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This dedicated page updates daily to provide coverage on all things football in Gloucestershire, written by our Sports Journalist, Simon Parkinson.


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Welcoming in the pros: Bristol football project wins big backing in mental health drive

RECOVERY Through Sport has gathered pace and recognition to such an extent that every few months professional athletes attend to talk to the players about their own experiences coping with mental health difficulties, writes Simon Parkinson.

The project was the brainchild of Jacob Kelly and Robert Broomhead, from Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust, who set the wheels in motion to improve the lives of people living with mental health problems in the community through the “power of sport.”

Jacob said: “As well as running the weekly sessions we arrange for guest coaches and professional players, with lived experience of mental health difficulties or an experience of struggles with their wellbeing, to come along every few months to run a session and deliver a short talk.

“These have gone down really well with our group and have really helped to normalise our players’ experiences.”

Jacob said that results from their ‘wellbeing scales’ indicated an 18 per cent improvement in how satisfied people felt with their lives after attending the group.

He added that there had been a “17 per cent improvement in how worthwhile people felt, and a 20 per cent rise in people’s happiness levels, after attending sessions.

“People also reported that their anxiety levels had decreased by 15 per cent after attending while 30 per cent reported no anxiety at all after getting involved,” Jacob explained.

“Group members reported a 37 per cent improvement in their physical health as a result of participating with us and an 18 per cent improvement in social cohesion and engagement.

“Participants also reported 14 per cent improvement in recovery through illness.”

Recovery Through Sport football sessions are held every Thursday between 3pm and 4pm at Shaftesbury Park, Frenchay Park Road, Frenchay, Bristol BS16 1LG.

Jacob added: “The project also works with Bristol Rovers Community Trust by offering players mental health education workshops throughout the year and we enjoy a great relationship with the club’s manager Ben Garner, who was our first-ever guest coach.

“We have two former Bristol Rovers midfielders as project ambassadors in Stuart Sinclair, who is now with Walsall, and Chris Lines, who plays for Northampton Town.”

A string of current and former professional footballers and coaches have opened up about their own mental health battles.

Lee Mansell, Bristol Rovers’ development squad manager, revealed he suffered from panic attacks.

And well-known Bristol actor Joe Sims, after attending one of the Frenchay sessions, remarked: “Football is our church. I would just love for us to be more open and honest about how we feel at times.

“It’s vital because football has the power to change people. We have this whole toxic masculinity thing sometimes, with the locker room stuff.

“But it’s also a place where we need to start asking for support and be brave. The whole macho stuff isn’t being brave. True bravery is saying, ‘I am struggling here, can I get help?’

“That’s why projects like this are so brilliant: normalising stuff.”

One satisfied 28-year-old man from Mangotsfield, Dan, enthused of his participation with the popular Frenchay football initiative: “I stayed in the car for an hour before getting out. I had psychosis and lost all confidence.

“But coming here has helped me so much. I now feel a part of the group.”

Anyone wishing to know more about the project, or enquire about joining the football group, can email Jacob at jacob.kelly@nhs.net or call him on 07785 342192.

Transport, tickets and boots – Recovery Through Sport gives participants a leg-up 

THERE is so much on offer free of charge to people eager to improve their mental health and wellbeing when accepted on to the increasingly-popular Recovery Through Sport programme.

It welcomes between 25 and 30 participants to its football sessions every Thursday between 3pm and 4pm at Shaftesbury Park, Frenchay Park Road, Frenchay, Bristol BS16 1LG.

Project co-ordinator and NHS mental health specialist Jacob Kelly explained: “We can assist those who struggle to get to the group and help them with their transport needs, with a range of options available.

“We also have some tickets to watch Bristol Rovers matches as a group which has really helped individuals socialise and make friends, as well as having a fun time at a live football match.

“There is also a selection of football boots available to give out for free to players who are unable to afford their own.”

Jacob continued: “We have a selection of promotional videos which we send to patients so they can see what the group’s about before attending. This has really helped reduce the anxiety levels of people coming for the first time.

 “We do ‘wellbeing scales’ with the participants when they attend their first and fourth sessions.

“Since doing this we’ve seen huge improvements in people’s overall wellbeing as well as their mental health.

“Some members have also reported that since attending the sessions they have achieved improved recovery from illness, better physical health and more social cohesion and engagement.

The group has also been successful in securing funding from the Football Foundation to continue running our sessions for another three years which is great news.”

Anyone wishing to know more about the project, or enquire about joining the football group, can email Jacob at jacob.kelly@nhs.net or call him on 07785 342192.

  • Coming up soon: part three of our look at how a Bristol football project is lifting the lives of so many suffering with poor mental health.

Tackling poor mental health: Bristol football project is proving a boon to so many

AN inspirational and novel football initiative designed specifically to encourage and support people struggling with their mental health is proving a roaring hit, writes Simon Parkinson

The Recovery Through Sport project was set up by Jacob Kelly and Robert Broomhead, from Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust, to improve the lives of people living with mental health problems in the community through the “power of sport.”

Jacob, a mental health support worker with South Gloucestershire Early Intervention in Psychosis team, explained: “We started the project up in June 2018 with a weekly football group which continues to thrive.

“We also hold a monthly support group for families affected by psychosis, which is held at Mangotsfield United FC’s clubhouse (in Cossham Street).

“The project is still very new and all funds come from either fundraising or small grants, which mainly cover the pitch hire for the football group.

“This programme is open to anyone aged 18 and over, in or out of mental health services, and it has so far helped more than 150 people struggling with mental health difficulties in our community in just 18 months.

“We plan to run more groups to help more people although this is very much dependent on funds.

The weekly sessions, laid on entirely free to enthusiastic football participants, aim to improve both physical and mental wellbeing.

“The football gives them a chance to become more confident, develop friendships and begin to take back control of their lives,” Jacob said.

“And the sessions are open to everyone, regardless of how much football they have played.”

Of the route to gaining a placement with the project, Jacob emphasised: “The programme is easy to access: there are no referral forms. All we do is a quick health questionnaire with the patient before they attend which we can do over the phone.”

Anyone wishing to know more about the project, or enquire about joining the football group, can email Jacob at jacob.kelly@nhs.net or call him on 07785 342192.

  • Coming up here: part two outlining all that is on offer for free to participants of Recovery Through Sport mental health programme.

Gala next for Trophy test as freescoring Bristol Telephones signal fresh intent

DELIGHTED Dave Johnson insists recent displays have resembled the “Bristol Telephones of old” as his freescoring team have suddenly rediscovered their mojo, writes Simon Parkinson.

Whilst the 2017 Marcliff Gloucestershire County League champs remain precariously rooted to the foot of Toolstation League Division One courtesy of another troublesome campaign, the Stockwood Lane outfit have in latter days sparked into life, a trait Johnson and his trusty fellow managerial cohorts Shaun Collins and Jack Richardson hope will serve them well in crucial months to come.

In a remarkable GFA Challenge Trophy second round affair, Telephones comprehensively dismantled Hellenic Premier Division guests Brimscombe and Thrupp 8-3, having previously popped three without reply past Hengrove Athletic in league combat and netted four times at high-flying Longwell Green Sports, although that one did end in 5-4 defeat.

It proved a bittersweet experience too for an on-song Dhani Golding as he struck all four Telephones’ goals at Shellards Road, only to finish up defeated and frustrated after firing his rejuvenated team in front four times on the afternoon.

“We were actually leading 4-2 at Longwell but things started to go against us when first Will Boyer was sent off with two yellow cards and then Will Osborne was sin-binned a couple of minutes later.

“We ended up conceding three late goals but because the lads had performed so well against a top side it felt like a victory.

“I was in St Lucia with the family over Christmas so had no involvement in that or the 3-0 Boxing Day win against Hengrove which I’m told also came from a cracking performance.”

Former DRG and Rockleaze boss Johnson continued: “More recently against Brimscombe we were defensively sound and really good going forward against a higher-level side who had a lot of threat about them too.

“We flew into a 4-0 lead at half-time and came out all guns blazing again for the second half to score four more.

“We were 8-0 up at one stage as the pitch became increasingly mucky in horrible conditions. Mistakes started to happen and we conceded three goals although that was in part due to concentration levels dipping.

“It had been touch and go getting the game on in the first place, but the ref said he’d monitor it as we went along.”

Boyer led the way with a hat-trick; brothers Dhani Golding (2) and Keiron Golding registered and new signing Dawid Regula and Ben Griffiths also notched to see Phones through to a round three Challenge Trophy date at home with County League Gala Wilton on Tuesday, January 21 (7.45pm).

Johnson enthused: “The mood really has raised the roof off our place; morale is so much better now.

“It’s not even as though we’ve made a raft of new signings as we haven’t. It’s just that Shaun and Jack moved personnel around and tweaked a few things and it’s paid off brilliantly.

“But we have to continue in that vein now.”

We’re well placed to kick on now, Seymour United’s confident chief Coles claims

SEYMOUR United chairman Neale Coles feels his Bristol Premier Combination high-fliers are well placed now to kick on in the New Year, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Coronation Park outfit capitalised on a hard-fought 2-1 home win over Chipping Sodbury Town Reserves by overcoming second-placed Shaftesbury Crusade 2-0 at the same venue through Nathan Gore’s penalty and former player-manager Jack Garland’s strike to give their December programme a welcome boost.

“We fully deserved the win over Shaftesbury,” Coles insisted. “We outbattled them from start to finish and maybe the fact they play their home games on a nice 4G pitch, and the conditions were wet and muddy, were a factor in how it panned out.

“Nonetheless they have quality players and are strong upfront and we handled them very well.

“We’d come off the back of two disappointing cup defeats against sides ranked lower than us (De Veys and Hambrook) in Division One, albeit it with a few players unavailable.

“So it was important we responded positively to that.”

Of key personnel helping fuel the recent turnaround, Coles considered: “Having Tom Morgan back in the No.10 role has made a difference over the past few games.

“Nathan Gore has been different gravy in central midfield and his brother Jack Gore has been excellent at centre-half alongside Richard Wathen who has impressed too, making for a strong pairing there.”

Seymour went on to find themselves third in the top-flight table after Danny Troake’s double and Archie Kenway’s effort earned them a point from a 3-3 away draw with Lebeq Saturday on January 4, before dropping down a rung to fourth spot as they were without a fixture ahead of an important January 18 away encounter with Shaftesbury.

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Satisfied Strawford targets Les James Cup first for his Wick Christmas crackers

WICK’s ambitious boss Mike Strawford is eyeing a prized first for his club after safely negotiating a tricky Christmas confrontation in the shape of their big Marcliff Gloucestershire County League rivals, writes Simon Parkinson.

A late Mike Hardiman strike was sufficient to see third-placed Wick past relentless leaders Frampton United 1-0 on their Bell Field travels to book a berth in the semi-finals of the Les James League Cup.

The Oldbury Lane outfit were still waiting, at the time this article was penned, to see how the rest of the last-eight shake-up panned out.

Patchway Town were due to host AEK-BOCO on January 11 whilst the Broadwell Amateurs-Gala Wilton tie, and Sharpness-Ruardean Hill Rangers encounter, were scheduled for the following Saturday, January 18 (both 2pm).

Wick always knew they had their hands full up against a Frampton side who have shown themselves to be a consistent force amongst the County League frontrunners over many seasons.

However Hardiman’s strike five minutes from time, as he fastened on to a through pass and calmly dispatched it past stranded keeper Peter Davies into the bottom left corner from the goalscorer’s perspective, earned the visitors a notable victory, their second of the season over Frampton following a 3-2 October home league win, and kept them on course for a first-ever success in the league’s knock-out tournament.

Strawford smiled: “It was brilliant as we’d been struggling with injuries before and during the game when our lads were dropping like flies. We really were carrying two or three players by the end of it.

“Then you had lads like Danny Sheldon coming on with about 15 minutes to go and being involved in the goal having been only too pleased to have been put on the bench to start with following a work’s Christmas bash the night before.

“I knew how he felt to be fair as I had to sit a bit more quietly than usual in the dugout suffering the after-effects of my own Christmas party!”

The Oldbury Lane leader conceded: “We always seem to struggle on Frampton’s pitch: they have a good blend of older heads and youth and they’re lively in attack.

“The fact they kept going and going until the very end, as they always do, meant we had to do the same. In fact they had a chance at the death with a header from a corner which we thankfully managed to clear after a goalmouth scramble.

“The first half had been all us when Joe Thomas forced a good save from their keeper, while the second half saw them create the better chances.

“Luckily we didn’t need penalties to get through this time as we did in the previous round (against Little Stoke) and indeed in our recent GFA Trophy tie with Fairford.”

Strawford stressed: “Obviously we’d love to go all the way in the (Les James) cup now we’re in the semi-finals. It’s a winnable competition for us and we’ve never won it although I’m mindful there are good teams still in it.

“It’s never been easy of late as we’ve been putting a mix and match side out but our strength in depth now has come to the fore and meant we have still been competitive.”

It’s Newent next as Wick bid to march on in Challenge Trophy after flooring Fairford

WICK re-enter the GFA Challenge Trophy stage on Saturday, January 18 on the strength of a memorable pre-Christmas success story, writes Simon Parkinson.

They secured a place in the third round of the prestigious county competition via a thrilling penalty shoot-out defeat of Hellenic Premier Division high-fliers Fairford Town in the lead-up to Christmas to set up a home tie once more with another Hellenic competitor in Division One West outfit Newent Town (2pm).

With those next opponents struggling to pull away from the lower reaches of their Step 6 standings, Step 7 Marcliff Gloucestershire County League title pushers Wick will be rubbing their hands at prospects in store for a potential quarter-final appearance.

Mike Strawford’s men could have been forgiven for receiving their second round Challenge Trophy pairing with Fairford with some trepidation.

Yet far from sitting back and admiring the evident powers of their Step 5 guests, Wick motored into a 2-0 first-half lead through Sam Thomas’ delicious low free-kick bent around the wall into the bottom corner and Mike Hardiman’s superb looping 30-yard strike above the startled away keeper’s head.

The home team also had efforts by Ben Payne and Thomas both sides of the break disallowed for offside so given those near misses and a raft of other squandered opportunities which went the way of Wick, it was with some frustration from their perspective that Jody Bevan’s men struck back to force spot kicks with two second half goals through Nathan Hawkins and Connor Thompson, the second, agonisingly, in the 90th minute.

Still Wick weren’t to be denied as their keeper Joe Pople’s penalty save from the very first Fairford take proved decisive as his side went on to complete a dramatic 5-4 shoot-out success.

A satisfied, if not relieved, Strawford smiled: “It really shouldn’t have got that far as we should have been well out of sight before they started pegging us back.

“It was still all good at 2-0 up at half-time when I spoke to the lads about good game management and looking after the ball properly.

“We hadn’t played a game of any type since the last round of the competition in mid-November (against Rockleaze Rangers), so I knew we’d get tired on a heavy pitch, one that nevertheless held up pretty well.

“It was just a shame that their late equaliser stemmed from us giving the ball away near their corner flag. They launched it long which led to a corner from which they scored with a header.

“At that point it was gutting as we knew we’d missed chances to have already sewn it up and penalties are always a lottery.

“But we came through it and it was a bit of a scalp for us given the two-division gap between the teams.

“Both their manager and I admitted it hadn’t been a top priority for either of us and both sides rested players, but Fairford still had quality and we were all delighted to get through it as you always go out to win no matter what the game.”

  • Coming up here on GFA Local Football News – GFA Challenge Trophy conquerors Wick also out to secure coveted County League Les James Cup final place.

Les upbeat about Chipping Sodbury Reserves’ New Year programme prospects

CHIPPING Sodbury Town Reserves manager Les Theobald is eyeing a New Year upturn for his team after a promising conclusion to their 2019 basement battles, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Ridings ressies entered an important post-Christmas Bristol Premier Combination top-flight programme with a 6-2 away defeat by Highridge United to suggest there’s plenty of work to be done yet if they are to avoid the dreaded drop to the second tier.

Prior to that they’d enjoyed 4-3 and 2-1 home victories over Totterdown United and Pucklechurch Sports respectively, which sandwiched a 6-4 League Cup success over visiting Division One strugglers Greyfriars Athletic and a slender 2-1 away defeat by strong Seymour United high-fliers back in the league.

Whilst that Greyfriars win set up a quarter-final away-day with DRG SV Frenchay on a date to be decided, the Sodbury supremo’s chief focus remains understandably on keeping the relegation trapdoor firmly at arm’s length.

In an extremely tight league, which Sea Mills Park voluntarily and sadly exited over the festive period, all things look possible.

Theobald said: “It was great to get the win over Pucklechurch in our last match before Christmas.

“We went 1-0 up against the run of play through Chris Kritikos when Pucklechurch had had a penalty saved by our Sam Naylor, and then Chris, who had enjoyed a really good week with his first-team call-ups too, scored his second just before half-time.

“Pucklechurch did come back strongly in the second half and pulled one back with 20 minutes to go (through Ben Shaw) but thankfully we managed to hold on to our lead and see it safely through.”

Of that Seymour setback the weekend prior, Theobald insisted: “Despite defeat we actually turned in a strong performance against a Seymour side who’d beaten us convincingly (3-1) a few weeks beforehand. And our goalscorer Jon Morgan was outstanding on the day.

“Playing on the 3G pitch at Sir Bernard Lovell Academy didn’t help our cause but unfortunately when you’re down there in the table you don’t always get what you deserve in football.”

Of those 4-3 and 6-4 successes over Totterdown and Greyfriars respectively preceding the Seymour loss, the Sodbury leader smiled: “The Totterdown game epitomised our season so far only there was a difference at the time – we managed to win!

“Totterdown played their part in a great game of football and we played some great stuff at the start, keeping the ball well yet, just like in previous fixtures, falling behind first and then conceding again.

“But we kept going; Dan Brown scored the first of his three goals and a few words of encouragement at half-time seemed to do the trick.

“Midway through the second half Totterdown had a player sent off and we took advantage with Dan completing his hat-trick and Luke Henderson winning it for us from the penalty spot, although our usual third team centre-half Jak Murray, playing in goal for us, did have to pull off a magnificent late save.

“In the end I could not praise the players enough for the way they performed.

Theobald continued: “We fully deserved our win against Greyfriars in the cup too. We played well throughout and it was good to see some players coming back from long-term injuries.

“Greyfriars put up some resistance but I never felt we were ever in trouble as Jon Morgan (2), Ross Womack (2), Patryk Rajczyk and Jacob Owers got the goals to win us the tie.”

Theobald was equally forthcoming when it came to his assessment of that more recent frustrating Highridge drubbing.

“It was a bit of a disaster from our perspective,” he acknowledged, “but Highridge played well and deserved the win. It was a case of men versus boys.

“We did play better in the second half when we should have scored more than the two goals we did.

“The big positive was that Ollie Clarke played his first full 90 minutes after being out for eight months.”

Jak’s the lad as Murray proves Sodbury’s shoot-out hero in Tytherington Trophy tester

CHIPPING Sodbury Town had to fight every inch of the way against an improving Tytherington Rocks team to reach the third round of the GFA Challenge Trophy – by co-boss Justin Bishop’s own admission!

His hard-pressed side eventually prevailed 4-3 in a shoot-out after Chris Kritikos’ first half spot kick and Luke Burman’s own penalty equaliser ten minutes from time, and two Rahib Rehman efforts had put Rocks 2-1 up at the interval, ensured a 2-2 draw at the end of a tension-filled regular 90.

That near miss for his men led to Tytherington assistant manager Steve Collins insisting: “We were gutted to lose that way as we’d deserved to win inside 90 minutes.

“But that disappointment was soon replaced by pride at our performance. The lads are giving 100 per cent now and players are coming off the pitch shattered having given their all.”

Relieved Sodbury supremo Justin Bishop confessed: “A lot of credit has to go down to our keeper Jak Murray.

“He usually plays for our third team in the Bristol and District League and this was his first appearance at this level as our reserve team goalie Sam Naylor was injured and our first-choice keeper Archie Watts was cup-tied.

“Jak made two absolutely brilliant saves in the shoot-out and others during the main game, so he literally took his big chance with both hands.

“It was a relief to come through unscathed and it was good to see others from our reserves and thirds stepping up and doing well.

“It was never easy; Tytherington started really sharply, even though it was pretty much end to end throughout and their No.10 (Rahib Rehman), a tall left-footed winger who scored both their goals cutting in from the right, was a real threat.”

Chipping Sodbury’s reward is a home clash with Oldland Abbotonians for an all-Toolstation League Tuesday, January 21 affair (7.30pm) after Oldland were handed a walkover second round win over Quedgeley Wanderers.

Hellenic Division One West promotion chasers Thornbury Town booked an away encounter with Cribbs Reserves on January 15 (7.45pm) after fending off gallant Patchway Town 4-2 at a wet and windy Mundy Fields in which Harry Brock and Jacob Farthing were amongst the goals for Thorns and Mike Bojski and Dave Prichard strikes kept plucky County League basement battlers Patchway in the hunt.

Cribbs Reserves, still undefeated at the head of the Bristol Premier Combination Prem table, showed just why in defeating Toolstation Division One team Longwell Green Sports 3-1 on their travels, prompting Sports’ assistant boss Mark Summers to concede: “Cribbs were quite dynamic, fit and fast. There were no excuses from us as we were pretty much at full strength but took our eye off the ball.”

  • All results and fixtures in the GFA Challenge Trophy can be found by visiting the Cups and Competitions section of this website.

Super Cooper on treble trail to lead Newent Challenge Trophy charge to third stage

THE third round of a goal-filled 2019-20 GFA Challenge Trophy competition is under starters orders as 16 clubs bid to enter the last eight shake-up, writes Simon Parkinson.

Newent Town, battling it out in the lower reaches of Hellenic Division One West, booked an away encounter on Saturday, January 18 with County League high-fliers Wick courtesy of Jordan Cooper’s treble, Patrick Gibbs’ brace and single contributions by Sanchez Grange and Tyler Weir in a 7-0 home thumping of Henbury.

Three days later Wick were seeing off second-placed Hellenic Prem visitors Fairford Town 5-4 in a gripping Oldbury Lane shoot-out decider after a 2-2 stalemate had taken the tie to spot kicks (see separate story here on GFA Local Football News).

Lebeq United are due to entertain Ruardean Hill Rangers on Wednesday, January 15 (7.30pm) after overcoming Hanham Athletic 4-2 in round two at Oaklands Park, while Gala Wilton’s 2-1 home win over County League compatriots Bromley Heath United booked them an away encounter with Bristol Telephones on January 18, as the Toolstation Division One strugglers crushed Brimscombe and Thrupp 8-3 via Ali Boyer’s treble, Dhani Golding’s double and Keiron Golding, Ben Griffiths and Dawid Regula goals in a stunning Stockwood Lane night bout (see separate story here soon here on GFA Local Football News).

It was hard on Brimscombe who at one stage were 8-0 down but persevered admirably to hit back with three late goals through James Campbell’s pair and Sam Blackie’s strike in fast-deteriorating conditions.

Ruardean Hill had Steve Clark’s hat-trick to thank as they edged out Shirehampton Reserves 3-1 at Drybrook to tee up that Lebeq away-night.

Shortwood United needed penalties – 3-2 was the outcome - to get past fellow Hellenic Leaguers Lydney Town after Luke Soule’s strike in normal time had led to a 1-1 draw.

Shortwood now host a Roman Glass St George team on Tuesday, January 21 (7.45pm) who romped past Cirencester Town Development 4-1 to comfortably negotiate the last hurdle.

Tuffley Rovers’ 1-0 win at Hardwicke thanks to Isaac Lawrence’s sole goal means his Hellenic Prem hopefuls have their hands full on January 21 trying to stop their hosts Bitton reaching the last eight after comprehensively dismantling Almondsbury 6-0 at The Field (see separate story here on GFA Local Football news). 

Cheltenham Saracens are to hit the road on Saturday, January 18 to face the winners of the rearranged Longlevens-Hallen tie.

  • Check back here for part two of our look at the Challenge Trophy third round draw – and a reflection of an exciting second round stage.
  • All results and fixtures in the GFA Challenge Trophy can be found by visiting the Cups and Competitions section of this website.

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