Derek Forrest has been one of Northumbria sport’s unsung heroes in recent years after his impact on raising the standard of football at the University.
The men’s football head coach arrived at Northumbria in 2013 and has since guided the M2 side to back-to-back BUCS promotions while also establishing M1’s place in the Premier North.
And with football the 2016 Stan Calvert finale event at Gateshead Stadium, Forrest is hoping to end the competition with a bang on March 6 (7.45pm kick-off).
“It’s really exciting for the teams,” he said.
“To have football as the finale is an honour. It was rugby for years and then netball because they were the top quality teams and football was never really on the radar.
“So now for the football team to be leading the event is great and it’s a great challenge for us to perform and give the crowd a lot to cheer about.
“Last year we had a great game of football which we ended up drawing 2-2 so I’m sure it’s going to be another very interesting and exciting game this year.”
The finale will see Forrest return to the ground of his former club Gateshead FC – where he left in late 2012 shortly after the departure of then manager Ian Bogie.
After leaving the Tynesiders, Forrest thought his career in football was over – but Northumbria convinced him otherwise.
“I’ll be honest, I was about to leave football all together,” Forrest revealed.
“I was in my 50s, I’d seen a lot (of football) over the years and I thought it was time to pack it in.
“Then I got a call saying Northumbria seconds needed a manager and I was told it would be a good new challenge for me.
“At the time I was still in the mindset of leaving football but I said I’d come and have a look (at Northumbria) anyway.
“What I saw was a good young team that just lacked that bit of structure. I felt I could help them so I decided to accept the role.
“It was a challenge that reignited my passion and since I’ve moved up to manage the men’s firsts and coach the National League side full-time.
“I always try to see as many (Northumbria football) matches in different levels as I can.
“It gives me a greater awareness of the system in place and how we could bring more players forward.
“I found that I love working with student players. Here they’re at the age where they go from youth football to senior football and being part of that transition is really rewarding.
“It’s really impresses me how the lads can find a way to balance their studies and jobs with football. You can see that they love their football and they always turn up and give it their all.
“For me it was just a case of good timing and I feel very fortunate that the opportunity to work here came about when it did.”