Bury Ams celebrate their centenary

WHILE the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL, along with other grassroots leagues, is waiting with bated breath for the roadmap back into local outdoor sport and have plans in place to cope with whatever time they are given for a restart, it gives the league the chance to outline the distinguished history of one of its clubs about to celebrate their centenary.

By Phil Savill – Vice Chair, Secretary, Third Team Manager, U12 Manager, U7 Manager

Bury Amateurs FC will celebrate the club’s centenary on February 28th.

In the Secretary’s minutes record, 18 members attended a meeting at the Derby Hotel in the centre of Bury (now demolished) and passed the resolution ‘That an Association Football Club be formed and application be made for membership to the Lancashire Amateur League’. The members seemed to find some difficulty in agreeing a name for the newly formed club and the discussion of the topic had to be suspended but later in the evening a proposal suggesting the title BURY AMATEUR ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL CLUB was carried. Despite the use of the singular word ‘amateur’ the Club is often referred to as Bury Amateurs.

For their first ever season in 1921 a ground was acquired at the old Golf Links on Manchester Road but only rented and not purchased. The failure not to purchase a suitable ground in the earlier years of existence of the Club would be felt in later years. A substantial number of members felt that the future lay in becoming the Football Section of the well-equipped and organised Bury Sports Club and approaches were made. The two merged in 1925 but it was not to be a happy partnership. Even so, the arrangement lasted until 1934 when a new ground was sought off Manchester Road in Redvales, Bury.

The split with Bury Sports Club was due to the success of Bury Amateurs on the field, they naturally wanted to be independent of the Bury Sports Club but yet still an integral part of the host set-up. After three seasons settling in, Bury Amateur A.F.C. took over the Central Section (virtually the L.A.L. until 1929). Season 1923-24 saw them pick up the Division 1 and 2 titles and they repeated their success in the following 1924-25 and 1925-26 seasons.

Lancashire Amateur League Clubs often entered the Lancashire Football Association Cup but with rare success. Quite often the cup ended up on Merseyside and being drawn against a Liverpool side usually signalled a short campaign. In 1926 and with the Championship side enjoying league success Bury Amateurs did well to draw with the holders from Liverpool, Marine F.C. Unfortunately, Bury went on to lose the replay 9-1.

The following year saw an amazing goalscoring feat. Amateurs’ player Norman Tattersall, playing for Lancashire against Birmingham hit seven, an amateur record at the time. The result 10-2 to the Red Rose County must have been very satisfying and particularly to the Bury player who notched the goals. Entries in The Lancashire Evening Post said: ‘Within just one minute of the start of the game at Deepdale, Tattersall had scored two goals and completed his hat-trick in a mere two and a quarter minutes. What a way to start a game!’

Another newspaper article told the story of a supreme triumph. The year was 1929 and the Manchester Guardian allocated no less than 16 column inches and a photograph, reporting the Lancashire Amateur Cup Final played between Bury Amateurs and Liverpool opponents Collegiate Old Boys. The report was written in true guardian style and makes wonderful reading. Most important of all of course was the result, a 3-1 victory for Bury despite having gone one behind after only six minutes. It is hard to imagine but the final generated such interest that 2,000 people turned up to watch.

1936 found the Club yet again on its travels and this time the Warth Riverside Ground became home. Lying as it did between the River Irwell and the Bury-Manchester electrified railway, a hefty clearance out of play meant either the ball floated away down the river or somebody dicing with death retrieving it from the lethal live third rail. During this pre-WW2 period the Club had the fortune to have services of an outstanding goalkeeper, Ken Whitehead. Such was his talent that on three occasions he wore the much coveted keepers jersey for the England Amateur International XI, all were victories including a 5-2 victory over Wales at Whaddon Road in Cheltenham on 28 January 1939.

The disruption caused by WW2 took time to clear but the Club picked up two immediate post-war honours, winning the combined section in season 1945-46 and the Central Section Championship in 1947-48.

In 1955, Ammies player Francis Adams, left the club to sign for Bury FC going onto make 169 appearances for The Shakers between 1955 and 1963. He missed only three games in Bury’s Third Division championship season of 1960-61, the most successful in the club’s history in terms of goals scored and points gained. In 1958 Adams was involved in controversy when playing for Bury against Chester in the FA Cup second round. With Chester leading 1–0 in the closing minutes, their player Norman Bullock was brought down in the area with play stopping as the linesman flagged for a penalty. However, Adams picked up the ball and punted it forward and, with the ref deciding to play on, set up a late equaliser for Bury, who went on to earn an attractive tie with Arsenal in the third round after beating Chester in the replay.

The early 1960s found a young 20-year-old left-winger working his way through the lower teams until he reached the first XI. His footballing ability was reasonable but his speed phenomenal. So quick in fact that encouraged by the local athletic club, he gave up soccer and took up sprinting. Despite very poor local athletic facilities Barrie Kelly reached the top and represented his country at the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico. For several years he held the European 60 metres Indoor Record. Pity he didn’t stick at football he may have helped the Ammies out of what had become a very barren spell in terms of success.

Season 1965-66 found the Club without their ground. An adjacent paint manufacturing company needed further room to expand their business and the two football pitches through the railway arch suited them ideally. Fortunately at the time, Bury was the base for the Lancashire Fusiliers Regiment. Often the barracks were empty but were maintained for when the Regiment returned from their duties in overseas. The facilities included a large playing field, changing accommodation and a large gymnasium. With the softening of the Cold War the barracks came under control of the local authority and sadly what were superb facilities deteriorated badly. Despite the disappointments a period of success was on the horizon.

Promotion to Division 1 was followed by immediate relegation and made for a mixed start to the 1980s. On the recommendation of The Lancashire F.A., Amateurs appointed their first ever Manager / Coach. With team matters now in the hands of one person as opposed to a Committee, the club was on the road to revival. The all-round improvement brought to the Club soon showed itself and in season 1984-85 the club finished with both the Premiership title and the L.A.L 1st XI’s Challenge Cup. A third Premiership title followed and a further taking of the 1st XI’s Challenge Cup made for a satisfactory end to the 1989-90 season.

The 1990s saw the break up of the successful 80s side as players were cherry-picked by clubs offering a higher standard of football. Even though the Amateurs had to dig deep to keep going they always turned out a first and reserve team week in, week out, mainly through the hard work of stalwarts such as Nick Kingston, Mike McMahon, Milton Colman, Roy Lindon and Pete Holden.

In the early years of the new millennium, the hardcore of players and particularly Glyn Haslam as manager, secretary and treasurer (along with his wife Geraldine), coupled with the return of several ex-players, stabilised the club. The long-term future of the club was secured with the amalgamation with Prestwich-based junior club, Drinkwater Warriors. The Club continues into its 100th year and prides itself on the ethos of the club to provide football for all. The Club currently field sides in The Lancashire and Cheshire AFL, NBJFL and BBDFL and despite the testing times currently, the committee are working hard in an effort to secure that football for all for another 100 years.

Bedians on the up

BEDIANS are one of the oldest clubs in the Lancashire and Cheshire AFL being founded as Old Bedians in 1928 then in 1930/31 moving to the L & C and playing two teams in the junior division of the L & C and two senior teams the following season for former students of St Bedes College.

They played originally at St Bedes College, then Hough End in 1933 and 30 years later moved the LAL as the L & C could not accommodate their five teams.

Bedians stayed in the LAL until 1978 and under the guidance of Ged Lee and Nick Murphy enjoyed a successful era.

They moved to their present site at Underbank Farm in 1965 sharing the facilities with Old Bedians RUFC and by then had scrapped the rule that all players had to ex Bedians students and rejoined the L & C in 1978, fielding four teams who all enjoyed excellent cup and league success for many years.

A serious fire in the clubhouse saw it rebuilt in its present excellent facility and opened in 1993 with Keith Marsden a big mover in its development.

The club also hosted cup finals and Inter League games during this golden period in its history.

But as with many football and other sports clubs changing social attitudes saw the club’s teams reduced over recent years and it is now down to one team, playing mainly in division two in recent seasons.

But under the enthusiastic guidance of Rob O’Connor Bedians are rebuilding and looking to get back to their former glory years.

Rob said: “Over the last few years we have rebuilt our infrastructure, squad, invested in our equipment, pitches and facilities to ensure our future and reach our centenary in 2028/29.

“The squad is well balanced with a good blend of youth and experience that can develop into a very good team over the next few years.

“We are working with the football foundation on a number of fronts at the moment and have received three grants recently for the Pitch Preparation towards maintaining both our pitches in readiness for season 20/21, plus the Club Preparation for hand sanitising dispensers, deep cleans, signage and other costs associated towards making a safe environment due to COVID 19 and our final payment for Stay in the Game, additionally we are in conversation with Lancashire FA and football foundation to enclose our playing area and update our showers and changing area.

“Due to Covid 19 and the first national lock down we had a great turnout at pre-season training and trained up to three times a week prior to friendlies starting, many thanks to Sam Seasay our coach and assistant manager for taking the sessions, this helped creating a stronger club spirit also helped players being more engaged with our club and an appreciation of the facilities at Old Bedians Sports Centre.

“This has led to us now having a strong committee of players who help out, with cutting marking and maintaining the pitches which is very time consuming especially over the summer growing season when the pitches need cutting every five days.

“We have had a few working parties down at the club cutting the brambles, bushes and tidying up the surrounding areas of the pitches, we actually hired a mini digger for a number of days to assist with this process, we retrieved 15 footballs doing this task, we also have a media manager Liam Hargreaves and he has designed our own website please check it out -https://bediansafc.wixsite.com/home, which is updated regularly when in normal times also we have regular updates on Twitter, Facebook, Google and Instagram.

“We also have a club sponsor SGC Civil Engineering who have bought us two kits and have advertising around the pitch and donated a fantastic raffle prize season 2019 of four executive seats and a meal at Old Trafford for a home fixture over the Christmas holidays, unfortunately this season due to restrictions we could not replicate.

“We have now had a donation from one of our players of a pool table which will be recovered also have purchased a few new TV’s to keep players at the club after the game all players receive a club Polo Shirt and Tracksuit top for match days.

 “For the future -We have started a project with Cheadle and Gatley Junior football club who have 53 teams and over 650 members to play junior football which we hope will lead these children into adult football on Saturday at present we have an under-13s and 15s team at Bedians, C&G JFC  have invested in two new sets of goalposts for junior and adult football and the aim is to become a strategic partner and have teams playing Saturday and Sunday at Bedians to continue the investment in the facility and continue the journey into the coming decades.

“We are always looking for new players from the local community however we have people from all over Manchester, Julian Patterson who has played for Bedians since he was 16 -I won’t tell you how old he is now but he is still the fastest player in the club and travels from Stone in Staffordshire for all games and training, everybody is given a warm welcome and asked to join us for a drink in normal times.

“We have some great nights out and our Christmas night out is well attended every year, with players from past and present, we are a very diverse bunch from different cultures and backgrounds that work in different businesses from Banking, Recruitment, Building trades, Retail, teaching, an Osteopath and too many other fields to mention are only criteria is everyone has to get on and enjoy themselves.

“Our biggest drawback is funding as we own our own ground and have to pay for its upkeep and maintenance it is an expensive place to play sport and before a ball is kicked in anger it costs us about £6,000.00 before a ball is kicked to pay for pitch repairs, marking and contributions to the sport centre, we are always looking for sponsors and volunteers if you are interested please get in touch through our website and we will get back to you asap.”

AFC Oldham look to continue their success

With grassroots football currently on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the L&C are profiling its member clubs. This week, Andy Rowlandson, Development Officer at AFC Oldham, talks about the club’s history and its journey to the present day.

AFC Oldham have been in the Lancashire & Cheshire AFL since we were formed in 2005, prior to that our open age section ran as Clarksfield St. Edwards who had joined the league back in 1986.

At the time of our inclusion, the club was primarily run by one man, the late Bob Rowlandson.  Bob had held every position that was possible at the club and was the current club secretary, treasurer, discipline officer etc.

This continued until 2005 when Clarksfield St. Edwards merged with Oldham Teachers and Littlemoor Juniors to form AFC Oldham. This brought many new players in and some helping hands to join our newly formed committee. 16 years on and a few of those are still at the club doing a great job, Jimmy and Teresa Smith, Ross Elliott and myself.

The club started with three open age teams and they were placed appropriately throughout the league. Over the next few seasons, the teams held their own in their respective divisions, with our first success coming in 2007-2008 when our third team won the Division E Title. This was followed by our first team winning the Rhodes Cup in 2012-2013, with another taste of success for our thirdteam in 2017-2018, winning the Hellawell Shield.

We were also recipients of the league’s Fair Play Award in 2018-2019.

In 2014-2015 our high flying first team finished Runners Up in the Premier Division, but unfortunately, several players were causing major problems within the club.

The executive committee decided, for a variety of reasons, that a change was needed and removed the complete first team and management set up. Ross Elliott (then third team manager) and our third team, stepped up to play as our first  team in the 2015-16 season, finishing bottom of Division two.

Over the next few years, Ross developed and improved the first team, establishing them in Division one and Andy Steel joined him at the helm in the summer of 2019.

In March 2020 our first team were top of Division one and unbeaten all season, but with just three games left, the season was curtailed due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and any celebratory plans were cancelled.

Despite this setback, the club were promoted back to the Premier Division and as I write this, we currently sit joint second in the table.

Again, we may miss out on the possibility of silverware due to the season of 2020-2021 being ended early again because of this awful ongoing pandemic. But in my eyes, it is a team capable in of winning the Premier Division very soon.

Alongside myself, Ross, Jimmy and Teresa we have introduced new committee members over the years who have helped build and develop AFC Oldham – Peter Bird came in as Club Chairman and now Club President, and despite his years, he has helped steer the club in the right direction.

Andy Steel came in as second team manager and showed immediate success off the field as he was awarded Volunteer of the Year awards for Oldham and Greater Manchester in 2018. Andy also took over our Ladies team and guided them to the semi-finals of the MFA County Cup last season.

There are many more people at the club I could name who have helped make this club what it is today and I would like to thank them all for the hard work they have put in over the years and for the many years to come.

A Tribute to Jim Edmundson

A Tribute to Jim Edmondson

By Keith Marsden

In the 1980’s we were frequently short of referees and so Jim, who was the League’s Referees Secretary, would often call on me to fill in at my club Bedians. The phone would go on Saturday morning, my daughter would answer it and then shout “It’s for you, Dad. It’s that man with the laugh” and I knew it was Jim. A very appropriate description of a lovely man.

His work as Referees Secretary was nothing short of amazing as there was no software to help him, no Internet, no email. He and his wife Margaret used to spend lots of hours on a Sunday assigning referees to matches and then handwriting postcards to all the referees and clubs informing them of the next Saturday’s appointments. His phone line was extremely busy too but there was never anything other than a cheerful answer, no matter what problem he was confronted with. Jim also kept huge ledgers recording the details of all the appointments and the marks awarded to referees for every game. These are now stored with the League’s historical records in Stockport Heritage Library.

Jim was my predecessor as League Chairman and once told me that he would be glad when I took over as he regarded himself as a “backroom boy”. That is a complete understatement and Stoconians know only too well of his immense contribution over so many years. His pots of tea at Hillcrest Road were legendary and he was a regular attendee at the Annual Dinner well into his nineties.  “The man with the laugh” will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

Well known by all the current league committee and many club officials, Jim was an outstanding, dedicated servant to both club and league, and his legacy are the many successors following him to keep this wonderful game thriving.

Stoconians Announcement

We have posted this announcement this evening. The details have been made public in the Stockport Express today.

Jim Edmondson – R.I.P.

Stoconians FC are sad to announce the death of our Life President Jim Edmondson who passed away peacefully on 27th September 2020 aged 97.

Jim, affectionally known as “Mr Stoconian” has been involved with the club as a player, Secretary, Chairman, President and our first ever Life President. Jim is renowned for his famous after match cup of tea until his “retirement” at 90 years young.

Jim was involved with the L&C Committee as League President 1975-76, Vice Chairman 1990-95, Chairman 1995-97 and served around 20 seasons as Referee’s Secretary.

Jim’s funeral will be held at St Paul’s Church, Heaton Moor at 2.00pm on 12th October 2020 and is by invitation only. The family have asked for donations in Jim’s memory to The Alzheimer’s Society via https://www.memorygiving.com/jamesedmondson

The club wish to express our condolences to the family.

Rest In Peace Jim

Mark Cavanagh, Chairman, Stoconians FC

New club profile: Sale Amateurs

The reigning champions of the Altrincham & District Amateur Football League (ADAFL) will make their bow in the Lancashire & Cheshire AFL this season.

Sale Amateurs are moving to pastures new in search of a new challenge after this ‘band of brothers’ enjoyed an immensely fruitful time over the last three years in particular, which have yielded league and cup triumphs.

This coincides with the stewardship of Dan Creely, whose reign as secretary has seen significant changes – including the move to the L&C – while also retaining a link to the club’s beginnings.

The passion for the club runs in the family, as Dave Creely, Dan’s Grandfather, set up Sale Amateurs back in 1987. His dad and uncles also appeared for the club, a tradition his involvement has continued.

Now, Dan enjoys the valued support of Mike Gleave, Sale’s manager, and both have input into the team’s on-field fortunes. Sam Nolan is the Chairman and in another link to Sale teams of years gone by, Scott Bowden is the Treasurer and, just as significantly, is one of three players who still turn out for Sale Amateurs and also did so for Dave Creely.

It has been key in fostering what is a “special” bond felt within the squad, evident with the achievements since 2017.

The tide for the club’s on-field fortunes changed after an “epic” night in the Altrincham Senior Cup in 2018.

Dan explains: “I took over in the middle of 2017, and before that it was Sam Nolan, who is one of our Chairmen. Myself and Mike Gleave, the manager, stepped up.

“At first, I agreed to step in and hopefully the club would get a manager. Mike wasn’t keen either, but we took it on and ended up in a cup final which we won on penalties. It was an epic night with hundreds of people watching and we’ve gone from strength to strength since.”

In the semi-final, Sale Amateurs overcame rivals, Jolly Butcher, described by Dan as a “tough, physical side.” Down to 10 men, the club hung on for a 3-2 win, before seeing off Partington on penalties in the final – “a massive night” for the club which brought the first trophy for Sale in quite some time.

Since then, the quality on the pitch has shone through; in 2018/19, Sale Amateurs finished the season third in the league, just six points behind Partington, and with an attack and defence only bettered by the table-toppers.

Before the 2019/20 season was called to a halt, Sale Amateurs were sitting pretty at the top of the league, four points clear with a game in hand. They hadn’t tasted defeat in the league, and possessed its most potent attack and meanest defence.

Cup success was very much anticipated too, with a semi-final appearance booked in, before the pandemic put paid to that.

It paints a picture of a club ready for a move, looking for greater challenges on the pitch. Dan explained: “Since 1987, the club has played in the ADAFL but the league has shrunk and is now one league when it used to have three, so it was something we needed to address.”

Off the pitch too, the club boasts some of the best facilities amateur football could wish for; under Dan’s watchful eye, Sale have moved from their old Manor Avenue playing facilities to Banky Lane at Mersey Valley Sports Club.

Dan added: “They are the best facilities around by a country mile and are at North West Counties standard. There is a seating area next to the pitch and the whole club has a good setup.”

There will be challenges of course, in terms of playing and the extra demands on travelling to fixtures which, Dan concedes, Sale Amateurs “will have to adjust to.”

To help with this transition, player recruitment is important, as is squad depth; Sale Amateurs are struggling with neither. At the time of writing, 28 players had committed to the club, but through word of mouth, and the power of social media, there is a great reach.

Dan said: “What I find is when lads move into the area and want to play football, they find out through social media. I have had lads turn up who have moved from Stoke, two lads who have moved over from Brazil, one from Australia.”

This is underpinned by superb coaching – something the club’s secretary feels they are blessed with – and a core group of players who have a bond that is “special,” and feels like an extended family.

Dan concluded: “We respect each other and we are a band of brothers. It is very much a family.

“One thing I will definitely say, and I find it quite special, is that within this team, from the squad we’ve pulled together for the last three years, there are people that have absolutely no right to know each other but they turn up on Saturday and all of a sudden are the best of mates.

“We have a 44-year-old centre half who played for my Granddad and he’s still an unbelievable player. All the lads love him.

“He shouldn’t be around! But all these lads love each other and the respect they have is unbelievable.”

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.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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 ward_ian@msn.com.

Signol ready to celebrate 40 years

SIGNOL FC is one of Stockport’s top junior and open age clubs and is looking forward to celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2021.

The club is named after its founder Anne Signol, who is a very prominent member of the local community and is known as the Founder and Head Physiotherapist (MACP, MCSP, HCPC, FMHA, MBRAC, KHT) at The Signol Centre – one of the longest established physiotherapy and acupuncture practices in the Stockport area.

Anne has always played an active role in the community and also owns The Signol Community Centre, which has been part of the Romiley community for many years; the building has a lot of history and dates back to 1820.

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Anne has always wanted the centre to play an active role within Romiley, and it’s used for many different classes from Art to Zumba. 

In her own words Ann describes how Signol football Club was initially started:

“I was a physiotherapist at Stockport Infirmary treating asthmatic children. At the time the procedure was for the children to be treated once a week to aid their breathing and improve the lung capacity.

“Once a week didn’t seem enough, so as I owned the Signol centre gym in Romiley, I got them to go to the gym for half an hour each evening to practice the exercises I had given them including using various equipment to increase their muscle strength and coordination.

“On Saturday they had to show me what they had done so that I could note their progress, one hot June the boys were fed up as the girls were dancing and doing gymnastics so I took them to the park with a football for a kickabout and that was it John Wyatt whose mother Val worked with me said he would train the boys and they could play friendlies.

“The children chose the name Signol Athletic and the team was born in 1980. The problem was we had no equipment.  I put a cardboard box in the hall and patients whose children had grown out of their boots donated them, so we had boots.

“A patient of mine manufactured track suits for the league football teams in Pear Tree mill and he said he would donate track suits for the team, as I was working with Malcolm Allison at Manchester City on a project of prevention of injuries and improvement of performance he put a Manchester City down the sleeves, we felt very smart.

“In 1981 Brian Malpas took over the team and in a short while he turned it from a team into Signol Athletic Junior Football Club.

“He developed it into a very successful club with the aid of managers Stuart Kelly, John Brereton, Vic Womack, Tony Whiteside, Phil Norbury, Allan Mellor and his right-hand man Liam Gately.

“In 1990 they won the league title in the Stockport Metro League and in 1990 they also went to Amsterdam on a trip with 30 footballers and eight adults taking part coming back with a winner’s trophy. The team had been to Amsterdam several years before.

“To fund the trips, several events took place, such  five-a-side competitions and I raised a lot of money putting on Variety Shows at the Romiley Forum using the children and various sponsored swims.

“Every year in the summer we took the boys for a week’s holiday to the caravan park in Rhyl and together with Jeff Ryan, Marple’s football coach, they organised everything.

“We hired John Evans, a football coach from Wrexham, to train the boys every morning at the Rhyl Sports Centre, and in the afternoons they played five-a-side with a grand final on Friday afternoon. 

“For several years we held Sportsmen’s dinners at Quaffers, Bredbury with Guest Speakers Tommy Docherty, Bill Foulkes, Paddy Crerand, Denis Law and comedian Ivor Davies .

“Brian Malpas was chairman from 1981 to 1998 and then Dave Parsonage took over and he and his team have done a marvellous job.

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“I can’t thank them enough I am so proud of you all, it’s an amazing achievement and to see Danny Bowden who joined the club at four managing the open age team and the boys who are now working Stockport Schools teaching football skills to the pupils – it’s very special to me and I thank you all.   “Here’s to a party in 2021 when Signol Athletic will be 40!“

Signol official Gill Bowden takes over the Signol story: “The club has grown considerably from those early days described by Anne, now providing teams from under 7s to open age. The club allows boys and girls in the area to play football and be coached in a caring, safe and respectful environment, whatever their ability, gender or race.”

“In 2009 the club only provided for teams up to Under 16s and at that point Gordon Bowden, then the manager of the Under 16s team spoke to the club and requested that the team be able to enter into the Stockport Metro Under 17/18’s league for the 2010/11 Season. The following year Gordon requested that he take the team to play in an Open Age League, the club agreed that an open age team could be formed if the team was run separately to the junior club.

“Gordon had run the team for the prior 11 years and his son Daniel had played for Signol since he was four years old. 

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“Daniel was refereeing in the Lancashire and Cheshire League and Gordon usually watched his games, he was impressed with the standard of teams and organisation of the League and as he had played in the league many years before he approached the League in 2011 with a request to enter his team.  “The Lancashire and Cheshire League accepted the team and placed them in division three and after six years the team reached the Premier Division, with a reserve team in Division A and a third team in Division B run by Daniel Bowden who at this point had stopped refereeing due to injury. 

“Unfortunately, the Premiership seemed a step too far and after just one season the first team folded, the remaining two teams continued for a further year in their respective divisions and then went their separate ways.

“Daniel’s team continued and some of the original first team players returned, and Signol Old Boys was created run by both Daniel and Gordon with the League placing them in Division One for season 2019-20.

“Signol Athletic were placed in Division Three where they have enjoyed a great season until the lockdown.

“They have lost just one league game and are well clear in second place in the table behind Chadderton Cott and I will be delighted if they secure promotion to keep up the proud tradition of our club.

 “Anne Signol is a wonderful lady who never asks for any thanks. The football club is a very small part of what she has provided to the community over the years, she has raised funds for a great many children’s charities by writing books and putting on Pantomime performances. 

“Thank you for this legacy, Anne, from everyone you have touched over the years.”

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