FOR perhaps the first time in his life, Alun Rossiter was left speechless after picking up the Swindon Advertiser’s Sports Personality of the Year award.

The popular Swindon Robins boss beat off competition from charismtaic former Swindon Town manager Paolo Di Canio, Paralympic athlete Louise Hunt and darts stalwart Dennis Smith to claim the award during a glittering ceremony at the Blunsdon House Hotel on Wednesday night.

Rossiter led the Robins to their first top-flight title since 1967 during 2012, and while receiving the Coach of the Year award earlier in the night rewarded his work at Blunsdon, the Sports Personality award was recognition for his all-round passion for sport in Swindon as a whole.

The proud Swindonian is a vocal follower of the football club, as well as a keen supporter of Swindon Wildcats and the town’s professional darts players, and is always quick to stick up for his home town if anyone dares to mock it or put it down.

Rossiter was visibly moved when he picked up the award, and was initially lost for words when asked what it meant to him.

“It’s amazing and left me speechless,” he said.

“I don’t think you can ever put the word speechless next to Alun Rossiter.

“I thought we might be close to winning some awards, but when you are up against someone like Paolo Di Canio and everything he achieved at Swindon Town you have to be realistic.

“Their crowds are bigger than ours, of course they are, but we get great crowds in their thousands too and that isn’t bad at all. We thought it might not happen for us, and if I am honest I thought we might possibly be close.

“I am a Swindonian through and through and I am proud of what I do, and I am proud to have been able to represent my town and bring some success back.”

While Rossiter always knew the club’s Elite League triumph was going to earn the Robins a lot of praise, he wasn’t quite aware just how much attention he would get.

“I didn’t realise how much of a big deal winning the league after such a long time was for Swindon, and I still have people coming up to me now to say well done, it’s amazing,” he said.

“I get stopped by people walking their dogs, people in the supermarket, when I go into town, when I am in a taxi, because people just want to say well done.

“It’s still hard to believe, but it is clear people really do care about the speedway team and how we get on, and that is brilliant to see.

“You don’t realise all of that until you are stopped, and we are still on the crest of that wave now.

“All I wish is that all of the closet speedway fans come up to support us, because we have got a team who can be as good if not better than last year.”

Swindon co-owner Gary Patchett brought Rossiter back to the club at the end of 2011 following two years with Coventry, and believes his close friend was a worthy winner of the award.

“I can’t say enough about him, he made us tick in the years before he left and nobody felt the loss more than me when he left,” he said.

“He asked me not to talk him out of it, and I agreed before I knew what he was going to tell me, and although I wish I had tried harder to keep him fate has a peculiar way of coming round and making things right.

“It was fantastic to have been able to bring him back in the end, and we gained 200 per cent by bringing him back because he really is two people in one for the club.

“He’s not just the team manager he is the focal point of the club because he is a local lad, and he brings so much more into the club which he deserves credit for.

“It’s nice to see the club rewarded on the track, but also by these awards off the track which have been voted for by our fans and those nearest and dearest to us.”