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Stoke City (A) Wed 4 Mar 2015, 19:45, Barclays Premier League

by Suzie Parker @Everton

Everton in the Community’s disability manager Steve Johnson has scooped the top prize at the Liverpool Echo’s Pride of Merseyside Awards.

A glamorous ceremony at Liverpool's Hilton Hotel saw Steve named ‘Pride of Merseyside’ for his outstanding contribution to the local community.

Steve joined the Blues’ official charity in 2003 and has worked tirelessly to make the Club's disability programme one of the most influential and iconic of its kind in the world.

"Firstly it was a great honour to even be nominated for the award," said Steve. "I had absolutely no expectations and didn’t think I would win as the other nominees had some really humbling and inspiring stories.

“When they announced my name as the winner I was just completely thrilled and honoured. The award is not just about me but recognition for our disability programme as a whole and the fantastic work the staff and volunteers do for disabled sport on Merseyside.

“I hope the award propels the programme to even greater achievements and attracts new sponsors so we can continue to deliver life-changing opportunities for disabled children and adults.”

Having lost his leg in a football accident in 1985, Steve subsequently discovered amputee football.

It was a sport still very much in its infancy back then, but it re-ignited his love for the game.

Just three years later he received his first call up to the England national team and he went on to win over 130 international caps, captaining the Three Lions for over 20 years, lifting three World Cups and being voted ‘World Amputee Footballer of the Year’ in 1999.

After retiring from the playing side of the game, Steve decided to gain sports qualifications and duly picked up his UEFA coaching badges, a Sports Science degree and a HND in Sports Science and Disability Studies, all of which have enabled him to transform the lives of other disabled people across the north west of England.

Steve’s influence and vision for disability football now means Everton in the Community provides over 10,000 football opportunities for disabled children and adults each year, while the disability programme engages with more than 60 schools in the Merseyside area alone.

On hearing of his award, Everton fans took to social networking sites Twitter and Facebook to congratulate the night's big winner. And he added: "The support and congratulations I have received has been brilliant. I am really humbled.

“I am so proud that I can be a positive role model for other disabled people and inspire them to be the best that they can be. 

“I am actually going to the Paralympics this weekend to see George [Fletcher] and Roy [Turnham], two of our disability footballers who have been taking part down in London.

"It has been the most perfect week for Everton’s disability programme and I am so proud to be a part of it.”

For more information about the disability programme, call Everton in the Community on 0151 530 5253.

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