Salut! Sunderland’s HAWAYs: Watford finish top ahead of Chelsea and Bournemouth

 

The deed is done. Another series of Who are You? interviews with opposing supporters has produced winners. Read on to see who the judges chose, and why ….

 

The judges have spoken. This year’s winners of the HAWAYs – awards for the Highly Articulate Who are You? interviews conducted through each season with fans of Sunderland’s opposing clubs – are announced today.

And in clear top place is Watford-supporting Del Day, followed by Chelsea’s Ray Knight and Bournemouth’s Tom Latchem.

Salut! Sunderland is, as ever, enormously grateful to the prize sponsors – Classic Football Shirts, When Saturday Comeshttps://shop.wsc.co.uk and Art of Football, and the gallery shows appropriate products each offers – and will simply offer Del his choice of the three. Ray gets second choice, leaving Tom with the remaining prize.

If the mood holds until the end of this article, there will be a special award from Salut! Sunderland funds for another deserving contender. But the truth is, as Jake’s caption makes clear, that the strength of the Who are You? series – see the full season’s entries here – is the quality of the responses we receive from the supporters who agree to participate.

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Stoke Who are You?: the ‘Marvellous’ clown who became a Potteries legend

Click anywhere on this caption to buy Neil’s book from the Salut! Sunderland Amazon bookshelf

The story of Neil Baldwin* is an astonishing and uplifting one. Born to devoted Stoke City supporters, Neil had learning difficulties and needed speech therapy. He has made light of this, and his lack of formal academic qualifications, to work tirelessly as a lay preacher, circus clown and for many years the Potters’ kit man. He has his own football team, Neil Baldwin FC, with players drawn from the student body of Keele University, of which he is an honorary graduate having given 50 years of voluntary service in welcoming new undergraduates. Football celebrities, notably Lou Macari but also including Kevin Keegan and Gary Lineker, have acclaimed or befriended him or both.

When Macari, then managing Stoke, made him the kit man, he said it was the best signing he had ever made, such was the positive effect of his humour on the squad. He played five minutes a sub in a testimonial for Gordon Cowans in 1993 and, most famously, inspired the film Marvellous, based on his life.

‘It says everything for Neil that Marvellous was ever made,’ wrote the Stoke Sentinel TV critic, John Woodhouse. ‘In times when TV is seduced by vacuity and celebrity, it doesn’t sound that promising a pitch. A drama, set in Newcastle [under-Lyme], about a man saddled with the tag of “learning difficulties” who reveals himself to be so much more? Good luck with that one. And yet here it is – primetime BBC2.’

The autobiography, Marvellous: Neil Baldwin – My Story, written with the help of Keele University alumni Malcolm Clarke (a recent Who are You? interviewee) and Francis Beckett, was published by John Blake in 2015.

Welcome to Salut! Sunderland, Neil …

Read moreStoke Who are You?: the ‘Marvellous’ clown who became a Potteries legend