Date: 16th October 2015 at 2:05pm
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Skipper Alfie Mawson has won the Unsung Hero of the Month award for the Football League month of September.

The award is selected by the Football League for the player who has undertaken outstanding community based work, and in many ways goes above and beyond what is simply expected of footballers these days in that regard.

The award is new for the 2015-16 season and Mawson becomes the latest winner.

The blurb from the FL in choosing him for the last month explained.

‘As much as we would demand our 21-year-old footballers to be role models, to put others before themselves and be ambassadors for their club, we also know that at 21 that may be asking too much.
Not of Alfie Mawson, it isn`t. What makes this youngster`s tale different is that Mawson isn`t even a seasoned pro. He is in just his second season as a regular and has only been at new club Barnsley since July. Oh, and he was immediately made club captain and is living 200 miles away from his west London home. And yet, in four short months, the young central defender has become the figurehead of his club in the local community. Whether it is visiting patients at a local hospice, surprising supporters at their work on his day off or befriending a seriously ill three-year-old Barnsley fan who now refers to him as ‘Big Alfie`, Mawson has embraced the people of South Yorkshire. His dedication makes him a worthy recipient of the Sky Bet Football League Unsung Hero of the Month award for September.

Having been presented with the gong for September, a grounded and humble Mawson explained.

‘There`s no effort in it. Personally, I never feel like I have to do it. It`s just nice to be able to give back, especially to kids who are a lot less fortunate than you were. It`s always nice to see them. You`re putting a smile on someone`s face and you can`t buy that. I am very fortunate to be a footballer. To be in the sport you love and for people to want you to make a special appearance or to help out makes me proud and makes my family proud. Going to see the kids in hospital, it really hits it home that we are unbelievably fortunate. Not necessarily because of the job that we do but because we have our health. These little kids, some of them won`t be able to see Christmas. The world works in funny ways unfortunately.’

Alfie went on to add that it was actually a conscious decision of his this year, but he certainly never expected this to be the result of it.

‘It`s no effort, even if it`s on your day off. Maybe an hour of your time but what`s that in football? The time that we play and the time that we train is nothing. I just felt that this year I should try to do a little bit more as I get older and more confident with my surroundings. I`ve only been here a short space of time but I can feel Barnsley is a club that`s at one with the community. It`s a really positive environment.’

Manager Lee Johnson was also interviewed, and he said that from the moment he looked in on Mawson and decided to sign him, he knew he would be getting more than somebody who just gave 110% on the pitch and that’s ultimately been key to the decision to make him skipper.

‘From the first moment I met Alfie, I realised that his values and his morals were very in order and that he was a well-rounded individual. He`s a very good footballer but more importantly he`s a good man. He`s willing to put the time in to make other people`s lives better – and that`s a nice thing. We do try to bring good people into the football club. That`s an important part of our recruitment philosophy. Clubs like Barnsley are very community-based and it`s very important that not only Alfie but all of the players touch the community because it means a lot. If we can help as a club in any which way we can, then we will. Alfie`s not only done that, he`s gone beyond the call of duty and taken on extra himself. It`s all for the greater good of improving other people`s lives and it`s nice to be working with someone who has those values. This award is fantastic news, great for Alfie and I`m delighted as well for the people that Alfie`s made feel better.’

Johnson went on to add that making it even more special was the fact he was doing this at 21, especially when you consider stories of players just enjoying themselves that often get blown out of all proportion in the press – it’s nice to see people rewarded for the other side of it.

‘The fact that he`s doing what he is at 21 is standout, isn`t it? It is nice to see because young footballers get a bad press nowadays for some of the things they do but Alfie is one of those in the good band.’

Going back to Mawson though, he did say there was one thing he had to get better at and the community work certainly helped him on that score.

‘To understand the accent mostly, to be honest. It`s the one thing I haven`t got to grips with yet. The people here just miss words out and take the lazy route. Instead of saying ‘the other“ they`ll say ‘t`other`. It kills me. I genuinely have to take a step back and concentrate sometimes to think: ‘What did they just say?` I`m getting there slowly but surely. It`s funny when they`re screaming at you in a South Yorkshire accent on a Saturday. You think: ‘I don`t know what you`re saying but it doesn`t sound good.` But I`m sure they`re the same with my accent and they take the mick out of me for being a bit Cockney.’

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