LIFELONG Blackburn Rovers fan Alan Birkbeck has expressed his surprise at being honoured at the MBNA Northwest Football Awards – and recalled the time he chased after a referee for giving a penalty away against his beloved club.

Birkbeck, better known as ‘Birdy’, had no idea that he was going to be given an award at the glitzy Manchester event.


He had been invited to the Emirates Old Trafford as part of the Rovers party hoping to win the best club sponsorship, marketing and engagement prize for the promotional video the club used to launch their new home kit.

It therefore came as a shock when Alan, who starred in the video, was named the unsung hero of the year.

“I came here hoping to get a different award for the club and this is beyond my dreams – I never expected this,” he said.

“I have followed Rovers all my life and this club is my life. We have had good times, bad times but I think we are coming back.”

Twenty years ago this season Rovers won the Premiership but Alan, who lives a stone’s throw away from Ewood Park, remembers the night when their nerve-shredding end to the season began.

As it was the night that he left referee Keith Cooper in no doubt that he had got his decision to award Manchester City, who ran out 3-2 winners, a first-half penalty badly wrong.

“When I saw the referee outside the ground, I tackled him about the decision and chased him halfway up Bolton Road,” said Alan, who names Alan Shearer as his favourite ever Rovers player ahead of Ronnie Clayton, Brian Douglas, Fred Pickering and Roy Vernon.

“I met him at Cardiff the season they got promoted, he gave me a tour of the ground and I told him he was still wrong with his decision.

“We patched it up and we are good mates now.”

Kenny Dalglish, the manager of Rovers’ 1994-95 title-winning side, was announced as the winner of the lifetime achievement award at the event.

He was unable to pick up his prize in person, however, as his daughter Lynsey has just given birth to her first child.