Kartel Sports excited at ‘fresh start’

With the new season almost upon us, we’re previewing the new members of the L&C. Next up is Kartel Sports.

Established in 1991, the club have previously played in the Manchester League and, most recently, the Altrincham & District Amateur Football League (ADAFL), before deciding to make the move, similar to their long-standing rivals, Sale Amateurs.

Like Sale, Kartel Sports have an enviable reputation of ‘playing the game in the right way’, being one of the best run clubs in the area, and there are players who have been involved right from the beginning.

Its reputation of being so well run was established through the club’s much-loved founder, Paul Cheetham, who set the team up and was the Secretary until he sadly passed away last year after a long illness.

Stuart Howe is the Chairman of Kartel Sports. He assumed much of the responsibility alongside manager Jordan Kralski and Treasurer, and new Secretary Shaun Thompson in Paul’s absence, and he outlined just how influential a figure the club’s founder has been in establishing the reputation of Kartel in the area.

He said: “We suddenly found ourselves in a bit of a mess because Paul dealt with everything non-football related. Jordan Kralski managed the team but Paul went to all the league meetings, dealt with finances, pitches, insurance, basically everything about the club that didn’t involve kicking the ball. It was his life, and he loved Kartel.”

Despite being one of the ADAFL’s long-established clubs, Stuart and the rest of the committee made the decision to seek pastures new. There are a myriad number of reasons for this decision – looking for a “fresh start” after the trauma of Paul’s passing, the chance to compete in another competitive league, and the ability to attract more players.

Paul’s legacy is apparent in the way the club plays, the way it is organised and, as Stuart confirmed, the name he set the club up as will remain.

He said: “When it got to the end of the season, we decided to have a reshuffle, fresh start, obviously wanted to keep the Kartel Sports name, but felt like the right time to do something different.”

The club has enjoyed two 5th-placed finishes in the Altrincham League. Although the start was slow, Kartel had picked up form before Covid-19 brought the season to a premature end, with two successive wins that saw them net four goals without reply.

But the lure of moving to the L&C and enjoying what it will offer, as well as the potential of accessing another network of players, was too tough to ignore.

Stuart explained: “At the end of last season, we got a few new players who play 7-a-side with a couple of our players. They are based around Stockport, so we now have a split in the team, with half of us from Altrincham, Sale and Timperley, and the other half from Wilmslow and Stockport.

“We’d seen Altrincham Hale, and other teams who have previously been in the ADAFL, now in the L&C, so we were watching with interest last year and everything about it looked right for us.

“Lots of divisions, each with seemingly good numbers, some good outfits in there, and good pitches. We have an affinity to the Altrincham League, but it just felt the right time and the obvious choice became the L&C.”

They are joining a league that has restructured somewhat because of its popularity. During the close season, there have been applications from 20 prospective clubs, 10 of whom will join the league with 12 additional teams overall.

It means that there are now eight leagues instead of seven. Kartel will join Division A, a 12-team league on the fifth tier of the league’s structure.

The exposure to the L&C seems to have excited players, and is a major reason for interest in joining the squad. That, along with the club’s reputation as one of the friendlier teams in the area, means junior clubs are comfortable “pushing players our way,” According to Stuart, who said: “This has given us fresh blood.”

Like all teams who started training when Covid-19 restrictions were still in place, it has been ‘frustrating’ but the sessions have been popular and well attended. And the change to the sessions put on will, according to Stuart, ensure Kartel are better prepared for the big kick-off.

He said: “We have had pop-up goals, good passing and moving, as well as shooting drills. In a normal training session, it tends to be half an hour fitness, followed by an hour game.

“But this summer, it feels like we’ve done more ball work, running and fitness, and I think that has been quite beneficial.

“Everybody seems to have enjoyed doing more. We might all be better players for it when we start the season.”