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‘Ambitious and passionate’ new boss Sam points way to successful Tormarton future
NEW Tormarton manager Sam Jarman used his strong player connections to help prop up creaking ranks ahead of the latest abandoned campaign, reports Simon Parkinson.
As the 2019-20 campaign, which was so sadly cut short in early March due to the coronavirus crisis with the ninth-placed South Gloucestershire club still only midway through their Bristol and District League Division Two fixture programme, fast approaching last August, Tormarton were struggling to assemble enough bodies prepared to enter the football fray.
It required some drastic action and no small amount of determination. But, led at the time by busy player-boss Chris Cook, Tormarton managed to raise a side for the off and successfully so as visiting Thornbury Town Reserves were beaten 3-1.
Active on the pitch that September 7 afternoon before his recent elevation to the manager’s seat, Jarman, 24, recalled of a challenging 2019 pre-season: “Two of my mates from Westerleigh Sports, Ben Hawkins and Jamie Harkin, came in and two lads I coached at Chipping Sodbury Under-18s, Charlie Moore and Lewis Wynn, also joined along with Callum Furnival who signed from Old Sodbury soon into the season.
“A good friend of mine, Sean Sheppard, a centre-back who had been with Iron Acton since he was 16 and loved it there, later proved a great acquisition in January when we were short of defenders.
“Chris Wilmot (Iron Acton secretary) was brilliant in waiving the seven day transfer rule. Were there were more people like Chris it would be a much better game.
“I want to do my bit too and if in ten years time this team is still going and I’m a good reason why, I couldn’t ask for any more with so many long-established clubs going to the wall.
“I’m ambitious and passionate about football and would love us to reach the top division of the District League and do well in cups.”
Jarman counts Wickwar Wanderers Youth and men’s teams, Pucklechurch Sports Reserves, Chipping Sodbury Town A and reserves where his brother Ethan, a goalkeeper, was performing, and Yate Town Reserves among former clubs.
“Yate unfortunately folded,” Jarman explained, “but I had a few mates at Tormarton who made me really feel welcome at training so I ended up going there in 2016-17, the year they won the GFA Intermediate Cup although I wasn’t good enough to feature in the final against Yate Athletic!
“I even had a spell coaching with Chipping Sodbury Under-18s and attained not only a standard FA Level 1 coaching badge but a Level 1 goalkeeping certificate too, which I did to help my brother out and was a lot of fun.”
It’s been very much a family football affair for Jarman throughout as he smiled: “My uncle Dariuse played for Kingswood and my grandad Harold had a great career with Rovers (502 appearances and 147 goals between 1959 and 1973).
“I’m so proud and privileged to be his grandson and so much I have learnt has come from chatting to him on a Sunday afternoon.
“My dad Richard and his brother Mathew both played on the Downs for Conham Rangers and Retainers respectively.”
Alternatively visit their twitter page @TormartonFC
Such an honour to take charge at Tormarton, Harold Jarman’s grandson Sam enthuses
SAM Jarman reflected on his call to become Tormarton’s new player-manager in Bristol and District League Division Two and beamed: “It’s a massive honour,” writes Simon Parkinson
The 24-year-old from Yate is to take up the reins from the club’s loyal servant Chris Cook, who is calling time on hot seat duties in order to concentrate on his many more on and off-field commitments.
Jarman’s grandfather Harold, now 80, is the famous former Bristol Rovers winger who also played first-class cricket for Gloucestershire.
Sam, a versatile left-sided player, is among a new breed of younger managers and coaches adorning the game at a time grassroots clubs are struggling for survival.
By his own admission Tormarton were at that point too as he revealed: “Last summer it was touch and go whether we’d be able to continue. We had a meeting of senior players and I managed to get a few lads to training and enough to start the season.
“I’d been helping Cooky (Chris Cook) out with the dogsbody jobs when he rang me and asked if I’d be prepared to replace him as manager.
“There was a belief within the group that if I did take over I could get players in and I’m grateful to him for feeling I’m the man to step into his shoes; it’s a massive honour.
“I don’t blame him for stepping down; he’s worked so hard as manager, chairman, secretary and treasurer, all at the same time, which all the boys appreciate. That is an enormous undertaking for anyone.
“The struggle to field teams has never gone away and it’s a big stress. But I know Chris will guide me while he’ll continue to enjoy playing although I will need to find someone to assist me.”
- Coming up here soon on GFA Local Football News: Enthusiastic new boss Sam Jarman sets out to make his mark at Tormarton – and heaps praise on a rival club for their help in trying times.
We’re out to shake off embarrassing reputation for good, Tytherington chief maintains
In the final segment of our four-part delve into life at Tytherington Rocks, chairman James Eveleigh speaks of his yearning to put his club at the forefront of local football in South Gloucestershire . . .
TYTHERINGTON Rocks chairman James Eveleigh believes his club are well on the way to casting off the ‘perennial strugglers’ tag that has tarnished their name over “too many years,” writes Simon Parkinson.
Although the South Gloucestershire club did enjoy a more positive, albeit shortened, 2019-20 campaign striving to keep the Uhlsport Hellenic Division One West trapdoor at arm’s length, Eveleigh and his staff are eager to rid themselves of an unwanted reputation which he admits has plagued them since the day they last won the league title at the same second tier level in 2014 under Gary Powell’s leadership, their second such success in the space of only three seasons.
“It has been embarrassing, the amount of managerial changes we’ve had over the past five or six years,” Eveleigh accepted.
“I don’t always feel due diligence has been done when it’s come to managerial vacancies and subsequent appointments; there’s maybe not been enough vetting of candidates and making sure they are the right fit for this football club.
“Our reputation from a men’s game perspective has not been great and I don’t want us to be known as a club which sacks its managers the moment a couple of games are lost. We want to give people a fair crack.
“We’re all acutely aware the way our club has been perceived has not been great and we’re looking to rebuild it all the way up, which we’ve already begun to do.”
Eveleigh said: “When I took over as chairman in December I wanted Tytherington Rocks to have a clear objective, a clear goal as to where we want to get to.
“That involves trying to make this a first-choice club for people to come to. We have a successful and ambitious ladies section now and part of our five-year plan is to introduce a ladies development side.
“We’re also looking to work closely with the trustees of our ground at Hardwicke Playing Fields, along with MPs and community, to rebuild the pavilion, to make the club more attractive and community-friendly so that groups like Scouts, Cubs and Brownies can set up base there and birthday parties and other functions can benefit from the facility.
“Where our first team is concerned we want to be in the Toolstation Premier Division as quickly as possible. But we have to be realistic about where the club has been and still is.
“As a board we have to be patient; we don’t have the financial punching power of other clubs so that’s something that will take time in order that we can give a playing budget to our managers.
“And we certainly need to instil stability back into the club.”
The Rocks chief said of the latest hot seat incumbents: “We have full faith in David Doe and his assistant Steve Collins, who came in at a very difficult time in another disjointed last season. Hopefully they can implement their own philosophies and plans going forward.
“We have presented them with clear objectives and what we will do as a board to help them achieve those objectives.
“Until we can kick off again we won’t know for sure how things are looking for next season, but the key aims are to make sure we stay in this division and be knocking on the door of a top ten finish if at all possible.
“Dave and Steve are working hard to bring in players and we want to give them time to put their plans into place.
“But ultimately we’re looking to return Tytherington Rocks to being a force to be reckoned with and Dave and Steve are fully on board with those aims."
Edgell: We’re positive about how Saints Old Boys’ shortened season was shaping up
GRAHAM Edgell is adamant his Saints Old Boys trophy contenders can still reflect on a positive curtailed last Bristol Downs League campaign, writes Simon Parkinson.
His own first XI were sat fifth in the Division One table when coronavirus struck while the club’s third string loitered with intent third in Division Three with all to play for on the cups front too.
Club boss Edgell insisted: “There was plenty still to look forward to. Our reserves reached the final of the GFA Intermediate (South) Cup where we still hope to meet Fishponds Old Boys at Oaklands Park if the opportunity is still there.
“Our A team were third in Division Three and only five points adrift of the leaders APS with games still to be played against them, so we were certainly well placed to have a crack at the title. They’d also reached the quarter-finals of the All Saints League Cup so things were shaping up promisingly there too.
“All in all we were well pleased from a club perspective when the football had to stop and we’re still looking forward to our end of season presentations when we’re allowed to have them.”
Saints OB know all about hosting big occasions – in January they celebrated their 50th anniversary at Bristol County Cricket Ground which was attended by more than 200 people packed into the Grace Room.
And Edgell reasoned: “Fundraising is such an essential part of grassroots football now. The cost of hiring pitches and changing rooms has gone up and if you’re reliant only on player subs then you can find you’re struggling.
“We’re lucky that the social side of our set-up is so strong. We have a small committee of five guys who were all good footballers, clocking up something like 3,500 appearances between them. There’s a quorum past players and family who come to watch games and have a beer afterwards in The Mouse, who also lend us their support whatever the weather and time of year.
“Thankfully we have a thriving WhatsApp group involving people from all five of our sides. We see ourselves not as individual teams but as one big Saints family and that is standing us in good stead right now in particular.
“For local football as a whole I do fear for what might happen at the end of this shutdown. That is why it’s so important for the camaraderie and positive outlook throughout the Downs League and other leagues at and around our level to continue during this difficult time.”
Five teams and flourishing: Saints Old Boys out to keep on the up on the Downs
SAINTS Old Boys’ long-serving clubman Graham Edgell is optimistic they are well placed to keep delivering the goods on the Durdham Downs for many more years, writes Simon Parkinson.
No fewer than five of the club’s teams continue to grace the Bristol Downs League scene, no mean feat in an age when, by Edgell’s own admission, player commitment is “not all it could be” in local football at large.
Not content with winning the top-flight crown eight times, Saints, founded initially as St Andrews Park based at Pen Park School in 1968 before the name switch and move to Bristol’s Durdham Downs three years on, have lifted the league’s Norman Hardy Cup on five occasions.
The experienced club manager and first team supremo is well positioned to know the challenging modern day score. He enjoyed a splendid semi-pro career turning out for the likes of Minehead, Clevedon Town and Cadbury Heath on the Southern, Western and Hellenic League stages.
He explained: “I have been privileged to be part of Saints Old Boys for over 49 years and they have afforded me the opportunity to play 1,000 times for them and score over 550 goals.
“We’ve always been successful and none more so than during the 1980s when we won the top Division One six years on the trot to equal the record set by a team called Union Jack in the early 1900s on the Downs. That’s our claim to fame.
“We have four senior teams in each of the four divisions plus a nursery side called Racing Mouse who, like our B team, are in Division Four and contain an interesting mix of aspiring 17 and 18 year olds and older players still wanting to contribute to football and the club
“That younger section, which is named after our club HQ at The Mouse Pub in Westbury-on-Trym, is really all about bridging the gap between youth and senior football.
“I’m still registered as a player and managed to play one game this season for our fourths at the age of 66. After all, you’re a long-time packed up as a player!”
Edgell’s own first XI were placed fifth in the Downs Division One standings when the coronavirus outbreak forced an early end for all.
“We did find it quite hard going this last season getting consistent line-ups out there week in, week out,” he conceded. “Player commitment levels right across the board in local football weren’t what they once were.”
- Coming up here: part three of our look at Saints Old Boys’ thriving five-team operation
Shave A Saint! Bristol Downs League Old Boys a cut above the rest with NHS support
SAINTS Old Boys are using the popular platform of football to fundraise in a show of support for the NHS - and one of their very own, writes Simon Parkinson.
‘Shave A Saint,’ the brainchild of the successful Bristol Downs League club’s reserve team striker Will Truscott, had, as this article was written, generated more than £1,500 for NHS Charities Together, which is a federation of more than 250 charitable organisations supporting staff, patients and volunteers associated with National Health Service in the UK.
Saints’ former player and committee member Graham Edgell, who these days oversees at the age of 66 all five of the club’s senior sides including the first team whom he manages, as well as looking after the thriving social aspect of their set-up, explained: “As lockdown really began to set in we challenged our lads to raise money for the NHS at what clearly is a critical time.
“One of our players, Will, offered to shave his head with a view to making a donation for the privilege of doing so, and the idea began to form into other forfeits and challenges.
“We’ve got a golf tournament pencilled in for the weekend of May 29th at Woodlands Golf Club in Bristol for which everyone taking part also contributes £10 to the fund. We’re playing in pairs to keep accordance with the national coronavirus guidelines and like the Shave A Saint initiative it’s all being done through the fundraising website Just Giving.
“Basically people donate £10 to have their head shaved and if they decline to do so for whatever reason then they have to stump up £20, which is fair enough!”
Saints Old Boys had a personal and poignant reason to want to do good at this time following the concerning news that one of their most dedicated servants had been taken seriously ill.
“Our Racing Mouse team manager John Shearman went into hospital several weeks ago complaining of a stomach problem and it was found that he had leukaemia,” Graham explained.
“He was isolated from his family and ourselves with little update on his condition for a significant number of weeks which was a real shock and very worrying for us all. It was that unfortunate situation that really sparked the fundraising idea.
“He finally came out of hospital a couple of weeks ago and has returned to receive his second session of chemotherapy.
“John has been with the club for over 25 years so we’re all rooting for him. In fact we’re in the process of getting our target of 100 blood donors together and delivering 96 units of blood before football starts up again.
“We’ve even sent a note to the Bristol Downs League secretary to say we’d welcome more support from right across the league for blood and financial donations for these causes.”
- Coming up here soon: Saints Old Boys looking to build on 50 years of success on the Durdham Downs.
Hardwicke call for help as Gloucestershire clubs strive to stay afloat in summer 2020
CLUBS in Gloucestershire are all facing challenging times right now - and Hardwicke are no exception, writes Simon Parkinson.
Since gaining elevation back to Gloucestershire County League as runners-up to Northern Senior League champions Broadwell Amateurs in 2015, the Green Lane outfit have consistently concluded their campaigns in the upper reaches of the Step 7 competition where first team commitments are concerned.
With six games left of the latest campaign to be tackled, Hardwicke were again on course for such a feat as they sat sixth on goal difference only behind a fifth-placed Gala Wilton side enjoying much better fortunes before coronavirus called a premature halt to a 2019-20 County League programme declared null and void.
It wasn’t quite so comfortable going for Hardwicke’s other two teams, whose reserves and thirds were rooted fast to bottom spot and eighth position respectively in Stroud and District Division One and Three at the stoppage, their own incomplete league opting to head down the points-per-game route to determine final placements.
Now a proud club founded in 1933, who not only won the County League title in 2008 but went on to claim the Hellenic League Division One West crown the following year for good measure before deciding to take a drop down the non-League pyramid for off-field reasons relating to their ground, are appealing for help as coronavirus continues to hit the grassroots game hard.
Anxious first team manager Lee Chivers confirmed a series of annual club fundraising events had bitten the dust “due to the ongoing lockdown in the UK,” adding via their GoFundMe page: “Hardwicke Football Club have been providing the local community with a safe and enjoyable environment to play football for over 85 years.
“With growing success throughout the club for all ages we have needed to improve our facilities and the experience we offer to our members.
“However this comes at a great cost of which we are normally self sufficient and rely heavily on our main fundraising events which have become legendary over the years, from welcoming a team of Spurs legends to play an exhibition match against Hardwicke legends and having the likes of ex international footballers Ray Parlour, Alan Brazil, John Barnes and Neil Ruddock amongst others to host sportsman’s evenings.
“Unfortunately due to COVID-19, like many other events, this year’s fundraising events had to be cancelled along with any further income whilst football and social gatherings were cancelled due to the national lockdown.”
The virus pandemic isn’t the only problem to have beset the Gloucester club of late.
Chivers outlined: “This, along with regular vandalism at our Green Lane home, has left the club in serious need of additional funding to ensure that we are able to continue to provide the local community with such facilities for the next 85 years.
“All donations over £50 will be automatically entered into a prize draw where the winner will receive a full page advert in the matchday programme, to advertise their company or services, for all home matches for a full season.”
Football family comes together to celebrate lives of two Bristol greats, Buster and Dave
THE West Country football family has been mourning the deaths – and celebrating the lives – of popular and devoted Bristol City servants Harold ‘Buster’ Footman and David Fear, writes Simon Parkinson.
Charismatic Buster had been ill for several years with bone marrow cancer when he passed away at the age of 81 on the evening of Sunday, May 17, the same day as long-serving Robins supporter David also lost his life.
Their deaths sparked touching tributes from across the local and national game.
A little more than a year ago Buster was awarded a Lord Mayor’s medal in Bristol, to go with his Royal British Legion gold badge, for his efforts fundraising for numerous causes, not least those dear to him as a former Royal Marine.
Regular City followers became well used to one particular and unique characteristic of sturdily-built Buster on matchdays – his ability to wear only a t-shirt as a top even in freezing temperatures when everyone else was piling on the layers!
It has been reported too that he had been on the cusp of potential recognition in this year’s delayed Queen’s Birthday Honours for his stirring voluntary and charity work which generated more than £100,000 for the causes he so enthusiastically supported.
Buster appeared to be just as popular in his early career as a physio over many years with his home town club Southend United in the 1980s.
“Buster was fantastic to me and he was such a lovely man,” acknowledged Glenn Pennyfather, the one-time midfielder who worked alongside Buster there and later at Bristol City.
“He was helpful and kind and would do anything for anyone. He was a one in a million man really so it’s such a sad loss.
“He was a real character and he would always go swimming on Southend sea front on Christmas Day even if there was ice on top of the water.
“Buster was just a diamond and was great to me at Bristol City too.”
During my own time covering Bristol City for local newspapers I had the privilege of getting to know Buster a little and was among those reporting on his Mount Kilimanjaro fundraising climb for brain injured children around the turn of the Millennium, when he agonisingly had to end his brave push only 500 metres shy of the summit due to altitude sickness.
Despite his impressive physical appearance Buster had a quiet, unassuming nature yet was rightfully proud of his many accomplishments. And he was the consummate professional when it came to his work.
Former City manager Joe Jordan said: “It was David Webb at Southend United who recommended Buster to me when I was looking to fashion my staff after becoming City manager.
“What he told me about Buster was that he was absolutely loyal and trustworthy. That proved to be spot-on.”
On a truly sad same Sunday regarding another of Bristol City’s and local football’s great servants, lifelong fan and director DavidFear also passed away having been a season ticket holder since the 1950s and active fundraiser for the youth development set-up at Ashton Gate.
He once successfully managed Bristol-based Old Georgians FC too, who tweeted of a man who also ran David Fear Electrical Contractors in the city: “Dave was one of the most popular men you could meet, a true gentleman and a great friend. Everyone at @OldGeorgiansAFC would like to pass on their condolences to his family and friends.
“He will be sorely sorely missed by all, especially those connected to the club.”
Former Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore, a friend of his, commented: “Dave was a passionate Bristolian with City at his heart, a very kind soul who organised big fundraisers for the Hospice and a genuinely nice man.”
Radio Bristol broadcaster and one-time Bristol Rovers captain Geoff Twentyman tweeted: “RIP Buster Footman and Dave Fear. Losing two great human beings on the same day is so incredibly tough. Two great City men.
“I’m privileged to have had them in my life. Thinking of Connie and Hillie and everyone affected by their passing. So sad.”
We’ll head down community way to improve Patchway fortunes, Minihane proclaims
TIM Minihane insists he and his fellow Patchway Town manager Phil Vice are determined to ensure harsh lessons will be heeded once the action gets underway, writes Simon Parkinson.
The Scott Park club, confident though they were of ultimately keeping the relegation trapdoor at a safe distance with eight important games still to be confronted, nonetheless experienced a testing 2019-20 Marcliff Gloucestershire County League campaign battling it out in the lower reaches of the table.
Now Minihane, who knows all about major football challenges having been in charge of perennial strugglers Tytherington Rocks in the Hellenic League before joining Vice at the Patchway helm midway through this last shortened season, is anxious to put paid to the hardships once and for all in favour of turning Town into a true County League force once more.
He said: “Although we have no idea when we can start getting back to some sort of football normality we ARE already turning our thoughts to next season.
“We want to use last season’s struggles as a source of inspiration to ensure we aren’t in that position again.
“We’re hoping to use this summer to reconnect with the local community and provide local players with great coaching schedules and facilities in order that they can come to us and enjoy playing football.
“We need to do that and hopefully help create the required momentum and atmosphere to push the club on and gain more support from local residents.
“I also feel it’s important to have more coaches join to help us during pre-season and ensure we’re able to get the players playing to their full potential.”
Minihane and Co did at least take heart from what turned out to be their last game of the 2019-20 season which ended in a 3-0 away victory over near neighbours Little Stoke on March 14.
The Scott Park No.2 enthused: “Our boys responded brilliantly to a big occasion in front of a 100-plus crowd: everyone had gone into it fully focused.
“It’s interesting that of our four wins this last season three have been in local derbies; two against Little Stoke and the other against Henbury.
“It showed the lads had the bit between their teeth for those types of games and with a couple of new players aboard and everyone buzzing, it would have been devastating were we to have gone down having not had the opportunity to give it a proper go.”
I’m confident we had it in us to beat County League drop, Patchway No.2 Tim says
PATCHWAY Town’s joint manager Tim Minihane believes his revitalised team were well placed to beat the dreaded Marcliff Gloucestershire County League drop under their own steam had the campaign not been curtailed, writes Simon Parkinson.
Patchway had just beaten local rivals Little Stoke 3-0 on their short travels in front of 100-plus gripped spectators to give their hopes of leaping off bottom spot, and to an ultimate position of safety, a shot in the arm as they prepared for a next crucial match at home against fellow strugglers Hanham Athletic a week on.
It was a crunch March 21 contest never to see the light of day as the season was ended early due to the coronavirus crisis leaving Minihane, boss Phil Vice and their players and staff extra time to bask in the afterglow of that Little Stoke success in the knowledge they will remain a County League competitor for another year.
Former Tytherington Rocks manager Minihane smiled: “It was a nice way to sign off. We had eight games left to get ourselves out of the mire and four of those were against sides in and around us – Hanham, Broadwell, Bromley Heath and Ruardean Hill.
“Given that and how well we played at Little Stoke, a side I admire who are managed and set up superbly, I’d have been confident we’d turn things around in the normal scheme of things although of course these haven’t been normal times.
“We’d also made a couple of good signings including Joe Barnes, a bright young prospect I worked with at Tytherington early in the season.”
Of that more recent recruit, Minihane explained: Joe’s only 18 and a towering lad well above 6ft with a bright future in the game.
“His first goal against Little Stoke came as their keeper fumbled it and he smashed in the loose ball. Joe’s second was a first-time shot from outside the box which flew into the net. That made it 3-0 and we knew Little Stoke would need a miracle to get back into it.
“Joe holds the ball up really well too and he’s clearly learnt a lot over the past few months.
“Not one of our other players had an off game either and we made no mistakes which contributed to us keeping a clean sheet too which is always encouraging.”
- Coming up soon here on GFA Local Football News: How Patchway are setting about forging stronger links with local community
Tytherington Rocks on a mission to lead way locally on youth and senior fronts
TYTHERINGTON Rocks are stepping up plans to turn their Hardwicke Playing Fields base into a “proper” breeding ground for aspiring youngsters as part of their bold five-year assault on strengthening their arm in the region, writes Simon Parkinson.
Rocks, whose first team perform in non-League Step 6 Hellenic League Division One West, believe signs are already positive as they continue their quest to introduce more youth and junior teams to their ambitious set-up and forge closer ties with the local South Gloucestershire community.
One of those driving forces behind the proposals, James Eveleigh, explained: “When I took over as chairman here towards the end of December I set out a five-year plan which included striving to bring a proper youth football section back to Tytherington.
“I wanted to offer the children of the community something they could enjoy and take pride in; I wanted to turn Tytherington Rocks into a real community club again and expand it on and off the field.
“The youth side of what we are focused on ties into a lot of our long-term objectives although some of those are in the shorter term.
“At the end of the five years I want Tytherington to be a first-choice club for young and adult players in the area and I want whatever teams they perform for to be pushing hard at the top of their respective leagues.
“I want us to introduce a proper player pathway for six-year-olds right up to 18s and then senior status.”
Eveleigh stressed: “Naturally we’d have to go some to have a team for every age group in year one but we DO have a lot of interest in various age categories.
“Our under-7s appear to be quite strong as it stands and the under-10s are looking very good. We have interest too in a couple of older age groups.
“We’re just trying to get word out there and it’s tricky at this time as we can’t hold open sessions and actively go handing out leaflets outside supermarkets and suchlike.
“Rest assured, though; we’re optimistic of making the whole thing a success.”
Of the older end of that youth project, the Rocks chief said: “We have had an under-18 team playing in the Western Counties Floodlight Youth League for the past couple of seasons and we’re actively looking at seeing whether we can keep that group together by turning it into a development side competing in Hellenic Division Two next season.
“They would effectively become our second senior men’s team which would naturally benefit David Doe’s first team as the standard of competition between them would not be that much different.”
Anyone keen to know more about Tytherington Rocks’ youth provision can contact chairman James Eveleigh at email@example.com or on 07854 633501.
- Stand by for the final instalment of our special four-part look at how Tytherington Rocks are shaping up for a proposed revival
Giving girls a go: Thornbury head Wildcats way – and unleash new u-18 boys team
MORE girls will be given a brand-new stage to shine as Thornbury Town set about building up their junior and youth provision over the summer months, writes Simon Parkinson.
The Uhlsport Hellenic League Division One West club are putting the stars of tomorrow at the forefront of their ambitious plans and fledgling female footballers are very much part of that mission.
Vice-chairman Graham Smith explained: “We are adding new teams to the ever-growing number we already have, bringing our total – adult, youth and junior - to 18 next season.
“One of those will hopefully be a second girls team, an under-11 one, but we’re also looking at introducing a new under-18 youth boys’ section.
“We have a great character to call on in Jack Harrison-Bond, who is looking to obtain his FA Level 2 badge next season. Jack is keen to grow the female game in Thornbury and with this in mind he has been instrumental in introducing an SSE Wildcats Girls centre to the town, which in essence offers introductory football to girls from five to 11 years.
“Sessions will be held at Thornbury Leisure Centre although they were due to start this April. Of course because of the coronavirus situation they had to be postponed but as soon as we are able to, and the centre reopens, we will begin the programme.
“Any parent keen for their child to take part can contact either Jack Harrison-Bond (07539 471637) or myself (07580 212496).
“To further this initiative we will endeavour to have more engagement with local schools, which sounds like another job for me as soon as we are back to some sort of normality!”
An increasingly thriving Thorns football provision opens the door for more players, managers and coaches to partake and Smith outlined: “For the new under-18 boys team we will be looking for additional players as well as a manager and/or coach.
“They have been entered into the Bristol Under-18 Combination League and this has come about due to the success of our most recent under-16 team, which will be making up the nucleus of a new squad.
“New home and away kit has already been purchased while we as a club are always keen to welcome new players, managers and coaches to join us and participate at any age level.
“When it comes to would-be coaches we’re always ready to lend our support too as they undertake their respective courses, provided they’re firmly committed to what they’re doing and us as a club.”
Anyone interested in knowing more about Thornbury Town FC or wishing to join them should contact chairman Pete Webber (07732 466606) or vice-chairman Graham Smith (07580 212496).
Making a stand: Thornbury Town unveil bold plans to enhance Mundy Fields facility
THORNBURY Town have been given the green light by council chiefs to get to work on “exciting and vital” ground upgrades they believe can enhance their quest for on-field success, writes Simon Parkinson.
With more bodies aboard to drive the projects forward, Thorns officers and assisters are now keeping everything crossed work can commence soon to bring their Mundy Playing Fields HQ up to modern-day spec as and when coronavirus safety standards allow.
Vice-chairman Graham Smith explained: “We have recently had clearance from our local South Gloucestershire Council to enable works, as and when appropriate, to commence at the ground.
“Hopefully contractors will arrive in the next few weeks to start on the long overdue refurbishing of our changing rooms.
“The plan also is during June and July to have bases laid on the far side of the pitch for a new 50-seat stand and the repositioning of the current stand which will be placed alongside it.
“This means the long-awaited extension to the clubhouse has been deferred for now but with planning in place we will ensure we at least lay a brick within the three-year extension period that comes with it.
“We have also applied for Football Foundation funding for pitch preparation work. This has become necessary due to an unprecedented period of rain earlier in the year causing six consecutive matches to be cancelled.”
Smith stressed: “Our first team manager Jason Rees is naturally champing at the bit to get the lads together for summer training, something which is obviously denied him and us at this difficult time.
“We’re keen to do our best to show him that behind the scenes we’re right behind him, which is why we have brought in some real doers to assist with all that we’re doing.
“We were in a great position to strike for promotion and it’s frustrating that either points-per-game calculations weren’t adopted to decide important issues affecting ambitious clubs like ours, or that the season wasn’t allowed to continue at a later date. Instead it was just declared null and void which was an unsatisfactory way of doing it in our opinion.
“Had we won promotion we’d have been entitled to claim up to 50 per cent of the cost of our new stand through FA grants.
“Because we’re pressing on regardless with getting the new stand up we’ll not be eligible to claim the money next season and it’s not our fault.”
Smith continued: “We’re delighted we can go ahead with our plans to extend the clubhouse as it will create 40 per cent more space and enable more people to come in and enjoy the facility, which of course brings more important revenue with it.
“Both the clubhouse extension and new stand projects come with absolutely no conditions or objections which we’re also really happy about.
“Of course we’re hoping to win promotion next season although whether or not four teams will be in a position to go up as they had been this last unfinished season, we’re really not sure.”
- Up next here on GFA Local Football News: girls to be given a stage to shine as Thornbury Town introduce new sections for the stars of tomorrow.
Life in lockdown will not stop us pushing Thornbury Town on, vice-chair Smith insist
BULLISH Thornbury Town vice-chairman Graham Smith surveyed their challenging position on the Uhlsport Hellenic League front and declared: “We may be in lockdown but we’re far from idle,” writes Simon Parkinson.
The South Gloucestershire club’s first XI appeared to be splendidly placed to strike for Division One West promotion when the coronavirus crisis prompted a premature halt to the season, a bitter pill to swallow for Thorns players and staff with no fewer than four teams destined for the top flight.
Although Jason Rees’ Mundy Playing Fields outfit sat seventh at the shutdown, they did have a raft of games in hand to strengthen their promotion hand having won 12 and lost only four of their 16 games at the point of no return in March.
Smith is not only encouraged to see the current committee remain as is heading into what threatens to be an extended close season, he is heartened too at the arrival of extra manpower he believes can aid the drive to put Thornbury firmly on the South West football map in forthcoming years.
Smith, for many years a semi-professional player himself with Weston-super-Mare, Taunton Town, Forest Green Rovers and Bath City as well as current club Thornbury, insisted: “Although we are still in lockdown we have far from been idle behind the scenes.
“Of course all our team managers can’t wait to get going again waiting for social distancing to be eased, at least enough to consider some summer training sessions.
“We have added new members to the committee including Brian Lansdown who, after parading his skills on the pitch playing for Thornbury some 30 years ago, will now be showing us what he can do with the creation of a new website.
“Richard Illingworth, whose football skills are nil by comparison, has been great at creating and distributing a monthly club newsletter which hopefully in time will reach all of Thornbury and outlying areas. His news items will also be found on the website.
“Richard has got stuck right into it and it helps he’s my neighbour to bounce ideas off!
“Mark Franklin, whose son Luke has been in our first team squad, will act as our media, events, reporting and fundraising man, the type every club needs. All three are what I call doers and are important assets to the club.”
Of the “invaluable role true stalwarts of the club” continue to play behind the Mundys scenes, Smith said: “Two of our long-serving die-hard members, Paul Wisbey, our president, and Malcolm Carr, our kit man and fixture secretary, were due to receive FA 50-Year Awards this month from Gloucestershire FA for their long service to football.
“Sadly those presentations won’t happen anytime soon but a few more months after a lifetime of serving Thornbury Town FC won’t make any difference.”
- Coming up soon here on GFA Local Football News: Thornbury Town get set for “exciting” off-pitch developments
It’s all so hard to take in, Gloucestershire’s own England manager Stuart admits
GLOUCESTERSHIRE walking football enthusiast Stuart Langworthy admits he is still pinching himself after experiencing a whirlwind few months at home and abroad.
The turn of this year saw the long-serving Abbeymead Rovers volunteer and England Over-60 manager jetting off to Rwanda where more walking football training courses for coaches and referees took place, leading to over 20 participants successfully completing each on offer.
He had taken old Abbeymead Rovers kit with him too which, he recalled with a smile, “was received gratefully and worn immediately.”
Finally, as part of a short break with wife Judith who had previously overseen tournament and presentation secretarial undertakings at Abbeymead, Langworthy made contact with a walking football group on the Algarve in Portugal and joined in one of their regular sessions.
He enthused: “It was a fantastic few months really - Crete, Guernsey, Malaysia, Singapore and Rwanda - with the aim in each case to raise the profile of the sport and help more people understand and enjoy the benefits of walking football.
“At each place the hospitality was stunning and people were keen to learn about our wonderful sport. I was honoured and privileged to have these opportunities.
“We developed a grassroots walking football coaching course and we have an established and successful referees course.
“I can only see more fantastic opportunities as more and more countries develop the sport.”
All that came ahead of a hectic few months preparing for the maiden Federation of International Walking Football Associations (FIWFA) World Nations (six-a-side) Cup which was meant to be unfolding over three days at the top-class Manchester City Academy Stadium, part of the Etihad complex, at the end of this month until the coronavirus crisis struck.
Langworthy explained: “We’d had training sessions at Sheffield in February and Derby in March and we were meant to have another at St George’s Park, the FA’s national football centre in Staffordshire, in April.
“The session at Derby was the first occasion where all five England teams were able to get together and the university laid on strength and conditioning and sports psychology sessions to make the whole occasion a fantastic and professional experience for all the players.
“Because of the global coronavirus situation the tournament has unfortunately been postponed but only until May next year when my colleague Paul Murtagh, who manages the over 50s, and I hope to be the first England walking football managers at senior or very senior level to win a World Cup. The delay was unfortunate but inevitable too; it was the right decision.
“On the plus side it could lead to an even bigger and better tournament as already four new countries have registered on top of the ones from this year.
“We have also had several enquiries about running coaching and referee courses when things get back to normal, with one of the interested countries being Brazil. What an experience that would be.”
Langworthy reflected: “I started playing walking football five years ago. If you had told me then that I would have experienced what I actually have over the past five years I would not have believed it.
“The sport is so important in terms of improving the older generation’s physical and mental wellbeing and I love having the opportunity to help develop that around the world. And managing my national team, without doubt, has given me so much pride.
“I feel lucky to have had these experiences and it’s now a case of onwards and upwards and going on to win this World Cup in 2021! Anyone interested in sponsoring the tournament should please contact me.
“It’s also been a huge honour in recent days to be named FIWFA International Manager of the Year at over 60s level. I really didn’t see that coming at all and it was a lovely surprise and huge honour.”
Shelved for now but Abbeymead stalwart Stuart aims to walk off with World Cup prize
WALKING football continues to make impressive strides the length and breadth of Gloucestershire, Bristol and the country – and Stuart Langworthy is the ideal man to confirm it!
He swapped carrying much of the weight of a big and flourishing Abbeymead Rovers set-up as chairman for more than two progressive decades in spring 2019 to focus fully on his exciting role as manager of England Over-60 walking football team whilst Paul Mason, who had been serving as vice-chairman and committee member with Abbeymead, capably stepped into his shoes at the Gloucester club.
Rovers founder member Langworthy spoke of his shock and elation in an interview with GFA Local Football News in late 2017 after a successful interview led to him being ushered into the England Over-60 top job by Walking Football Association chiefs.
Far from content with simply occupying the hot seat at the highest level of the gentler-paced national game, Langworthy, a driving force behind introducing walking football to Abbeymead in 2015 where he continues to be an active member along with his wife Judith, went on to lead England Over-60s to European Championship success last summer.
Langworthy has also taken on the role of ‘activator’ for the GFA Over-50 Walking Football League where he works closely with the county association’s football development officer Jack Stanbury, often attending new sessions around the county to help promote the sport and assist new clubs with getting started.
It has certainly been a busy and eventful last few months for the 59-year-old since that joyous Euros occasion at Chesterfield FC’s 10,500-capacity all-seat stadium.
In October Langworthy took a 60s team to Crete and played in front of a record crowd for walking football of 3,000 where they achieved a narrow 1-0 win. Not content with that, he also pulled on an England shirt himself and made his debut for the 50s in a 0-0 draw.
Later that month Langworthy took on the additional responsibility of organising trials for the first England Women’s walking football teams at over 40 and 50 age levels. He also organised and conducted the first over-70 trial at University of Gloucestershire.
Langworthy went on to select a mixed team to travel to Guernsey to play an inaugural women’s walking football international which England won 2-0.
The over-70 men’s team also played Guernsey and won 2-1 under the leadership of new manager Gareth Lewis. He continues in the role of over-40 women’s boss and, according to Langworthy, must be the only person to manage England men’s and women’s sides at the same time.
A month on and Langworthy, along with two colleagues, travelled to Malaysia and Singapore to train referees and run a coaches training course which he’d written with his son Ross, a UEFA B licensed coach, prompting him to enthuse: “It was great to see more than 30 completing the referees course and 20 the coaches course.”
- Coming up soon here on GFA Local Football News: Stuart’s whirlwind world walking football mission continues with exciting Rwanda trip.
‘We’re all set to go when football green light is given,’ Longwell chief Gibbs maintains
JOHN Gibbs weighed up the overall Longwell Green Sports picture after welcoming aboard new player-manager manager Joe White along with his own backroom team and enthused: “I’m delighted by the progress we’re making,” writes Simon Parkinson.
Devoted chairman Gibbs, who has been part of the Longwell furniture since 1978 in various capacities, recently ushered in 30-year-old White, his famous father Steve and Alex Cummings to the Shellards Road first team hot seat (see separate story here on Local Football News).
And he insisted: “It’s not just about our senior section; our link-up with the juniors is also brilliant. There’s a real conveyor belt of talent here.
“Our current fourth team manager Jason Dunn came in last year with a great bunch of aspiring under-16s.
“Our new reserve team manager Andy Harper is bringing in his own collection of talented youngsters to complement the existing seniors having stepped up from our under-16s, having run his junior section all the way through from when they were under-5s.
“Mark Summers will run a young junior section next season as well as playing a part on our six-man management team at first team senior level.
“It’s great that these guys all have Longwell Green as a club at heart and have been committed to the cause over so many years.”
Gibbs is acutely aware his first team, under the stewardship of Hodge, had been firmly in the mix for elevation back to the Premier Division, having lost their place in the top flight in 2018.
He reasoned, though: “It was very tight, the league. Any of the top six when he had to stop had a chance of making the top-four cut. It was frustrating but that applies to all the others in with a chance too.
“We’ve enjoyed two promising years in Division One having previously been battling to stay in the Premier Division for almost a decade.
“I’m encouraged by what’s happening here. We have a massive project ahead relating to our (Shellards Road) ground which we’ll be revealing more about in due course.
“What excites me is we’re not just running one team; it’s 55 teams spanning Senior men, female, junior and disability sections.
“We’re one of only 25 FA Grassroots Hubs in the country and the only one in the South West, which confirms the fact we provide football in the community for all different age groups and abilities.
“Certainly when you come down to Longwell Green on a normal weekend it’s buzzing; there’s always something going on while a lot of money is being spent on our pitches both at Shellards Road and Lyde Green.
“It means that when the green light goes on for football to return, we’ll be ready.”
It’s all White: Longwell Green Sports go down family route in bid for Prem return
LONGWELL Green Sports chairman John Gibbs is optimistic his new management team of Joe White and Steve White have the credentials to spearhead a promotion drive next season, writes Simon Parkinson.
The son, 30, and father, 61, combination respectively have taken up the Shellards Road helm in the wake of Mitchell Hodge’s intriguing move to take charge of Cadbury Heath, located a mere mile along the road from his previous stamping ground.
The White duo, meanwhile, were last seen operating together at the helm of Heath’s Toolstation Premier Division rivals Chipping Sodbury Town, where they steered the club to an all-time high tenth on the ladder in 2018-19.
Now, with Joe at the head of it, they are back in business at Longwell Green who were firmly in the reckoning for Toolstation Division One promotion third in the table when the football was forced to stop early due to coronavirus concerns.
Of their appointment, Gibbs explained: “We had 14 applicants initially and then we held a virtual Zoom meeting with a shortlist of four candidates. I chaired the meetings and it was certainly an unusual way of conducting important football interviews!
“Also involved was Mark Summers, our assistant manager last year; Chris Alway, our most experienced player; Brad Vickerman, the club’s vice-chairman; Steve Evans, our committee member and Scott Woodman, who is part of our senior and junior coaching staff.
“We’re pleased that Alex Cummings has come on board too as part of that three-man team with his former Sodbury associates Joe and Steve.
“Joe actually played here for us at Longwell several years ago when Gary Powell was our manager and he has great playing experience with the likes of Bristol Rovers as a youngster and then with Chippenham Town, Paulton Rovers, Yate Town and Shortwood United as a striker before going to Sodbury with his dad Steve.
“Joe is also a school PE teacher and has coaching badges too, including UEFA B while he is currently working towards his UEFA A licence.
“Steve’s experience and credentials in the game go without saying as a former professional striker with Bristol Rovers, Luton Town and Swindon Town. In fact he once came second only to Don Rogers in a Swindon cult heroes poll conducted by the BBC.”
- Coming up here shortly: Longwell Green Sports chief Gibbs hails an encouraging “bigger picture” at his beloved club.
We’re out to go one step further in next virtual FA Cup, delighted Manor Farm declare
BRISTOL Manor Farm say they are determined to go all the way next season should the virtual FA Cup competition they have done extraordinarily well in returns for more.
GFA Local Football News reported on April 30 (click here to read the article) that the Portway outfit had reached the final of a national Twitter tournament against Essex Senior League Hashtag United, which began with 736 clubs vying for votes before boiling down to Saturday, May 2’s last two showdown.
Manor Farm’s hopefuls always knew they would be up against it, bullish about their prospects they nonetheless were.
Club scarecrow mascot and commercial manager Tony Parsons explained of an exciting and unexpected showpiece occasion, which unfolded within a three-hour window over the course of the afternoon: “There were 3,798 votes cast by people from all over the globe during the match.
“Hashtag ended up with 68 per cent of the votes to our 32. That means 1,215 people supported us which we were delighted about considering our real average matchday gates are 175.
“I’m really not sure how the organisers, a groundhopping pair called Hopper & Son, came about it but we apparently took the lead through our captain Jamie Adams, described as a 35-yard thunderbolt, only for Hashtag to lead 2-1 at half-time before Jamie set up Owen Howe for our second half equaliser.
“Sadly it wasn’t to be as Hashtag scored two late goals to run out 4-2 winners.”
Tony stressed: “The main thing is our profile has jumped massively as a result of this amazing cup adventure. To have that many people vote for us across the world, including fans of FC Utrecht (Holland) who come to watch us two or three times a year and others from Germany, Canada and Australia, was fantastic.
“Also impressive was the 40-page online cup final programme which was produced for the occasion, which included a fans profile piece in which me, my 15-year-old fellow scarecrow mascot Callum and Haydn, a young supporter from Severn Beach, were featured with our pictures.
“We’d also chosen a genuine Farm squad to give to our secretary Rachael Caswell to put in the programme in pen pic form, so it was all done professionally by @JMAprogrammes.”
Twitter follower Phil Giles wrote: “Hashtag has 190,000 followers so it was a good return from the Farm.”
Another, Barry Carleton, enthused: “Quite an achievement for this small club.”
The excitement of all that out of the way, Manor Farm volunteers are now in the act of attracting sponsorship through a scheme which rewards local NHS charity Above & Beyond.
Tony explained: “It’s open to businesses and individuals who can basically bid to name our stadium either after themselves or choose a title of their own. We’re calling it the ‘NHS Gain When You Decide The Name.’
“The proceeds from the ultimately-accepted bid will be split equally between our football club and that worthy Bristol charity.
“We’re still doing our Sunday roast rounds locally too for which people pay for their meals and three of us, including me dressed as a scarecrow, deliver them free of charge and safely at these times, of course.
“When it comes to that brilliant virtual FA Cup competition, well, if it comes around again next year, we’ll certainly be looking to go that extra step further!”
Anyone wishing to know more about the Sunday dinner deliveries or partake in the stadium bid can contact Tony on 07972 331851 or visit Bristol Manor Farm’s social media platforms.
Time to get nominating as it’s very much game on with annual GFA grassroots awards
GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA and its national governing body are refusing to allow the soccer shutdown to get in the way of appreciating and rewarding those who make such a difference to local football.
The annual and highly-popular FA and McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards are alive and kicking, despite the coronavirus situation forcing the beautiful game into lockdown along with life in general.
Each and every year county FA’s across the country celebrate the “fantastic individuals who put their heart and soul into the grassroots game across England,” whilst “saying a huge thank you to the incredible volunteers who inspire us all.”
Those dedicated operators in our own Gloucestershire and Bristol communities freely giving up time and expense to serve their own worthy football causes are no exception.
The county association’s annual awards evening, in more recent years staged amid the picturesque setting of Bristol Golf Club, has become a true highlight of the local football calendar, a ceremony attended by dozens of prize winners nominated in a raft of individual and team categories along with their families, friends and supporters.
This year, of course, is different. With people’s safety of paramount importance, there are no plans at this time to hold such an event.
Nonetheless the window for nominations is wide open and will be until Monday, May 18. Anyone wishing to nominate an individual, team or club in an impressive range of categories can do so by visiting The FA Grassroots Football Awards website and following the links.
Gloucestershire FA football development manager Matt Boucher explained: “These awards have become increasingly popular over the years and have put smiles on the faces of so many unsung and richly deserving volunteers who do so much, for so little personal gain, to keep grassroots football ticking and flourishing.
“The awards are split into numerous categories to ensure there’s something for everyone. County FA’s like ours then pick winners from public nominations.
“It doesn’t stop there either, as local winners are shortlisted for national awards.
“Individuals have to be nominated by someone else; you’re not allowed to nominate yourself. However, anyone involved with a club or league can nominate their own.”
GFA football services manager Chris Lucker added: “These awards are all about championing the positive impact that people have made in grassroots football across Gloucestershire.
“We urge people to think of how their nominees have impressed and inspired them, the hard work they have put in and who has made a real difference to local football this season.
“Some will know of individuals, teams, clubs and leagues who have had an amazing impact. These are the inspirational types we’d love to hear about and see nominated.”
David Neale, GFA chief executive, emphasised: “Whilst we’re not in a position to plan such an event this year as it stands, we’re still very keen to make these awards a big success.
“Over the bulk of the recent football season devoted volunteers have been working tirelessly to make the best their football causes can possibly be.
“These people should rightly be given the platform to take a bow and their supporters an opportunity to celebrate with them.
“It goes without saying that without this fantastic volunteer workforce, grassroots football simply would not happen at all.”
Winners of the Grassroots Football Award 2019
A real loss: Grassroots game expresses gratitude to ‘administrative great’ Steve Hillier
LOCAL football at large has been mourning the passing, and celebrating the life, of Steve Hillier, writes Simon Parkinson.
The devoted servant to the grassroots game in Gloucestershire, Bristol and Somerset was cruelly and suddenly taken by a heart attack at the age of 60 on Thursday, April 23.
Steve threw himself into football administration wholeheartedly, serving as secretary during successful stints with Bishop Sutton and Bristol Manor Farm while more recently he had performed duties as fixture secretary of Somerset County League with familiar distinction and zeal.
Manor Farm manager Lee Lashenko said: “I worked closely with Steve for many years at Bishop Sutton and Manor Farm and he always backed me to the hilt. He was just a top, top man and he leaves a massive void, both as a friend and colleague and father to his two boys.
“Steve could be opinionated; we’d have our clashes! But you get that in any trusting and close partnership and I trusted him completely throughout our daily dealings.
“He was already at Bishop Sutton when I joined them and six years down the line, after we’d won the Toolstation Western League title there, he followed me to Manor Farm where he also became thoroughly involved behind the scenes, playing his part in us eventually winning the same title and gaining promotion to the Southern League (2017).
“I probably wasn’t an organised bloke until I met Steve but I remember Mike Fox at Chipping Sodbury Town once saying what a tremendous player he also had been for them in his day and how ambitious he was back then.
“When someone of Mike Fox’s experience and stature in the game says that about someone, you know it’s true.”
Manor Farm commercial manager Tony Parsons concurred: “Steve always had time for anyone if there were problems to solve; he knew his administrative matters inside out and he’s such a loss to football and community.
“His dream was to see Manor Farm rise up the football pyramid as far as possible.”
Chipping Sodbury chairman Mike Fox explained: “Steve started playing for us about 50 years ago. During that time he was captain, committee member and chairman as well as a player.
“I was manager at the time Steve joined the club and he was the most talented player to put on the black and white shirt.
“These are sad times for me personally, the club and obviously for Steve’s family.”
Somerset FA chief executive Jon Pike added: “Steve was a great servant of the game, as demonstrated by his many roles including serving on the Somerset FA Council and Disciplinary Committee.
“He was even one of those people who had mastered the complexities of Whole Game System!
“Hopefully there will be an opportunity at a later date when we can say our goodbyes to a thoroughly decent and nice guy and great servant of our game. He will be missed by us all.
“Our thoughts are with his family and many friends at this sad time.”
We could hardly have asked for more from our female stars, Rocks boss James insists
JAMES Eveleigh laid “huge credit” at the door of crucial ingredients in any successful football set-up – his players, writes Simon Parkinson.
The Tytherington Rocks Ladies boss had, in tandem with his trusty friend and assistant Mark Butt, steered their brand-new team to the dizzy heights of summit status in Gloucestershire County Women’s League Division Three with nine wins from nine before the plug was pulled on their season early due to coronavirus safety concerns.
Eveleigh said of those “special” on-field performers: “We were so fortunate in getting together a group packed with quality and character when we set out with the club’s first-ever ladies section last summer.
“Chelsea Giles was among them, who came in from Chipping Sodbury Ladies in the South West Women’s League and proved to be a hard-working and tenacious central midfielder with a superb passing range.
“Emily Nicholson, at only 17, has been phenomenal too as our leading creator of 19 goals in league and cup from the left wing. I’d tried to sign her for my previous Bradley Stoke Youth but fair enough, she wanted to see out her time with Clevedon United.
“I stayed in contact with her mum and encouraged Emily along to training with us at Tytherington last summer and everything clicked. She has tremendous vision and her crossing ability is second to none.
“Then there’s Alice Horton, a defensive midfielder who has been an absolute find. We became aware of her when she was with UWE Women’s first team and she has shown herself to be so calm and composed on the ball with very good vision from that deep lying role.
“She never panics and her decision making nine times out of ten is spot on.”
Eveleigh continued: “Our leading scorer with 19 goals in all competitions was Abbie Mitchell, like Mark and me an ex-Bradley Stoke Youth member who also played for Bristol Ravens.
“Her fellow striker Lauren White, who used to play for St Nicholas and Pucklechurch Ladies teams, was hard on her heels with 16 goals in all and Jasmine Pither wasn’t so far behind them either with 13 goals from central midfield.
“We were delighted for Jas as she’d come in from Bristol City Academy having fallen out of love with football altogether.
“We reached out to her, got her enjoying her football again and her rekindled spark was there for all to see.
“It’s not just about those girls; as a group there’s bags of close-knit talent producing real camaraderie. The girls all look after each other and engage in social events.”
Far from resting on his laurels, Eveleigh is already planning ahead amid continuing uncertain times.
“Sally Gill is a more recent addition who has only been able to play in the one county cup game so far,” he explained. “She still announced herself as a key player in our 2-1 quarter-final defeat by Bristol Rovers Development.
“Sally comes from Thornbury and is an ex England Youth international who has played with Bristol City Academy and Keynsham Town.
“She joined us through my connection with Steve Lilley at the FA as she’d been on a coaching course with him and is currently working towards her Level 2 certificate.
“Sally is a hard-working, cool and technically gifted experienced central midfielder who even did a football scholarship in Tennessee in the States and we have high hopes for her next season.”
Of Tytherington’s prospects next term, potentially as a Division Two operator after all given the form they have displayed this curtailed latest campaign, their leader said: “Everyone has said they’ll be staying which is great, all aside from our goalkeeper Aimee Hancock who is off to university. The door is definitely open to her should she be able to return.
“We’re all 100 per cent determined to go the distance again next season. If we are to kick off in Division Two then promotion to the top Division One is the aim but we’re confident that whatever division we start in we’ll be challenging at the right end of the table.
“No one here wants to stop there either. Our ultimate aim is to win a place in the South West Women’s League as part of the five-year plan we set ourselves last summer.”
- Coming up soon here on GFA Local Football News: Tytherington Rocks strive to build a youth department to be proud of.
Eveleigh: First season for Tytherington Rocks Ladies has set pulses racing for more
TYTHERINGTON Rocks Ladies manager James Eveleigh says the big football shutdown has served only to redouble their determination to push on as a team next season and beyond, writes Simon Parkinson.
When the beautiful game was stopped for good where 2019-20 commitments were concerned due to the coronavirus scenario, the Hardwicke Playing Fields fliers were firmly fastened to Division Three top spot in Gloucestershire County Women’s League with nine wins from nine – and in their very first season as a brand-new wing of the club.
Eveleigh, who was also appointed club chairman late last year when long-serving incumbent Ted Travell stepped down, admits feelings of dismay initially spread throughout the thriving women’s set-up when time was called prematurely on stirring efforts to clinch the crown with only three games of their own campaign to be played.
Once that understandable and inevitable frustration had eased, Eveleigh insists a mood of purpose quickly replaced the gloom.
In the first of a series of special articles produced by GFA Local Football News on Tytherington Rocks as a whole, their busy and bullish leader smiled: “It really could not have been a more perfect first season for our ladies.
“It has been the first time in the club’s 88-year history that we’ve had a women’s section here so you could hardly have asked for more.
“There’s no point in denying it; the girls were heartbroken to begin with when they had to stop short of completing the season. We had hoped points per game system would come into force, similar to that applied to Gloucester County Girls League. But it’s out of our hands and we’re taking it on the chin.”
The Rocks chief admitted: “We couldn’t have envisaged when we started out on our journey as a ladies section last summer we’d be sat where we are at the top with a perfect winning record like that.
“When Mark Butt, my assistant, and I began forming the team it was a case of us just being as competitive as possible. To have won all nine of our games, scored 60 league goals and conceded only seven makes it a fairytale story.
“We also reached the quarter-finals of both cup competitions (Gordon Perrett League Cup and GFA Women’s Challenge Cup).
“We knew we had a very good team as pre-season went along even though we didn’t win too many games.
“The girls showed a real competitive spirit against sides ranked higher than us and when we saw how well they were performing, a quiet sense of optimism set in without any of us getting above ourselves.
“We also made some very good signings, something that became increasingly apparent by consistent performances as the season unfolded.”
- Coming up: Part two of our look at Tytherington Rocks Ladies’ magnificent maiden season – and some of the star players who rushed them to top spot.
On the management trail again: Chipping Sodbury Town bid to replace boss Bishop
CHIPPING Sodbury Town are back on the manager search following current first team incumbent Justin Bishop’s decision to vacate the position, writes Simon Parkinson.
The experienced front man operated in tandem on the touchline with club boss Scott Gibson throughout the shortened latest Toolstation Premier Division campaign, having returned to his former stomping ground last summer from a stint with league rivals Odd Down.
The pair played a vital role in successfully overseeing a dramatic rescue act after previous manager Joe White and his father Steve White chose to quit after steering Sodbury to a best-ever tenth-spot conclusion to their 2018-19 activities.
Long-serving clubman Gibson recalled: “We took over last summer at an extremely difficult time after Joe and Steve left us.
“We found ourselves literally starting from scratch squad-wise operating without even an experienced goalkeeper until after Christmas, although young Archie Watts did really well, especially with his kicking, given it was his first taste of Western League football after playing with SGS College.
“Despite the challenges I always knew that we would be competitive again and so it proved as the months went on.
“In fact our last game before the (coronavirus) shutdown saw us beating one of the big boys, Bitton, 3-1 at our place and we’d begun to put some good breathing space between us and the bottom two places.
“Having played most of the top teams twice we were looking forward to a 12-game run-in against sides down there with us in positive heart.”
Bishop had played an instrumental part as a player in Chipping Sodbury’s dramatic Division One title-winning triumph in 2015-16, not least a hat-trick in the 6-0 promotion-clinching victory at Calne Town on the final day.
The hot-shot that term went on to spend several years running the club’s fast-emerging ladies section alongside Gibson, with both enjoying daughters representation in their line-ups.
Gibson acknowledged: “Justin has been a massive asset to us as a player and coach and a very good motivator. My understanding is he wants to concentrate on playing somewhere, sometime, while the legs allow.
“He pretty much took over as manager towards the latter weeks of this latest season as I stepped back to concentrate more on overall club affairs which is my regular role.
“I wanted Justin to carry on as manager next season and I’m disappointed he won’t be. He’s a best friend of mine and I’m gutted he’s gone but I wish him every success.
“Now we’re looking forward to starting the interviewing process and trying to ensure we’re in a strong position to stay safe again next season ahead of our proposed switch to the Hellenic League the following year.”
Anyone interested in the vacant management position can email club secretary Les Theobald at firstname.lastname@example.org but should do so by closing date Monday, May 11.