Stretford Paddock set to make their mark on the L&C

Stretford Paddock are one of the new teams set to enter the Lancashire & Cheshire AFL this coming season, and they most certainly mean business.

The brainchild of Stephen Howson, the club is joining an amateur league but with a setup that screams professionalism, from trials, and coaching, to marketing and production. The name Stretford Paddock is one that Manchester United fans in particular will know about; the fan channel has more than half a million subscribers on YouTube and almost 300,000 followers on Twitter.

The seeds for the formation of Stretford Paddock were sewn last summer when Stephen – chairman and manager of the club – spoke to his friend Ben Adams – the club’s treasurer – about the possibility of involvement within a non-league club.

But rather than go for a pre-existing team, they both decided Stretford Paddock’s brand should be extended to include a team in the amateur leagues.

Stephen explained: “Because we’d started this fan channel, we thought ‘why don’t we get some kits with the fan channel logo on and enter a team as that’, which we did.

“Loads of people were saying they’d buy a shirt, and that we should put an 11-a-side team together.

“A combination of what Ben had put in my head in August and the response to that, made me go for it.”

Before even playing a game – competitive or otherwise – the club have sold more than 1,000 shirts, and on the playing side, the level of anticipation regarding trials saw 1,000 people sign up. These took place on 2 January, and resulted in 30 players being retained.

It is clear though, that the club is not entering to make up the numbers. The initial intake of players had a “lower threshold for acceptance than we will have moving forward,” according to the manager. Not only is the club determined to be competitive, but the vast social media presence means it’s imperative.

He said: “The social media side is great, we have a good following, but it increases the pressure. If we don’t perform, we will know about it. There’s no hiding from it. There’s a lot of pressure on us but everyone knows about it, is expecting it, and is ready for it. We can’t wait to get going.”

It is apparent from the quality of player on show, and the interest in signing for the club, that standards are high. At a time when amateur sides find it difficult to maintain player participation, Stretford Paddock are thriving. At the start of August, there will be another trial.

At the time of writing, almost 250 players have signed up to attend. But, Stephen said: “We are being really strict. We are only looking for players with academy or North West counties experience.

“I’m probably going to invite 100 people off that list to come and trial. We’ll play our first team and reserves in games against them, and measure their abilities from there.

“I’m hoping to pick 25 for the first team and 25 for the reserves from that trial.”

They will be joining a highly competitive group, if training is anything to go by. L&C representatives visited one of the sessions that took place in Droylsden, and it’s a hive of activity. Players travel from Leeds and Liverpool to take part, and the club has even had a request from a footballer in Canada.

Coaches work with players in different pods, with sessions adapted to adhere to social distancing regulations.

Different groups were practicing different finishing drills, with pure finishing, cutbacks, and pass and move all alternated. One participant was Ronaldo Brown, who started off in Liverpool’s academy, and spent time with Oldham Athletic.

It is clear the standards will be high on the pitch, and this translates to everything off the pitch too. Peter Blake, a lifelong follower of non-league football, will be the club’s secretary.

There are currently 28 members of the backroom staff, all of whom volunteer. But almost all the coaches have studied at the University Campus of Football Business. All of them are Level 1 and 2 qualified, and on the way to gaining the UEFA B coaching Licence.

There is a member of the coaching staff with a sports science degree, who deals with strength and conditioning, and a specialist goalkeeping coach is on the staff.

Away from the game, Stretford Paddock also have somebody recording and making videos, as well as a photographer. The official Twitter account has almost 15,000 followers, and there is even a fan club in Norway.

But, despite this creation of content, Stephen stressed it’s a “football first” attitude.

He said: “It’s football first. We’re trying to be overtly professional in what we do because of the content we make. we want to show the work that goes into football at this level, but also give viewers a peek behind the curtain of the professional game.

“We’re getting GPS trackers for our players. Clearly there’s a performance advantage, but there’s also an audience interest. We’ve all seen players wearing them, but what do they do? We’ll show you that, why they’re used, and the data that comes from them.

“That’s what we’re aiming to do. We love football, we love it so much that we’ve created our own team and we want to show the work that goes in, even at this level, and open this side of the game to people.”

Community is key to the underpinning of any success on the field and content off it. Moving forward, the club is committed to becoming part of the community in Stretford and Urmston, and “cementing roots with a junior team, all the way down to under-6 and under-7 teams,” to ensure Stretford Paddock is a “proper community club.”

Stephen said: “That’s where we want to be, but it starts with competing.”

It will certainly be a journey to watch with interest.

Whilst the club are a member of the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL, they will operate purely as an amateur club, all aspects of professionalism are aspirational at this stage. No player will receive payment.

L&C response to FA’s ‘Return to Football’ Action Plan

We have reviewed the information sent by Manchester FA regarding new guidelines for the return to competitive football, and feel it is of vital importance to be even more decisive than the guidelines outline.

All club secretaries have been advised by our own secretary, Brian Davies, to replace the word ‘should’ with ‘must’ when following new guidance. This will ensure the highest chance of safety.

For example, where the guidance says ‘everyone should self-assess for Covid-19 symptoms before every training session or match’, all of our members are advised that it is COMPULSORY to do so.

Brian said: “The approval of the FA’s plan brings the point at which there are real risks of contamination to only two weeks from now.

“Clubs and facility providers have a great deal to do to ensure these risks are minimised.

“The Manchester FA summary is a good starting point to what can become a huge amount of information to digest.

“In my opinion substitute the word MUST instead of SHOULD in almost every instance, and delete the ‘if you can’ references. If you can’t, DON’T.

“Be in no doubt, if anyone thinks this is the signal to ‘get back to normal’, it is not. It is still a life-threatening situation, if not for those directly involved, but for other members of their households and communities.”

The L&C committee will be meeting this week to discuss, and all input from clubs is welcome.

Clubs reminded not to arrange any friendly matches at this time

Manchester FA has warned that there have been reports of “referees being requested to officiate friendly matches.”

As part of the organisation’s most recent update, its communications department has reminded clubs in the region, including those in the L&C that football games of any nature at grassroots level must not go ahead under any circumstances.

In response to easing of lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government issued guidance at the start of June regarding grassroots football and informal football activity outside of the professional game.

It states that football training is permitted in groups of no more than six, who must keep two metres apart at all time.

Crucially, it states that “physical contact with anyone outside of your household is not permitted, therefore playing of any games is also not permitted at this time.”

This means that any clubs trying to arrange a friendly match would be contravening these rules and all teams in our leagues are reminded of this guidance.

Outcomes from L&C 111th AGM outlined

The Lancashire & Cheshire Amateur Football League has reviewed the 2019/20 season and outlined plans for the coming campaign in its Annual General Meeting.

Held on 4th June 2020, the 111th AGM was unlike any other in the league’s long and distinguished history.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, the meeting was held via video conference and was attended by more than 60 league and team representatives.

Mike Yates, L&C Chairman, opened the meeting by highlighting the very real loss suffered by many during the Covid-19 pandemic; the famous Bill Shankly quote about football being more important than life and death was evoked by our chairman, who rightly said this isn’t the case and offered all our condolences to those who have lost love ones to the dreadful virus.

A minute’s silence was held as a mark of respect.

The meeting discussed the way in which the league season was ended; the FA’s options were to null and void the season, or decide standings on a points per game basis. The league, as we know, voted unanimously to void the 2019/2020 season completely – a decision that has received widespread support from the clubs involved in the L&C.

As discussed in the AGM, the L&C left some wiggle room so that cup competitions could be completed if it was safe to do so; initially, a deadline to salvage cup competitions was set for the end of May but given that current FA guidelines state that non-contact training is the only option at the moment, the league reluctantly agreed the cup competitions should go the same way as the league.

It is, as Mr Yates said, “a huge disappointment for everyone, particularly those clubs who put themselves into a position to win cups and medals.”

The unprecedented conclusion to the season actually clouds what was proving to be a “very difficult season” before anybody had heard of Covid-19.

We endured the wettest February in the country on record, with two major storms wreaking havoc. The onset of coronavirus exacerbated this and the cost to the league as a result has been hefty.

Those at the meeting thanked the teams for their understanding, without which “the cost would have been considerably more if the season had come to a natural conclusion.”

Plans for next season were spoke about at length during the AGM. As things stand, the L&C expect to have a net gain of teams, though a decision is yet to be made regarding the number of divisions. It is expected this will remain at seven or we will add one to make eight.

In terms of teams, definite changes include Chorltonians reducing to two teams, while Radclyffe and Village Manchester will run two teams each. Unfortunately, Denton Town have resigned from the league, but in more positive news, Salford Victoria will certainly be adding a third team, and there is scope for a fourth too.

The L&C is delighted to welcome new clubs, all of whom have received committee and member approval.

Woodhouses FC will be based at Hollinwood Sports club and should have access to two football pitches; the L&C has confirmed a ground inspection will take place in due course.

Elsewhere, Shaw Athletic will bring one open age team to the league and are hoping to develop junior teams in the future. Similar to Woodhouses, a ground inspection will be required for Shaw, who have a prospective pitch that Oldham Council has ratified. Training will take place at Royton and Crompton Schools.

We welcome Hattersley into the L&C; the club already have two Sunday league teams but want to start one for Saturday. The team will be coached by Gareth Howell, who is applying for a UEFA B coaching place and has been managing teams for more than a decade.

Stretford Paddock have committed to bringing one team into the league. Chairman and manager Stephen Howson is a well-known personality, with a podcast that has seen many Manchester United legends interviewed. They have a squad of 40-50 players to choose from and have a verbal agreement with Dean Trust, Ardwick, to play their games there.

It was a straightforward choice for the panel to approve the membership of Salford Albion, whose committee have had dealings with the league previously.

Kartel Sports will join the league next season, having competed in the Altrincham & District League since being established in 1991, and are in negotiations with Timperley’s Manor Farm to base their competitive games on those excellent pitches. Training during the winter months will take place at Soccerdome.

Finally, Sale Amateurs will take part in the L&C. The team have already started training in accordance with FA guidelines and have a strong bond, having played together for three years. The players have committed to continuing their journey in the L&C and will play home games at Mersey Valley FC in Sale.

Before the meeting ended, plans for the forthcoming season were outlined. The earliest that the campaign can get underway is Saturday 22 August. However, it has been stressed that the structure of the season or possible start date is not yet known and is subject to change.

Registrations are now open, but we have recommended not sending these to the league for approval until after the first week of July as a precaution, in the event of any problems arising with the switch to the new season.

Salford Victoria generously donate kits to Africa

Salford Victoria have set up an annual scheme which sees the club’s kits donated to amateur teams in Africa.

Kits are sent to various rural sub-Saharan communities in Africa that suffer from extreme poverty.

The donations are paid for entirely by the club, who compete in the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL.

Premier Division champions in 2006, and Hellawell Shield victors two years previously, the club left the L&C before returning in 2013, and since then have won titles in four different divisions, and triumphed in the Rhodes Cup.

Before Covid-19 halted all playing activities, Salford Victoria’s first season were enjoying a steady season and were sixth in the top tier, well clear of any relegation trouble.

The second team were fifth in Division Three, with a glimmer of hope of promotion.

But the charitable activity proves that the club is more than just about football; Chris Carney, club chairman, said that the scheme was driven by Chris Lee, who will be managing one of Salford’s teams in 20-21. He was coach at nearby Swinton and one of his players Monday Ozoya, who was born in Nigeria and strong links to back home.

He floated the idea of sending kits back for amateur teams in Africa who unfortunately couldn’t afford to buy them.

Salford were only too happy to step in and have sent the kits they have played in for the last two seasons, and are trying to get other teams involved in the charitable donation. Mr Carney said that AFC Oldham had also shown interest in getting involved.

Andy Rowlandson, AFC Oldham’s Development Officer, said the club has previously donated kits and they were in the process of doing so again before the pandemic put paid to that for the time being.

He said: “We currently have several kits that we would love to donate and I have been in touch with Chris already to arrange details, but due to the current climate, he said to wait until we can sort things out properly.”


The kits, according to Salford’s chairman, are “open age and unique, and we are thankful to our manufacturer, MG Sportswear for providing the kits.”

In order to ensure there are no costs to the recipients, Salford Victoria deal with all aspects of the finances relating to shipping the shirts across to Africa. Chris Carney added: “The club collect the kits, box them up and send them over. We pay for it, and it’s worth it because as well as helping others, it helps us to get the club’s name known far and wide. I’ve had people contact me from countries including Nigeria and Ghana.”

Mr Carney is a stalwart of amateur football in the area, having spent more than half a century in various roles; from playing at open-age as a 14-year-old , Chris played the game for six decades, while also refereeing, serving league management committees, becoming a youth leader in the Boys’ Brigade and with Salford Youth Service, as well as being a foster carer!

He has been at the heart of all Salford Victoria’s highs – and the occasional lows – with his memorable moments including “cup wins, Rhodes Cup, Gosling Cup, Hellawell Shield, and winning the Aggregate Trophy.”

As for the coming season, Chris says that the appetite for football is as strong as ever, with the club expected to host more teams once the amateur game is back up and running.

He added: “We’ve actually started the process of getting people to sign on. We’ve entered two extra teams, so four in total.”

At the time of writing, 87 players have signed on to play for the club, and all can take pride knowing they’re involved in an organisation that helps others.

Spurley Hey return to training marred by fly tipping

SPURLEY Hey FC’s celebrations after being given permission to return to training have been marred somewhat by the actions of ‘mindless offenders’ who have dumped rubbish at the training ground.

Sadly, this type of behaviour has been a common occurrence during Covid-19 lockdown, especially in the early days when waste recycling tips were closed. And on their return to training, it is apparent that Spurley Hey have fallen victim to the same thoughtlessness.

The club’s long-serving secretary, Dave Jameson, said: “Today brings to Spurley Hey some good news with the approval from the FA and Stockport Council to resume football training.

“However, it seems good news is followed by some bad.

“Some mindless offenders have decided to save a few pounds and stop a couple of hundred children and adults start some well needed football coaching by dumping a couple of massive load of rubbish at our facility

“The words ‘vile’ and ‘despicable’ come to mind after seeing what’s been dropped from plumbing, building waste and general waste.

“We are now forced to fork out money which we don’t have or hope the council can help and take this pile of rubbish away.”

The club have put out a call for any volunteers who may be able to help with the clear-up operation.

Mr Jameson added: “If any volunteers are willing to help us remove this rubbish to the local trip then please get in contact at”

New members of L&C AFL announced

It has been confirmed that new football clubs will join the league next season; in the latest update, the identity of these clubs have been confirmed. Elsewhere, more guidance is available about the resumption of football activity and when it is safe to do so.

  1. The results of the AGM ballots were verified and completed and Hattersley, Shaw Athletic, Stretford Paddock and Woodhouses Football Clubs were successful in their applications, and are now members of the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL. All rule changes were accepted, and a majority were in favour of all items voted upon. AGM minutes will follow.
  1. If any clubs want to pay for their registrations now, please request the invoice from Philip Faulkner,
  1. On Whole Game system player registrations, please detach players who have left your club, unless they have done so owing money. If they have, please ask us for guidance ( ). Keith also requested at the AGM for clubs not to submit any registrations to league for approval until we give the signal that they can start.  You can still prepare player info, eg starting with online consent, into Whole Game System but just stop short of sending them in.
  1. A reminder that L&C clubs have had some excellent coverage in local papers and on their websites. If club secretaries want to highlight any initiatives, members doing any charity enterprise, talk about lockdown experiences, club plans or history, for them to be featured, get in touch. Geoff Garnett is available for them to be sent to him email and John Train is able to take calls on 07845655156 and will record and write up the articles, or email on
  1. For the latest guidance on resuming football activity, see here If you do start training, please stay off pitch areas to allow the maximum grass growth and recovery time.

Hadfield Athletic raising cancer awareness

Hadfield Athletic AFC are underlining the vital part football plays as a pillar of the community by running initiatives that highlight cancer awareness, mental health awareness, raising money for the NHS, and helping its local foodbank.

The club, affiliated with the Lancashire & Cheshire AFL since 2016, played the previous four seasons as Hollingworth AFC and enjoyed a league triumph and four cup finals in that time.

But this season saw change as Hadfield Athletic was born, thanks to the efforts of Stuart Whiteman, club Chairman, Secretary and Assistant Manager Alex Boardman, Treasurer Matt Armstrong, and first team coach, James Elliott.

The same group of players who enjoyed success at Hollingworth joined the new venture at Hadfield and before Covid-19 halted the season, the club were red hot favourites to take the Division 2 title in their debut campaign; at the time the season was ended, Hadfield were second in the league, one point behind Dukinfield Athletic AFC who had played five more games. No team had won more or lost fewer, and the club’s goal difference was by far and away the division’s best.

A league and cup double was in the club’s sights.

Yet, although it is bitterly disappointing for the players and management, it almost pales into insignificance when the club’s charitable ventures are considered – very much Hadfield’s most important work.

The colour of the club’s playing shirts this season are bright pink and bright blue. Both were designed specifically to increase awareness of breast cancer and prostate cancer respectively.


What started as a throwaway remark from the Chairman became something meaningful, and as Stuart said: “I’m sure it has made people more aware. Even the opposition teams we have played have noticed our shirts.”

Such awareness is vital when you consider the official figures. According to Cancer Research UK, breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK – it accounted for 15% of new cases in 2017 and in that same year, there were 54,700 new cases recorded. It is the most common form of cancer in females.


Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in males, with more than 48,000 new cases recorded in 2017. Between 2005 and 2017, there were more than 130 cases recorded each day on average.

Stuart said: “The kits were my idea because we know a few people who have sadly died of the diseases.”

The initiative has already raised £500 through shirt sales, which will go to a cancer charity, yet to be decided by the committee. And Hadfield are still selling the shirts through their Facebook page. They are priced at £25, complete with any name printed on the back, and the first team will also sign it.

Next season, the club’s charitable endeavours will see players don white shirts to highlight the mental health charity, Mind.

As Stuart said, sport and charity will come hand-in-hand.

“The value is this will be a football club but always with a charity side to it.”

This ethos, and the desire to help others is apparent with the plans to make sure the elderly and vulnerable are part of the sporting community.

This season, the football club established a part venture with Hadfield Cricket Club, sharing clubhouse facilities. There is a neighbouring retirement home and before the season ended, Stuart had planned to give the elderly living there a chance to watch Hadfield Athletic, and spend time with the team afterwards.

This idea was set to become a regular occurrence before the effects of Covid-19 became apparent.

It speaks for the club’s inclusive nature and care for its community that this is set to be a regular event next season. In the process, it will help those who are lonely and give them a regular outing. This is also important for continued good mental health.

Stuart explained: “What we were going to do is take those interested in football to the game. Afterwards, we’d take them back to the local pub, buy them a beer and drop them home, but unfortunately the coronavirus has got in the way.

“It’s something we’ll do next season, offering those who are home alone the chance to join in. It gets them out of the house for a few hours and hopefully gives them something to look forward to.

“it’s an aspect of our values, supporting charities, and making people aware of opportunities, and that they are not alone. There will be somebody out there thinking ‘what am I going to do on Saturday?’ This will be something to look forward to.”


Fundraising for the local community is a vital part of Hadfield’s work; in the 2019 summer holidays, the club raised £500 to help the local foodbank, Bellies not Bins, stay open during the school holidays. The initiative was led by first team manager, James Elliott, and Stuart Whiteman.

Whilst in lockdown, the club’s players have raised in the region of £400 by shaving their heads, with the money going to the NHS and Hadfield Athletic.

And in the future, the club plans a major fundraising event that will see money donated to the NHS.

The importance of work by frontline NHS workers has never been more apparent, and Hadfield will do their bit by raising money.

Stuart said: “When it is safe to do so, we are going to host a huge fundraiser, invite our football team, all parents, all the cricket lads, and anybody living in the area who wants to come along.

“There will be a bar, barbecue, bouncy castle, face painting, and we’re splitting the money three ways – the football club, cricket club, and the final third will go to the NHS.”

While football comes and goes, the spirit teams like Hadfield create in the areas they serve will endure.

Santos: history of a club celebrating its first decade with the L&C AFL

SANTOS AFC entered the league in 2008/09 and was in its 11th season with the L&C when the season was ended through Covid-19. Here, club secretary Ian Ward takes us through the club’s inception, as well as its highs and lows during that first decade.

In the late 1980s several friends created a team to enter some five and seven-a-side tournaments.

It was a successful period for the club winning several league titles and cup competitions.

For 2006-07 it was decided to create an open age team, joining the Rochdale Online League.and the name Santos continued for several more seasons in various seven-a-side leagues.

In their second season, the club applied to join the Lancashire & Cheshire League. The application was successful, so we started season 2008-09 in Division 2 whilst our reserve team entered in Division C. It was a tough baptism as the club struggled near the foot of the division for two seasons, before finishing in third place in our third season.

The first team entered Division 1 in season 2011-12 and for the next three seasons spent life at the bottom end of the division. The following season proved to be disastrous for the club. An early season exodus of players resulted in the reserve team squad stepping up several divisions to complete their season.

Unfortunately they were subjected to several heavy defeats ending the season on zero points. The reserve team were removed from their division as a result.

For season 2015-16, the club went through a restructure and it was decided to stay with just the one team.

There was a complete overhaul of the playing squad. A couple of long serving players returned to the club. After a request to drop down the leagues, the club were placed in Division A.

After a mixed season there was a move up to Division 3 where the club spent the next two campaigns, before another move up followed, after a league restructure.

It was back where we started life in Division 2 for 2018-19 season after another disappointing season for the club. Without a win until February, the club had a heartening finish, however it was too late to prevent finishing bottom.

Gaining a reprieve in the latest season, early results meant that a hopefully productive season was a possibility, unfortunately a mid season slump means that at the time the season was ended, Santos were third from bottom.

After several seasons playing home fixtures around the Middleton area, the club has now found its home in Royton – where the club originates from – at a new facility at The Oldham Academy North since 2014.

This is a nice facility with a 3G pitch. Royton Town from the Manchester League are also based at this facility as well.

Santos, has to compete with several local clubs playing in the Manchester Leagues, and also long established Lancashire & Cheshire clubs. The club has a good squad of players, the majority have now been together for the last five seasons and there is a good spirit between them.

Looking towards the future of the club, Santos formed a Junior section.

A soccer school for class Year 1 was formed. It has now progressed through the years, this season the club has reached U15s level.

There are also teams, all playing in the East Manchester Junior Football League, at U7s, U8s, U12s, U13s and U14s level and the Junior section are always on the look-out for new players.

If anybody is interested in getting involved with Santos, contact

L&C AFL AGM set for 4 June

Club secretaries in the league have been sent details about the annual general meeting which is set to take place on Thursday 4 June at 7pm. Secretaries should be aware that the deadline for extending invitiations to other club members, and to submit questions, is 1 June.

As detailed below, the league has been trialling the most appropriate way to conduct the meeting in these unprecedented times, and Zoom is the preferred option.

The AGM on the 4th June will take place by video conference at 7 PM. Please note we have brought the start time forward by an hour from our normal general meeting start time of 8PM. This is to avoid clashing with the weekly ‘clap for carers’. The meeting will be available to join from 6:45, and will start at 7PM prompt. Attached to this email are the agenda, previous minutes, rule changes and ballot paper.

We successfully tested Zoom with Manchester FA on their licenced version (avoids timing out after 40 minutes), so we’ll be using Zoom and MFA will issue the invitations. Further, more detailed joining instructions will be issued to secretaries.

The invitations to attend will be sent to club secretaries, if secretaries want invitations to go to other club members, let me know by 1st June. Every club is expected to do their utmost to attend.

If you would like to submit questions in advance of the meeting, again let me know by the 1st June. There will be a facility to ask questions on the night.

Attendees will be logged, achieving a virtual roll call. All voting items are on the ballot paper which is to be sent in to me by 9AM on the 8th June, by email by club secretaries. The votes will be verified by MFA and the results declared soon after.