Linda and his entire family run it as volunteers, dedicating over 100 hours of their time each week.

Every penny raised from player subs, the clubhouse café and small local grants, goes back into running the club.

And all this despite Mike having brittle bone disease and being registered disabled – using a mobility scooter to get around.

Diagnosed at age four – he never let it stop his dream of playing football – from age eight and into adulthood, winning trophies along the way. He has lost count of the number of bones he has broken but at 35, a bad ankle break ended his career.

Since then, Mike has put all his energy into inspiring local children, young people and adults – helping them to gain confidence through the sport.

He was nominated for the award by Friends of Redcatch Park (FoRP) where his teams often play, who were struck by his dedication – and how the club was making such a difference in the area.

Sian Ellis-Thomas from FoRP says: “We are so incredibly proud of Mike and what he does in our community, and we felt it was about time he got some recognition for the amazing work he does here. It’s not just football, it’s much more important than that. What he does changes lives.”

Director of The Park Centre, Emma Hinton, says: “The Park is so proud of Mike for being nominated. He works tirelessly for the football club and the recognition for this is richly deserved.  We are all rooting for him and hope he has a fantastic time at the ceremony.”

Residents across Knowle West and Bristol will be wishing Mike luck at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2022 awards ceremony – which takes place on Wednesday December 21 from 6.45-9pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. The event will be live from BBC’s Media City UK in Salford presented by Gary Lineker, Clare Balding, Gabby Logan and Alex Scott.