Former players of the football club he has supported since he was a boy have honoured a member of the Sports Journalists’ Association.
Anton Rippon saw his first Derby County match on his eighth birthday, in 1952. Now the Rams’ Former Players’ Association Rippon helped to found has awarded him its annual Merit Award that recognises individuals who have served the club or the association with distinction.
Rippon, who in 1981 left his job as a reporter with the Derby Evening Telegraph to start the Breedon Books sports publishing company, told sportsjournalists.co.uk about how he had helped form the former players’ association: “I rang up Tim Ward, a former Rams players and manager, and over lunch we started the ball rolling. With Tim’s son, Andy, I’d just written The Derby County Story, and so I launched it at a dinner that Breedon sponsored for former players.
“It was a great night. I showed a film of the 1946 FA Cup Final victory over Charlton Athletic and there were several members of that team in the audience. Altogether we had about 60 ex-players in attendance and that effectively kick-started the association.”
Rippon’s award came at the 25th annual dinner, held at the iPro Stadium last week, before many great Rams names including Roy McFarland, Charlie George, Bruce Rioch and John O’Hare.
Rippon, a regular contributor to this website and who is editing the 2016 SJA Yearbook, due to be published in February, still writes two weekly columns for the Derby Telegraph, including one on the football club, said: “I’m honoured to have my name on an award alongside men like Raich Carter, Dave Mackay and Archie Gemmill, but it isn’t false modesty to say that I really don’t feel it is deserved. There are many more great players who have to be honoured. I am just a supporter who, 25 years ago, was in the fortunate position to be able to indulge myself by bringing so many great footballers together.”
The association’s secretary, Nigel Cleevely, told dinner guests: “Through thick and thin he has followed the Rams and I would argue with anyone who says they know more about the club’s history than this man. He is a walking encyclopaedia. But most important of all, he is the reason why we are all here tonight to celebrate our 25th anniversary.”
Rippon said: “Of course, so many of the players that were at that first dinner have since passed away. Given the transient nature of the game today – loan players and foreign imports – I’ve always said that eventually ex-players’ associations will wither on the vine. For the moment, though, the Derby one is still going strong. That’s my real reward.”
- The SJA is the largest member organisation of sports media professionals in the world. We welcome Associate Members, for those who are not full-time professional journalists, including students. Join us: Click here for more details
- This year, the SJA’s nominated good cause is The Journalists’ Charity. To find out more and how you can donate on a one-off or regular basis, go to www.journalistscharity.org.uk
UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
- Thu Dec 17: SJA British Sports Awards, sponsored by The National Lottery
- Mon Dec 21: Journalists’ Charity Carol service, St Bride’s
- Mon Feb 22: SJA British Sports Journalism Awards dinner, sponsored by BT Sport