A FORMER football coach who dedicated his career to developing vocational pathways for students with visual impairment has been awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Tony Larkin, who lives in Stretton Sugwas, was recognised for his services to further education and disability sport.

He worked for the Royal National College for the Blind for 28 years and during that time he was head coach of the England blind football team.

He led the team to nine European championships and five world championships and the world took notice when the GB Blind Football made their debut at the Paralympics in Beijing, 2008.

Mr Larkin, aged 60, said: “I was taken aback when I found out that I was being awarded an OBE, really emotional. "It’s made me reflect on how much support I received from RNC; they have always given me the opportunity to play to my strengths and to be able to develop visually impaired sport.”

Mr Larkin enjoyed a varied selection of jobs at the college and was director of business and enterprise when he retired in January.

It was when he first started incorporating blind football into leisure activities at RNC that he realised the potential within the students and developed links with the International Blind Sports Federation, becoming a member of their sub-committee in 1995.

He said: “Blind football was played across the world but everyone was playing with different rules and we wanted to standardise play so everyone could compete together. We had one aim – to make blind football a Paralympic sport.”

The FA Came on board in 1999 and provided the much needed financial backing for blind and disability football.

He said of the Beijing Paralympics: "I was so proud of realising our dream – our blind footballers were being recognised as elite athletes on an international stage."

Hereford United was the last club Tony played for when he finished his professional football career in 1988.

Mr Larkin, who is from Toxeth, Liverpool, said: “Once you settle in Hereford, it’s a great place to raise a family. I’ve been here for over 30 years; it’s my second home.”

He said his wife, Rita, and daughters Jo and Sam, have been very supportive.

Kathleen Watkins was also given a BEM for services to the community in Rowlestone.

And a former Hereford RFC first team regular, Mike Poole has been given an OBE.

He played regularly in the front row throughout the sixties before leaving to help form a rugby club in his home town of Newent.

He has been honoured for making an outstanding contribution to the community of Newent over the past 45 years.