THE winners of The England Football and McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards 2022 were announced on Wednesday, with the awards recognising those who put their heart and soul into the grassroots game across England.

One individual who was selected as a local winner for the West Riding FA was none other than Sohail Abbas, who won the Grassroots Coach of the Year award after a stellar season with Route One Rovers in Step Seven.

Abbas has never let his disability (spinal muscular atrophy) stop his coaching and management pursuit, that's for sure, and his achievements since coming to Route One Rovers 12 months ago have been fantastic, getting to two cup finals and winning the Bradford District Cup, making Route One the first team in the history of the Yorkshire Amateur League to win the cup.

After winning the award, Abbas spoke to the T&A and said: "It is an absolute honour to win an award like this because it reflects the hard work that goes on throughout the season, I didn't expect anything like it to be fair.

"It has been an extremely successful season with lots of highlights, but to be the first side from the Yorkshire Amateur League to win the Bradford District Cup is just brilliant and it will sit well with us for a long time. We didn't stop there either and the boys went on to show real fight to win the league cup too.

"It shows the winning mentality these lads have and I'm confident they'll continue to grow as a team."

Not only was Abbas a testament to the on field duties, but he was also as influential with the off field matters, giving opportunities to other coaches with disabilities to be part of his team as well as giving young players from deprived backgrounds a chance in the team.

Abbas said: "I do want to be a role model but mostly, I just want people in wheelchairs to see that what I'm doing is doable. I always wanted to see someone doing exactly that when I was younger, so hopefully I can bring hope to aspiring youngsters with disabilities in the future.

"At the same time, I almost don't look at myself in that way because I just want what's best for my team. At the start of the season I set out aims for my team, with the desire to improve them and that is always at the forefront of my thinking."

Abbas added: "My journey has allowed me to be seen as a role model, but not giving up on a dream or goal is the story of life anyway. It's all about that fighting spirit, whatever the scenario, whether it's football or in a day-to-day job."

The Route One Rovers boss' desire is to coach in semi-professional football and with his side being in the step below reaching that, his dream might not be too far away.

Discussing next season, he said: "We had a solid season in the league last season in finishing sixth and I believe we have every chance of showing further progression in the next campaign. I think the preparations in pre-season have been good, we've recruited well and the feeling around the club is a positive one.

"Yes, we would all love to make the step up to semi-professional football and I think everything is in place to do that, but it will be a long and challenging season, but one we are ready for."