Manchester United's 'always smiling' receptionist honoured

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Sir Alex Ferguson, Kath Phipps and Michael CarrickImage source, Reuters/LMA
Image caption,
Kath Phipps has been at Manchester United for 54 years and is a firm favourite with staff and players

Manchester United's long-serving receptionist, who David Beckham said was "always smiling", has been honoured with a Service to Football Award.

Kath Phipps joined the Red Devils under legendary manager Sir Matt Busby and has been a firm favourite with staff and players for the following 54 years.

The 81-year-old said it was "a great honour" to be recognised by the League Managers Association on Tuesday.

Beckham said she had his thanks "forever" for dealing with his mail.

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In a video message, the former United star said the "amazing" receptionist "really deserved" the accolade "for her services to football, but more importantly for services to the club I love and you love".

He said she used to be "the first person I would see when I walked into the training ground reception" and he would be "forever grateful to her" for dealing with letters from his fans.

Mrs Phipps, who joined Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes as an award winner on the night, said she had "a lovely evening".

"It was a great honour to receive the award from the League Managers Association," she added.

Former manager Sir Alex Ferguson said she was "and continues to be a great servant to the club" and the award was "thoroughly deserved".

Posting a picture of her on Instagram before she received the award, ex-United star Gary Neville said every time he saw her at Old Trafford, "it makes me feel more proud to have played for the club".

Analysis

BBC Sport's Simon Stone

In many ways, Kath Phipps has been the public face of Manchester United for over half a century.

To anyone arriving in the main reception at the club's training ground, hers would be the first face you would see, regular visitors would get a hug, players would always get a smile and a few words.

Personally, in over 20 years covering United, I have never heard anyone say a single bad word about her.

When her husband sadly died a few years ago, Sir Alex Ferguson intervened to make sure taxis were arranged so she could carry on working at Carrington.

One of the joys of fans returning to grounds was when she called out to me as I was heading to the media entrance, so we could have a chat after she spotted me from her familiar station as receptionist at the directors' entrance at Old Trafford.

This latest award is recognition of a life working for Manchester United.

A lovely tribute to a lovely, lovely lady.

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