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INTERVIEW: It was a total shock

12 June 2014

Sarah McKnight on receiving her long service award

Club secretary Sarah McKnight received a rather nice surprise at the Football League AGM last week when she was presented with a Long Service award following her 20 years of service, in a number of capacities, here at Brunton Park.  

"I was invited to attend the Football League conference and AGM on behalf of the club but I had no idea I was there to receive an award," she said. 

"We'd been through the various segments of the conference for just over a day and a half, before we even started the AGM, and nobody had said a word. John [Nixon] was there to vote on our behalf so myself and Suzanne [Kidd], the assistant managing director, went along to see how things were done."

"Before the AGM actually started they mentioned they were going to give out a couple of awards and my name was up first," she told us. "It was a total shock and I don't mind admitting that I was caught completely by surprise. I do have to say though, once it had sunk in, it was a very nice kind of shock. 

"They read out a few bits about me and mentioned that I'd started at the club at the age of 18 as a receptionist. Things have progressed for me from there. I can't really remember what else they said because my heart was beating so fast. All I could think about was that I was going to have to get up on stage in front of everyone.

"Four people got the award - Pauline Scott from Burnley, Chris Parkes from Charlton and Helen Norbury from Southend were the other winners. It's for long service behind the scenes at a football club, so it is nice to be acknowledged." 

"Looking back, it does sometimes feel like a lot longer than 20 years but I enjoy coming to work every day," she continued. "No two days are ever the same and there's always something new that crops up. 

"The job has changed since I started because there are a lot more rules and regulations now. Things are always being revised so I have to make sure I keep myself up to date with all of the amendments and different rules. There are a lot more FIFA regulations and things like that now than when I started and it's important to stay current with everything that comes through.

"On the other hand a lot of things are easier now because you can email contracts through rather than have to wait for 30 odd pages to go through the fax machine. Imagine doing that when you have just signed three or four players and I'm sure you can imagine the stress. So, there are more rules but the processes of getting things finalised are easier than they used to be."

"I think my highlights from my time with the club would have to be the promotions we've had over the years," she said. "Winning the JPT was a great experience for everybody, but the overall feeling of going up, and all the hard work that goes with it, gives everyone a huge lift. 

"Signing Michael Bridges was another big moment because he was quite high profile at the time. You'd be amazed at the number of other players we have tried to sign, and I've started the paperwork, only to then hear it wasn't happening. That's why it's a relief when the final bits and pieces are done and we can actually get it out there and announce it."

"June and July is the busiest period for me," she confirmed. "It seems quiet because there aren't many people around the place, but there's always a lot of work going on in the background. That has all started this year as well and we're looking at offers for new players and trying to agree contracts with agents, and things like that, so it is a really busy time."

"I was thinking about my most exciting deadline day signing on the day I got the award and I'm probably going to have to say that it is Michael Bridges again," she commented. "It was when Hull City came in to sign him and we thought it had all died down and we were keeping him. 

"They came back with another offer and I ended up sitting in Brunton Park at about 10pm, all alone and with the clock ticking towards the cut off time, while I waited for a phone call to tell me what was going on. Eventually it got the green light and I had to get it all pushed through as quickly as possible." 

"We had one day under Roddy Collins where we signed a lot of players in a very short space of time, and I can remember having piles of paper all over my office floor for the different contracts we were drawing up," she continued. "Situations like that always test your nerve. 

"The other one was when we got Tom Lawrence from Manchester United recently. It was a 5pm deadline for that one and the paperwork went through at 4.59pm, so that was a close call. Again, the feeling of relief when it does get finalised is unbelievable."

"Overall I have worked with some fantastic and interesting people, like Michael Knighton, John Courtenay, Fred Story and the current owners, and I've had a lot of help from the admin staff I have worked with over the years," she said.

"We all tend to become like a little family, because we work so closely together, and it does feel like a privilege to do what I do for the club. I'm looking forward to what will be another interesting season and, hopefully, a lot more enjoyable years to come."

Congratulations to Sarah from everyone at the club for her thoroughly deserved recognition and award.

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