As dedication to non-league football goes, there are few who can match the exploits of 86-year-old Mary Jinks.
And the Stockport-based pensioner was rewarded as she picked up the William Hill Fan of the Year gong at The Non-League Paper’s National Game Awards in association with The NLFA on Wednesday.
She is involved with a number of Manchester-area clubs, including Stockport County, Macclesfield, Altrincham, Hyde and Stalybridge Celtic – sponsoring numerous players.
One of those is Macclesfield defender Andy Halls, who Jinks travelled to Cyprus in order to watch play for England C, and she admits it is the welcoming nature of non-league football that keeps her coming back.
“Winning the Fan of the Year award feels fantastic – I really enjoy going to watch all these matches and I’m so happy for the boys in the Conference,” she explained.
“I love the people involved in non-league football – I love the friendliness and the fact that the players will speak to you and talk to you about their hopes.
“You can find out so much more about a person – they really, really are fabulous.
“I sponsored Andy Halls at Macclesfield, so when I found out he was going to Cyprus I thought ‘that’s not very far – it’s only just across the Mediterranean’ and decided to go.
“It was weird really, I went to the wrong stadium in Famagusta first of all but then I got taken to the right stadium – everyone was very welcoming and it was a good day.
“Andy came on in the second half, he got a yellow card almost straight away, as he does, and unfortunately they ended up losing 2-1.”
Jinks’ love of non-league football isn’t just limited to the north-west – she has also been down to London to watch AFC Croydon play after meeting their chairman while watching Stockport in Ireland.
But the former headteacher won’t stop sponsoring players a little closer to home.
“I’ll certainly continue sponsoring players – I’ve got a really nice little boy at Stalybridge Celtic, his name is Oliver Crowley and he is so, so sweet,” added Jinks.
“I just want to encourage him to do his best.”
The NLFA are delighted to have sponsored the National Game Awards. With a new membership package coming soon to include Income & Career Ending Insurance, The NLFA are becoming a very important role in the lives of Non-League footballers. Visit http://www.thenlfa.com/ for more information.