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Youngsters in the Awards spotlight

26 March 2013

By Tony Leighton

Budding youngsters and players whose off-field work is rarely recognised shared the limelight with star names at Sunday evening's 2013 Football League Awards.

The gala annual event, staged in London with 650 attendees from clubs, sponsors and the football industry, included LFE Apprentice of the Year awards for teenagers in each of the npower League's three divisions.

And the PFA Player in the Community award acknowledged the endeavours away from his playing role of Brighton and Hove Albion defender Inigo Calderon.

The 31-year-old Spaniard, who has a degree in sports psychology and has designed and delivered educational workshops to help club beneficiaries, said: "I do this work because I feel that you have to put something back.

"I play football because I love it and I really enjoy going into schools and doing what I can to help our fans. I think that Brighton is the best club in the country for community involvement, and it is great to be a part of that."

The Apprentice awards were headed by Nottingham Forest's 19-year-old Bulgarian goalkeeper Dimitar Evtimov, a product of the Academy set up in his home country by Bulgaria legend Hristo Stoichkov.

Evtimov joined Forest in July 2012 and, though he has yet to make a first-team appearance, he is now part of the City Ground's senior squad and is highly regarded by the club's management team.

Forest's Education Officer Dennis Judson, who accepted the award on Evtimov's behalf as the keeper was on international duty with Bulgaria's Under-21 team, said: "This will mean an awful lot to Dimitar.

"He has dedicated himself not only to football but to his education too and he is progressing well on and off the pitch. He will be so proud of winning this award."

Hartlepool United's Luke James, 18, won the League 1 Apprentice of the Year award and Barnet's George Sykes, also 18, was the League 2 winner.

Midfielder James, who has already established himself in Pools' first-team squad with 39 appearances behind him, said: "It is absolutely fantastic to get this award, it's a great feeling.

"It's been really hard work with studying and training, but it's worth it. You have to sacrifice everything to be a professional footballer and I just want to stay in the first-team squad, help the club and progress my career."

Striker Sykes has made the breakthrough to senior level this term, making three substitute appearances. He said: "I'm really surprised to get this award.

"When I started my scholarship I didn't think I'd be getting something like this. It just shows that if you work as hard as you can, you give yourself a chance."

For all the latest news on The Football League Awards 2013 please click here

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