Former England partially sighted captain Stephen Daley has received an MBE after being named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for 2020.
Preston-based Daley, who retired from playing after collecting 143 caps for the Para Lions, initially found out about the honour for his services to para football and Futsal in June.
But with the announcement delayed since then due to the COVID-19 situation, he’s had to keep it quiet from family and friends.
“I first found out about it way back in June, and I’ve had to keep it quiet – the kids didn’t even know!” said Daley, ahead of Friday evening’s announcement.
“I was just gobsmacked when I heard and I’m chuffed, because it’s not something that you play the game to get really.
“Every time I put on the shirt, I just loved to play and I’ve had so many highlights and a great journey. Being part of a team sport is great because you get to share it with people, the highs and the lows.
“So I’m looking forward to the rest of the England lads finding out, because to be honest, if it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be getting this.
“It’s as much for the squad and disability football, because we just want to raise the profile of what we’re doing.”
After helping the England squad to back-to-back World Cup Finals in 2017 and 2019, Daley decided to hang up his playing boots at the end of last year to focus on his coaching.
He's also been an affiliate tutor for some time and has been a driving force behind the development of coaches in the north west around working with disabled players, delivering coach education courses and directing the Disability Centre of Excellence in the region
And he’s set to succeed former boss Ian Bateman into the England head coach role as they look to go one step further when the 2023 partially sighted World Cup is held on home soil.
“Taking us to a World Cup Final in 2017 and then following it up two years later was just a dream,” he added.
“We’d love to have won it, but you can’t win them all and there’s not many people who can say they’ve played in World Cup Finals.
“I retired from playing in December, and the COVID period since has given me chance to reflect and I don’t think I could’ve done any more - I left everything on the court and squeezed every bit out!
“Ian [Bateman] and Graham Keeley had mentored me so much over the years and the plan is for me to hopefully take the team on from here.
“We’re hoping to have a training camp in December to get the players back together and then working towards the next Euros which are in December 2021, but like everyone at the moment, we’re working a week at a time.
“England will then be hosting the World Cup in Birmingham in 2023 too, so that’s the long term aim and gives us a three-year cycle which we’re planning for at the minute.
“I’m excited about it, we have a great group of lads who I’ve played with and we’ve got some good young players coming through so I like to think I know the lads pretty well and the staff around it.”