AN INSPIRATIONAL woman determined to change opportunities in football for young girls in County Durham has seen her clinch the Local Hero Award 2018.

Julia Scurfield noticed only a sea of boys playing the beautiful game alongside her sons in Chester-le-Street 13 years ago.

Despite no experience of football whatsoever, Ms Scurfield, 54, embarked on her Level One FA coaching qualification and formed the Amazons Football Club for girls.

They lost 20-0 in their first game, failed to score a goal for three years, and it took four years to finally win. But there are now 130 girls representing the Amazons, and Ms Scurfield is known as The Special One among her players.

Her determination to change the landscape of football in the region has been recognised at The Northern Echo’s Local Heroes Awards, which are now in their 19th year.

She claimed the overall award, sponsored by Cummins, on Thursday night during a glittering celebration in the Grand Marquee at Wynyard Hall. She was selected by a panel of judges from winners in ten other categories.

Winners on the night were:

Special Award – ALAN FRANKLAND

The Northern Echo:

The Redcar branch of the Royal British Legion, led by chairman Eric Howden, give Alan a guard of honour as he makes his way to the stage.

Most Promising New Talent – TOM HARTSHORNE

The Northern Echo:

Most Promising New Talent Award winner, Tom Hartshorne, collects his award from Graeme Storm and Northern Echo editor, Hannah Chapman.

Remarkable Achievement Junior winner – ELLEN STEPHENSON

The Northern Echo:

Ellen receives her award from Tees Active’s managing director, Leon Jones, and Sunderland legend Kevin Ball.

Sporting Excellence Senior – CHARLIE TANFIELD

The Northern Echo:

Racing driver Max Coates, Ross Smith, public affairs business partner with Northumbrian Water and Northern Echo chief sports writer Scott Wilson collect the award for Charlie Tanfield.

Unsung Hero – WILF GILBERT

The Northern Echo:

Wilf collects his award from Peter Hornsby, managing director at Durham Animal Feeds Ltd and Darlington’s boxing superstar, Stuart Hall.


The Northern Echo:

This award is presented to Julie by British swimming record holder, Lyndon Longhorne, and Simon Hall, senior PR manager for Virgin Money.


The Northern Echo:

George Robinson, managing director of Robinsons Estate Agents and Fine & Country, along with Hartlepool and Darlington centre-half, Graeme Lee, present Billingham Stars Under-13s Ice Hockey Team with their award.

Remarkable Achievement Senior Winner – TERRY BYWATER

The Northern Echo:

Former Newcastle and Hartlepool midfielder and now Middlesbrough Under-23s manager, Paul Stephenson, and Jennifer Tupman, operations director at Avant Homes, present the award to Terry Bywater.


The Northern Echo:

Presenting the award to Richmondshire Cricket Club is a man who has made an enormous contribution to cricket in this area, former Durham coach Geoff Cook, and Paul Johnson, group financial controller for CA Group Limited.

Sporting Excellence Junior – NATHAN WOOD

The Northern Echo:

Nathan receives his award from Middlesbrough’s academy manager and former Darlington manager and centre-half, Craig Liddle and Andrew Craddock, chief executive of Darlington Building Society.

Outstanding Performance – JORDAN NIXON

The Northern Echo:

Jill Neasham, director of clinical services at BMI Woodlands Hospital, with World Cup referee, George Courtney, present the award to Jordan Nixon.

A FULL Local Heroes souvenir supplement with lots of pictures will appear in The Northern Echo newspaper on Saturday, which is just £1.20 from all good newsagents.

Generous sponsors of the Local Heroes 2018 are: Cummins, Tees Active, Northumbrian Water, Durham Animal Feeds Ltd, Avant Homes, Fine & Country with Robinsons Estate Agents, Virgin Money, CA Group Ltd, Darlington Building Society and BMI Woodlands Hospital. Thank you for joining us tonight and for your continued support.