A LIFETIME contribution to football was recognised last night when Jimmy Montgomery was presented with the Jackie Milburn Award at the annual BBC North East and Cumbria Sports Awards.
Monty, who was at the event in Sunderland to present a trophy to North East Sports Personality of the Year Chris Hughton, had no idea he would be receiving a prestigious award himself at the end of the evening.
And he was clearly emotional at the enthusiastic reception the announcement of his honour received before clips were shown of his FA Cup final day in 1973 and of course THAT double save.
The Football Echo highlighted the fact last year that it is now exactly half-a-century since Monty first signed for Sunderland and the 67-year-old’s outstanding contribution to football over the course of his lifetime was recognised last night when former Sunderland skipper Kevin Ball presented the Milburn Award.
A surprised and emotional Monty was asked by event compere Jeff Brown whether he thought his record number of appearances for Sunderland – 627 in all – would ever be bettered.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said honestly.
“This probably isn’t the best week to be talking about club loyalty!” he added with a smile.
“But I think the era where you saw one player spending a dozen or more years with just one club, especially a top club, has become pretty much a thing of the past now.
“I stayed with Sunderland as long as I could because I loved it, just as I know Kevin Ball loved it and Jordan Henderson – who is in the audience tonight – does too.”
Ball said: “You couldn’t get a more worthy recipient of the award than Monty.
“When I first came to the North East I wasn’t fond of Jimmy because not many people know that as a nine-year-old I was a Leeds United supporter!
“But he’s a fantastic professional, who loves Sunderland and has an integrity and honesty about him that you can only admire.
“When I go into the Stadium of Light or the Academy and I see my own picture up on the wall with images of the teams I was involved in, I’m proud they hang next to pictures of Monty and his era.”
Monty’s was one of a series of awards given out on the night.
The main prize of Sports Personality of the Year was given to sacked Newcastle United boss Chris Hughton for getting the Magpies promoted from the Championship last season and getting them off to a flying start in the Premier League.
Disabled Sports Award went to Jade Jones (athletics); Junior Sports Award to Rachel Davies (gymnastics); Sporting Inspiration to Barry Hudson and Martin Tyler (Durham Rowing Club); Team of the Year to Newcastle United; Performance of the Year to Johanna Jackson (walking) and Simon Valilly (boxing) and Unsung Hero to Willy Thompson (cycling).
The show, held in Sunderland University’s Cityscape building on Chester Road and presented by the BBC’s Jeff Brown and Diane Youdale, is due to be broadcast by BBC North East tonight.