Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray was named the BBC North East Sports Personality of the Year for 2011 at the awards ceremony on Wednesday.
Mowbray, who took the reins in October 2010, has taken the club he served as a player and captain from 22nd in the Championship to promotion hopefuls.
"I'm very proud to be in charge of the club," Mowbray told BBC Look North.
"I look at the league table now and sleep easier, but our ambition is to get back to the Premier League."
He was an integral part of the squad as captain that went from the old Third Division to the First in the late 1980s, and has targeted a similar achievement as manager.
"The people are very passionate for it. It's a working class industrial area of the country where people love their football," Mowbray added.
"It's the same in Newcastle, it's the same in Sunderland and we need to get the three teams back in the top division.
"There's a lot of local staff here, Colin Cooper, Mark Proctor, Stephen Pears, who all played for the club and we all want to get us back there."
Full list of winners:
Sports Personality of the Year: Tony Mowbray (Middlesbrough)
Inspiration award: Mark Allison (RunGeordieRun)
Team of the Year: Birtley Amateur Boxing Club
Jackie Milburn Award: Steve Gibson (Middlesbrough chairman)
Unsung Hero: Steve Betts (Volleyball)
Disability Sport Award: Charlotte Ellis
Junior Sports Achievement: Anthony Hogg
Performance of the Year: Danny Hart