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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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How AFC Renegades’ return to Sunday football sparked a new era of Saturday success

AFC Renegades’ return to the Gloucester and District League Sunday scene in 2013 triggered a spell of success they were soon to transmit to the Saturday stage, writes Simon Parkinson.

The club’s first team are on the starting blocks for a fresh start in the Cheltenham League’s top flight following last season’s elevation as Division Two champions and their long-serving player and current secretary Andrew Bullen is among those looking forward to the prospect of more of the same at the higher level.

He said: “When we started up again in 2013 as a Sunday side once more under the banner of Renegades Reformed it sparked a successful period in which we won promotion to the Premier Division in 2013-14 as champions while also winning the League Cup.

“We also went on to form a reserves section the following season before starting up a Saturday side for the first time in 2016-17, which meant disbanding our reserves as a consequence.

“A lot of our Sunday League lads had played for Saturday teams and wanted to stay together at Renegades, so I told them that so long as they all agreed and could commit, we’d give it a go.

“So we started right at the back in Cheltenham League Division Five, without the Reformed bit as for whatever reason we weren’t allowed to keep the name, and enjoyed successive promotions to where we are today.

“In fact in 2017-18 we won not only the Division Three play-offs having once more finished behind St Paul’s but also the Minor Charity Cup and GFA Minor Cup, making for a great season.

“We’d still had the one Sunday side but we’d really struggled for players the previous year and ended up bottom of the table. In fact we were considering folding it but we got a few people in and managed to keep it going.

“I asked Gary Morrison, who had been a player with us, to help run it with me. He brought some of his own friends across and we went on the next season to win Division One and the League Cup.”

Bullen continued: “We now have a new reserve team going into the Cheltenham Division Four season which I’m helping run whilst playing a bit, as well as a veterans team again which we’re hoping will join the GFA Super Vets League within two years.

“However this season will be the last for our Sunday side. It will be 25 years since we first won that old Division Seven and we’re planning to do some fun end of season stuff to mark it.

“We’ll also be remembering our former player Ross Standing, who featured in our Sunday team’s double-winning success as a left-winger in 2017-18.

“He tragically died in a car crash recently at the age of 27 and we’re retiring his No.11 shirt from throughout the club in his memory.

“Ross lived in Oxford but would come all the way to Gloucester to play with his mates.”

First qualifiers on horizon as Hellenic/Southern League clubs line up for FA Cup tests

GLOUCESTERSHIRE-based Hellenic League and Southern League hopefuls are targeting progression in the FA Cup this weekend at the preliminary round juncture – with a little home help assisting the majority, writes Simon Parkinson.

On-song Bishop’s Cleeve, who have made a bright start to their Hellenic Premier Division programme as amply demonstrated by Tuesday night’s 6-1 mauling of Shrivenham in which Jack Watts bagged a treble, will fancy their chances at Kayte Lane on Saturday, August 24 against a Kidlington team who have lost their two opening Southern League One Central games.

Brimscombe and Thrupp are eager to put behind them some early-season difficulties in the Hellenic Prem as they welcome Bucks-based Aylesbury United, another Southern League One Central competitor, to The Meadow.

Thrupp’s league compatriots Fairford Town also hope to make home advantage tell as they entertain an Ealing-based Hanwell Town team who have won both their games to date in Isthmian League South Central Division, a step 4 competition one up from the Gloucestershire club’s own step 5 status in the Hellenic’s top-tier.

Fairford have been in terrific form from the season’s outset, winning all five of their games and scoring 17 goals into the bargain to set them in good heart for a second FA Cup appearance of 2019-20 following their 3-2 extra preliminary round defeat of visiting Enfield 1893.

Hellenic Prem rivals Longlevens, who have made a mixed start to their campaign, entertain an Isthmian South Central side of their own in the shape of Northwood, who perform in the London Borough of Hillingdon.

Northwood reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup at the turn of the millennium and finished midway down their table last term.

Meanwhile Shortwood United have hit back with some force from their Toolstation Premier Division relegation frustration.

They have been in freescoring mode – 27 goals bagged in four games - since their fresh start in Hellenic Division One West, form they hope to take into this Sunday’s FA Cup away-day in Bedfordshire (August 25, 3pm) with a Dunstable Town team who knocked out Chipping Sodbury Town 3-2 in the last round.

There are more Gloucestershire clubs plying their trade on the higher semi-pro stages eyeing advancement this Saturday, August 24.

Southern League One South step 4 side Cirencester Town entertain step 5 Ealing outfit North Greenford United, who overcame Tuffley Rovers 2-1 in a replay at the previous stage yet have lost all three of their Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division games thus far.

Ciren’s league and county compatriots Cinderford Town visit a Bucks-based Marlow side, of the Isthmian League’s South Central section, who date back to 1870 and reached the FA Cup semi-finals in 1881-82 where they lost 5-0 to Old Etonians! They also enjoyed the distinction of being Hellenic Premier Division champions a little more recently, in 2013.

Last but far from least, Yate Town are cock-a-hoop following last season’s play-off final success and subsequent promotion to the Southern League’s top-flight, where they are now battling to adjust to the rigours of step 3 football to mixed effect so far.

They welcome to Lodge Road an Exmouth Town team who have made an impressive start to life on the higher Toolstation Premier Division stage following their promotion as runners-up behind Tavistock in the 2018-19 South West Peninsula shake-up.

Bluebells boss Paul Britton warned: “Exmouth will be a tough side to beat but we are looking for a good run in the cup this season.”

Read the first part of the FA Cup special here.

‘We’re getting things ship shape off the pitch too,’ insists Renegades secretary Andrew

AMBITIOUS Gloucester club AFC Renegades believe they are getting it right off the field as well as on it in the drive to secure Gloucestershire Northern Senior League football, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Innsworth outfit are poised to start a brand-new adventure in Division One of the Cheltenham League following a string of successive promotions culminating in last season’s Second Division title triumph.

Club stalwart Andrew Bullen said of those lofty future hopes: “We play at the Army barracks at Innsworth and there is talk about improving the facilities there which would include the introduction of a second pitch. Our changing rooms are already among the best in the Gloucester area.

“There may be tweaks required when it comes to the ground if we’re to progress further but it’s pretty much all systems go and hopefully we can achieve Northern Senior League status in the coming season, although it will be no easy task.”

Bullen’s own journey to present day Renegades administration has been a long, winding and eventful one. He explained: “I started playing for the club when I was 16 in 1994 when we were a Division Seven side on a Sunday morning in the Gloucester and District League.

“I actually took over running the show two years later and got my dad, Andy, to manage the team after the twins who had been in charge and started up Renegades under the name of Debenhams in 1990, Lance and Phil Huggins, left the club.

“Dad didn’t have any real coaching or management experience but he did know all my friends which helped when it came to recruitment.

“We had won the league in my first year and got promoted to Division Five, and in the first year Dad was in charge we reached a County Cup final which was no mean feat given we were a bunch of school kids.”

Renegades’ journey took a turn for the worse as Bullen recalled: “Unfortunately we ended up folding in 1998 when I moved to Leeds and my dad had a back operation and no one wanted to take over.

“However, after moving back to Gloucester in 2009 and playing for a few clubs, I started it up again from scratch on a Sunday in 2013 under the name Renegades Reformed, roping in some of my old mates who were now in their mid-30s and a few others from local sides I’d been associated with.

“Things began to move pretty quickly from then on.”

  • Coming up: How AFC Renegades’ reformation as a Sunday force led to stunning Saturday success in the Cheltenham League

Stalwart Andrew confident relentless Renegades can continue to roar for years to come

AFC RENEGADES approach a brand-new Cheltenham League mission believing all things are possible as they strive to build on years of sustained success, writes Simon Parkinson.

What started out as an innocent Sunday League operation in 1990 evolved into what has become a true Saturday force since its inception in 2016 when the relentless Renegades stepped out on to the basement Division Five stage - and never looked back.

Led then, as they are now, by Clive Cooper and his trusty No.2 Dave Levett, the Innsworth-based outfit neighbouring Gloucester gained promotion as runners-up to St Paul’s United in their maiden season, triggering an intriguing rivalry between the clubs that continued with precisely the same conclusion to the ensuing 2017-18 campaign before Renegades finally shook off their Saints nemesis to claim the crown by a decisive 11-point margin in last term’s ten-team Division Two competition.

Club secretary and long-serving clubman Andrew Bullen, 41, had every reason to feel “exhilaration” having first performed for Renegades way back in 1994 as an enthusiastic 16-year-old on the Sunday scene.

He told GFA Local Football News: “Last season was our first as Saturday champions and I did feel pride because I’d started the team up from scratch with the help of a good mate of mine, Andy Barr of 10 Yetis PR, our main club sponsor.

“Every year we’ve been going as a Saturday side it’s been about us and St Paul’s. We feel we’ve been the better football team throughout but they’d always had that edge over us, that never-say-die mentality which we hadn’t quite been able to match.

“We added a couple of quality players for the start of last season and won the league by 11 points from only 18 fixtures.

“Our duels with them have ended for now as they will continue competing in Division Two again this season.

“Our main aim is to keep on going up, hopefully all the way into the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League, and collect a few more cups along the way.”

  • Coming up here on Local Football News: Why ambitious AFC Renegades believe they have grounds for hope going forward.

Wick boss Strawford laps up happy hour en route to first-day County League delight

WICK manager Mike Strawford was positively purring about his team’s day one endeavours over the first hour of their Marcliff Gloucestershire County League opener at home against Broadwell Amateurs.

The Oldbury Lane outfit overcame their guests 4-2 thanks to Sam Thomas, Shaun Morris (2) and Dan Stephens efforts.

“For the first 60 minutes we looked superb,” the Wick supremo insisted. “Yes, we switched off for spells but we played as well as I’ve seen in a long time.

“We were 3-0 up and cruising but then started to go through the motions a bit and ended up conceding twice, although the outcome was never in doubt.”

Ollie Hunt had pulled it back to 3-1 for Broadwell with a powerful header before Morris notched again with brilliant individual skill to restore Wick’s three-goal cushion.

Tom Hall drilled the ball home from the edge of the box to give Broadwell’s battlers more hope at 4-2 but time ran out on their fightback attempts.

It didn’t quite go to plan for another of the league’s newbies, Quedgeley Wanderers, who were beaten 3-1 at home by Henbury.

All the goals came in the second half with Davaughn Martin, two minutes in, firing in front a Bristol side who held firm until 83 minutes when a jubilant Jordan Rouse levelled up for the promoted Waterwells team, who finished sixth in last season’s Gloucestershire Northern Senior League shake-up.

It wasn’t ultimately to be for them as Adam Rosser restored Henbury’s lead on 87 minutes from the penalty spot before Harvey Moran put paid to home hopes with a third at the death for the happy visitors.

Henbury tweeted of an absorbing spectacle: “Quedgeley played some great football and they will be a great addition to the league.”

Peter Bradbury’s Rockleaze Rangers appeared to set their stall out for the season by overcoming Hardwicke, who did have opportunities of their own to score, 3-0 on their travels thanks to Nick Jones’ 37th-minute breakthrough goal, Rory Langdon’s strike nine minutes from time and a clincher by the same substitute three minutes on.

Lethal Lacey pops up late to give AEK Boco opening-day lift-off against Gala

THE opening day of a new Marcliff Gloucestershire County League programme generated plenty of drama and chat about how it could all pan out for the 15 participating competitors.

AEK Boco, the 2016 champions now overseen by chairman John Winter and successful former boss Gary Lancaster, set their assault underway with a thrilling 4-3 home success over a Gala Wilton outfit eager for a big improvement on their 2018-19 relegation campaign.

Freddy Taylor-Fox had handed the Greenbank Road hosts an 11th-minute lead, only for Gala to level 33 minutes in through James Bowers’ unerring right-sided strike before the same livewire marksman crashed an angled effort past Mitchell Norman three minutes later to put his team 2-1 up.

Boco hit back a minute before the break through Jake Slocombe’s penalty. But their hopes of three first-day points were dealt a setback again as Gala keeper Lewis Skyers’ long punt forward found Ryan Dobbins with time to neatly chip Norman for a 3-2 away advantage midway through the second half.

It wasn’t to be for the visitors, however, as first Slocombe struck for a second time from the penalty spot seven minutes from time and then, in the first minute of stoppage time, Tommy Lacey’s dramatic goal saw off a frustrated Gala side who completed the game with eight men due to sin-bin offences, although substitute Jay Dare did go on to miss a splendid chance to tie up the score once more at the other end.

There was first day delight too for new-boys Sharpness, who came out of the blocks firing with a 2-1 home defeat of Hanham Athletic.

The Hamfields hosts, now managed by Tom Paterson, struck first on 23 minutes when Alex Gayner’s cross was tapped in by Will Lacey before Brad Hewer made it 2-0 from the penalty spot.

Hanham were given second-half hope courtesy of Sam Brown’s own spot kick but Sharpness held firm, to the joy of their supporters in a sizeable 92-strong crowd, the biggest turn-out in the league of the afternoon.

Frampton United, who for so many years now have been amongst the league’s leading lights, hope to go all the way this time around.

And they got their latest mission underway in perfect fashion with a 3-1 victory at Little Stoke thanks to Steve Jackson’s double both sides of the break and Ryan Vincent’s 86th-minute punishment of another home error, after Stoke had pulled it back to 2-1 74 minutes in through Ethan Tucker’s headed conversion of a super cross.

Meet and greet with a former England legend. Click below to find out more  Matchday_masterclass_competition_2019-20

Veg in: Former City and Manor Farm star Alex points to plants for staying power

ALEX Russell has been praised for his staying power as a vastly-experienced footballer – and the player himself believes he holds the key to its secrets, writes Simon Parkinson.

The former Bristol City central midfielder performed well into his late 30s and 40s with West Country sides including Cheltenham Town, Yeovil Town, Bath City, Hallen, Clevedon Town and Bristol Manor Farm, where he was enjoying a second spell at the age of 45 when an enticing opportunity arose to move to Australia in February and serve alongside his former team-mate Jamie Gosling as an academy coach.

Manor Farm manager Lee Lashenko acclaimed Russell’s “remarkably high” fitness levels and endurance immediately prior to losing his man, for a second time at The Creek, to the delights of Down Under.

Asked in an interview with GFA Local Football News for reasons behind his playing longevity, the one-time aspiring Liverpool prodigy replied with a smile: “I’ve never been married and have no kids, so I’ve always slept well and always got my eight nightly hours in!

“That’s maybe a factor but more importantly I changed my diet around eight years ago and it means I eat no meat or dairy: it’s a plant-based diet.

“I began to cook a lot and I noticed a massive difference in my recovery after games; no aching hamstrings or muscles.

“It’s quite fashionable these days to be vegan: there’s a big film coming out about it called The Game Changers relating to sports stars and how their recovery is so much better, how plant-based diets have given them an edge.”

Russell insisted: “How well you recover after sports participation is the biggest thing. It’s about not feeling rubbish the next day.

“I adopt a positive mental approach to my football too: I always thought I’d play until I was 40 but at that age I was still feeling as fit and sharp as I was in my 20s and I felt then that this age barrier thing was nonsense. I’d been quite a late developer anyway and not really fully grown until I was 21.

“I’m not alone: Jamie Cureton, the ex-Bristol Rovers, Norwich, QPR and Cheltenham Town striker amongst a raft of other pro and semi-pro clubs, was banging in the goals still at 42. We also played together for England Seniors and won two World Cups with them in Thailand!

“So playing longer is a mental thing too although of course you need your body to say yes; you need to listen to your body.”

Asked whether mind and body were sufficiently intact for footballing purposes still, Russell replied: “I play for Stratford Dolphins in a premier league in and around Cairns. I am not sure what the league is called but it is the best level I can play at out here.

“We are halfway through our season and I have three goals and a few assists under my belt, so I’m really enjoying it.”

A true grassroots great: Local football mourns loss of Mr Totterdown Jeff Bryant

GRASSROOTS football in Gloucestershire and beyond has been mourning the death of Totterdown United’s long-serving founder member Jeff Bryant.

Jeff, known affectionately by many as Fred, died following an extended illness and his passing has prompted many tributes to be paid to the club’s devoted president and “great” former secretary.

Ralph Pratten, general secretary of Bristol and District and Bristol Premier Combination leagues, said: “Those who knew Jeff will remember how passionate he was about his Totterdown United FC.

“He was one of the founder members of Totterdown United some 54 years ago and went on to have many roles in the club’s colourful history before finally having the honour of being called president.

I mainly remember him as a great secretary and loyal member of the management committees for both Bristol Premier Combination and Bristol and District leagues.

“People will remember Jeff in their own way and I for one will recall that come win, draw or lose he was always happy to shake your hand after the game and talk a little on how your club was doing that season.

Jeff was one of few secretaries who could remember who Totterdown would be playing for weeks and months in advance and no spreadsheet was required for him when rearranging fixtures at meetings: it was all locked away upstairs. 

Ralph acknowledged: “It was thanks to Martin Gill (Roman Glass St George secretary) that his very good friend Jeff was still able to attend council and management meetings until recent years when coming along had proved too much, although he still asked to be kept informed of the latest information from both our leagues.

Martin remembers when both clubs first joined the Bristol and District League from the Church of England (Avon) League in 1973. He would take Jeff to meetings in those days as well and says it was surprising how well he could remember people’s names without referring to handbooks.

Martin was so glad to see Jeff recently and has some fond memories going back all those years, saying he was a good friend who will be very much missed.’

I think the Bristol Premier Combination and Bristol and District leagues will be poorer for not having Jeff around any longer and our thoughts are with all members of Totterdown United Football Club at this time.

Totterdown issued a statement to say, “Fred will be forever remembered and always loved by everyone at Totterdown United.”

That led to a series of other reflections, including those of Eamonn Daly who tweeted: “Really sad to hear this news. A lovely man who loved Totterdown Utd. Fond memories of him with my time at the Totts.”

Paul Tompkins wrote: “Always a friendly welcome received” while Mandy Kerfoot added: “It was always a pleasure to speak with (Jeff) to confirm appointments for Saturdays when allocated games for Totterdown Utd.”

Seymour United messaged: “We look forward to raising a glass to him next time we play.”

From Anfield to Australia: how Alex Russell’s long football journey began at home . . .

IT’s been a case of from Anfield to Australia for Alex Russell, who enjoyed YTS scholarship status with Liverpool at 16 and performed over two years with their crack youth team of the time, writes Simon Parkinson.

The 46-year-old former Bristol City and Cheltenham Town star exited Bristol Manor Farm following a second spell with the Southern League club to take up a career in junior and youth coaching in Queensland, Australia, in February this year (see separate story here on Local Football News).

Of his experiences as an upcoming product of Liverpool’s legendary youth programme of the era, he confessed: “I knew I wasn’t going to quite make it at that level. I was rubbing shoulders with Robbie Fowler, Jamie Redknapp, Steve McManaman and Dominic Matteo; not a bad crop of players who DID make it.

“I used to stand on the Kop as a kid and it was during my second season at Liverpool that they last won the league title in 1990! I was cleaning boots and being in and amongst the changing rooms.

“We did mix with first teamers: I was the boot boy for Grobbelaar, who was great fun, and Peter Beardsley, who was a hero of mine. They would treat you as a professional, hard but fair. John Barnes was there at the time too, as was Alan Hansen, as captain.

“I still have a big picture comprising first, reserves and youth players of the day all together. Kenny Dalglish was manager and he was brilliant along with his backroom team of Ronnie Moran, Roy Evans, Phil Thompson etc. It was just an amazing upbringing for me.”

One that was, by Russell’s own admission, not destined to go entirely to plan, despite the 46-year-old going on to enjoy a full and productive career in the professional game.

“I remember Ronnie Moran was interim manager after Dalglish had left (in 1991) and it wasn’t too big a shock when he called three of us to go and see the youth team manager Steve Heighway.

“He (Heighway) told us we still had something to offer but it wouldn’t be at Liverpool. That was a big thing to us that a club like that still believed in us.

“I was philosophical about it. Jamie Redknapp was a man at 6ft 1in while I was so skinny with no hairs on my chest. Both of us were 17 and soon after I left he was in Liverpool’s first team.

“I’d ended up playing in three youth team games for them, all in the FA Youth Cup at Anfield, and managed to score once, against Walsall.

“I also played against Manchester United and got subbed, for Fowler; my claim to fame! Ryan Giggs scored in a 3-1 win for them.

“So I wasn’t too despondent about being released as I knew I wasn’t quite up to that level. But I also knew I could make the grade somewhere. Yes, I was gutted as I loved Liverpool but I never kidded myself.

“I wasn’t physically up to it and I never had that explosive pace you need at the top, but it was nice people like Ronnie said I had god vision and technical ability and hopefully I’ve shown that over the many years since.”

Many Bristol City supporters will concur with that having witnessed his 56 appearances in Robins colours.

“I loved my time at City,” he stressed, “and obviously my best memory is scoring the third goal against Rotherham to help us get promoted from League One to the Championship in the last game of the 2006-07 season.

“We had a good team that then almost won promotion to the Prem the very next season.

“I am still close to the lads from that side because when you win something together you get a good bond.

“That’s one of the main reasons you have success, team spirit, and we certainly had it.”

  • Coming up here on Local Football News: how Alex Russell believes a dramatic change of diet has contributed to his remarkable playing longevity

Ex-Ashton Gate ace Alex so enjoying his new Australian coaching adventure

FORMER Bristol City and local semi-pro star Alex Russell is relishing football life in altogether different climes – Down Under!

The 46-year-old midfielder concluded a second stint with Bristol Manor Farm earlier this year to embark on a coaching career in Australia and hasn’t looked back, reports Simon Parkinson.

He explained to GFA Local Football News: “It all came about three years ago when I’d had a great month travelling around Australia.

“I was at Cairns Airport (Queensland) for the flight home and had posted something on Facebook about it. A former team-mate of mine, Jamie Gosling (ex-Bath City, Yeovil Town and Forest Green Rovers), saw the message and informed me he’d lived in Cairns.

“Jamie played for a semi-pro team out there and he was starting up his own football academy, which he then asked me to help him with.

“I’d just got a job back in Bristol working with another old team-mate of mine, Joe Burnell, who I knew from our days with Bristol City, Northampton, Exeter City and Bath.

“He ran a house lettings and sales business and I went on to do three years there with Joe. But I still had the bug to work abroad and it reached the stage where I didn’t want to work in an office anymore.

“I’d kept in touch with Jamie and a few months prior to me going back out to Australia in February I asked him if he still had contacts over there and he said, ‘Why don’t you come and work with me?’

“I had no ties as I have no family of my own and I jumped at the chance, even though it was a part-time situation.”

Russell, who clocked up 56 appearances for Bristol City between 2005 and 2008 and counts Clevedon Town, Yeovil, Cheltenham Town, Torquay United, Cambridge United and Rochdale amongst his other many former clubs, now works for Jamie Gosling Football Academy, a private organisation based in Cairns providing football sessions for boys and girls aged three to 16.

Formby-born Merseysider Russell, who began his career in an exciting star-packed Liverpool youth set-up, said of his new opportunity: “I’d coached teenagers and under-21s at Bristol City over three seasons and became a first team coach at Tranmere under Rob Edwards (ex-Bristol City defender) as well as assisting Paul Carden at Southport, but I’d never previously worked with youngsters.

“I’d ended up having four jobs in a year and had had enough, so I went travelling four years or so ago having never previously had that chance being a pro footballer and coach with a UEFA A licence and FA Youth Award Modules behind me.

“I remember well before then, when I’d just turned 40, putting out a tweet to say I’d be retiring from playing. I’d just come off the pitch in a game at Bishop’s Cleeve and hadn’t enjoyed it, not helped by awful conditions and a ball that wasn’t perfectly round!

“I felt a desire to concentrate on coaching and it was about two years later, when working with Joe in Bristol who was playing with Shepton Mallet at the time in the Western League, that I made my comeback after doing nothing until then with my Saturday afternoons.

“I knew their manager Andy Jones from our Bath days and I ended up playing a full season there. I was living in Clifton at the time and heard about Bristol Manor Farm being a good team, so I then had a season with them (2016-17) and a successful one too as we won promotion to the Southern League for the first time in the club’s history.”

Russell continued: “I then went to Clevedon for a bit as I knew a few of their guys – Ollie Barnes, Danny Wring and Clayton Fortune along with their manager Micky Bell – from our Bristol City days and enjoyed it there performing in a really young side.

“I headed to Hallen after that as I was friends with Kevin Camargo there but it didn’t turn out for me and I only stayed for a month or so.

“Someone at Manor Farm asked me if I wanted to return there and that’s where I spent a final few months as a player before this Australian opportunity came about.”

  • Coming up on Local Football News soon: Alex Russell revisits life as a fledgling professional at mighty Liverpool.

Double delight: Cheltenham YL cherishes GFA Grassroots Football Awards recognition

CHELTENHAM Youth League’s award-winning administrators can approach the 2019-20 season full of optimism and encouragement following their double summer success at Gloucestershire FA’s annual grassroots presentations, writes Simon Parkinson.

The organisation was not only named GFA Grassroots League of the Year but it also scooped the Respect (We Only Do Positive) Award during the Bristol Golf Club ceremony in which dozens of volunteers and their supporters were honoured for their work in keeping local football flourishing.

Cheltenham Youth League created and implemented the Purple Shirt Initiative (PSI) designed to make spectators, managers and coaches aware that a referee, sporting the vivid attire during games, is an inexperienced and upcoming official who should be free from the type of abuse and intimidation many disheartened young whistlers had reported.

Upset and frustrated at an “alarming decline” in fledgling match official numbers because of this, Cheltenham YL chiefs set about finding a solution to a growing local and national malady which league chairman Nigel Newport-Black, in an interview with GFA Local Football News in February, stated: “It all began for us during the 2016-17 season.

“On the back of a rapid expansion of the league during the previous two seasons, we noticed an increase in complaints from young referees concerning behaviour towards them.

“Despite having the clubs attend a mid-season meeting and us trying to lay the law down and threaten them with instant reporting to Gloucestershire FA for disciplinary sanctioning, the situation continued to deteriorate.

“In effect, what was occurring was child abuse. We were losing referees and something needed to be done to reverse the trend.”

Cheltenham Youth League’s efforts to successfully address what had been an unsavoury and unsatisfactory situation was recognised at the recent county football association prize-giving event, prompting Newport-Black to say: “As a group we were delighted just to be nominated. But to then win awards in both categories was fantastic.

“Personally I feel that it is a great testament to the hard work put into Cheltenham Youth League by the management committee as a whole and doesn’t focus solely on the Purple Shirt Initiative.

“As far as the PSI is concerned, and being a greedy type, I am hoping that my colleagues and the league will receive some national recognition.

“The FA has been using our initiative as an example of innovation and best practice and encouraging other leagues and county FA’s to adopt and roll it out.

“We can but hope that our lords and masters higher up the chain acknowledge the tremendous benefits of the initiative.”

At the GFA’s 2019 grassroots hand-outs, the audience was informed: “Cheltenham Youth League has successfully had a positive impact on refereeing within the league.

“Since implementing the Purple Shirt Initiative the league has seen an increase in young referees within the league, providing protection and support to help them develop as match officials.

“The league also developed a referee WhatsApp group to ensure any cases of abuse or intimidation could be reported immediately after the game.

“The initiative is now being implemented by leagues across the country.”

Cribbs Women stars eager to overcome injury setbacks in bid to take to 2019-20 stage

CRIBBS Women will kick off their new Gloucestershire County Women’s League adventure with two of their most influential assets still sidelined yet hoping to feature at some stage of the campaign, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Bristol-based hopefuls travel to take on league newcomers Tuffley Rovers Ladies for a Sunday, September 8 Division Three opener and likely to be without striker Kerry Bullard and centre-half Ceri Shepherd through unfortunate injuries sustained soon into last season.

Cribbs manager and Ceri’s father John Shepherd explained: “Kerry damaged her ACL in only our second game and she recently and finally had the op done. She’ll be on crutches for a few weeks and then she’ll start extensive physio.

“To Kerry’s credit she still came along every week with a knee brace on to support the team and we’re keeping everything crossed she can play at least some part of next season.

“Ceri injured herself in the same game with a knee problem too relating to floating meniscus. She attempted a comeback towards the end of the season but had to come off again.

“So she’s having further investigations with that and won’t start the season either, although Ceri has found a role with us having taken over the reins as club secretary! She’s doing all the paperwork and seems to be enjoying it.

“They are two key players of ours who previously played for me at Port of Bristol Ladies and are a real miss at this time.”

Boss Shepherd is “thankful” to have another of his daughters, 22-year-old full-back Myli Shepherd, available to commence a third season, having been named Cribbs Women’s players’ player of the year in 2017-18.

And when it comes to star performers, the Lawns supremo is hoping for more of the same in 2019-20 from two of his most recent award winners.

He explained: “Our 2018-19 players’ player of the year was Alyshia Reed, who was fantastic upfront for us having joined only a few games into the season.

“She seemed to have a permanent Duracell battery: she didn’t stop running and she covered every blade of grass, against my own wishes sometimes!

“She hadn’t played football for ages before joining us but you’d never have known it.

“My own choice as manager’s player was Michelle Brown, an ex Birmingham Women player who also hadn’t played for a long time – some eight or nine years – when she first came to us.

“But you could tell she’d played a lot of football previously as she was outstanding in central midfield last season, really helping the team along and gaining the respect of all her club-mates.

“She’d sometimes come straight to Sunday training after 12-hour Saturday night shifts, even though I’d tell her she didn’t have to do that. That attitude spoke volumes for her application and determination.”

Anyone keen to get involved with Cribbs Women can call John Shepherd on 07804 643499 or email club secretary Ceri Shepherd at cerimai1@hotmail.co.uk

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On the promotion trail: Shortwood United target immediate 2019-20 elevation

SHORTWOOD United believe they are much better placed to enjoy a more rewarding season on the back of their 2018-19 Toolstation Premier Division struggles, writes Simon Parkinson.

A torrid first term back at non-League Step 5 level, after voluntarily calling it a day as a Southern League competitor a few months prior, ended in more disappointment as an eager yet highly inexperienced Meadowbank  Stadium outfit found themselves propping up the rest of the Toolstation top-flight and unceremoniously relegated as a consequence.

Now there is, in the estimation of long-serving clubman Simon Grant, a fresh wave of optimism enveloping the Nailsworth club heading into a new Hellenic Division One West challenge, although he said of that dramatic summer 2018 overhaul and upheaval: “We actually started last season with six players, all of them new, as everyone else had left.

“We’d applied to take voluntary relegation from the Southern League and our hopes were of gaining a place in the Western League, which of course we were pleased came to fruition.

“Now a latest rejig of teams and leagues means we’ve gone back into the Hellenic League where we’d been for three decades before joining the Southern League (in 2012).

“The aim this season is to go straight back up to the Premier Division although after that, if we are to achieve it, who knows? With the money required in the game now it may be a step too far to push for the Southern League again: it’s so important to keep your finances in check.

“We own our own ground and we have no debts and we’d like to keep it that way.”

Looking ahead with some optimism once more after a turbulent and uncertain period in Shortwood’s proud 119-year history, Grant reflected: “We went with the kids last season in what is, at Toolstation Prem level, very much a man’s game.

“Now we have a much stronger-looking squad going into the new season, with Jason Scrivens and Mat Blythe, who was Frampton United’s manager last season and a former Shortwood midfielder, working together as joint bosses whilst Mat’s brother Simon Blythe, who played professionally for Bristol City during the Terry Cooper era there in the late 1980s, has come in as coach.

“There’s a mood around the club that we can have a much better season although even when we were getting thrashed last year the committee and supporters really got behind the young lads out there, appreciating the effort and loyalty they were showing.

“It’s hard to believe that it was only six short years ago that we played Port Vale at our place in the first round proper of the FA Cup, shown live on BT Sport.

“People were saying for years afterwards that we must be flushed with money. But of course all that sort of revenue goes so quickly, into the club and facilities as much as anything.”

All aboard the bus for Buzzard as Thornbury prepare for first-ever FA Cup foray

THORNBURY Town’s vice-chairman Graham Smith weighed up the club’s first steps into the Emirates FA Cup arena and enthused: “These are exciting times,” writes Simon Parkinson.

Some 121 years after the Mundy Fields outfit was introduced to the local football scene, Thorns’ flagship first XI make their bow this Saturday, August 10 in Bedfordshire for an extra preliminary round encounter with Leighton Town (3pm).

It’s a prospect Smith and his Thorns comrades are rubbing their hands at, the securement of a commendable third-place position from their first crack at non-League Step 6 level in last season’s Hellenic Division One West competition earning them the right to enter the world famous knock-out tournament.

Smith emphasised: “These are exciting times, venturing into the FA Cup for the first time ever and creating history for Thornbury.

“It’s a long trip too to Leighton Buzzard but I know that whatever side Jason Rees and Gary Kemp put out, we will be well prepared.”

Thornbury, the 2017-18 Marcliff Gloucestershire County League champions under Andy Davies’ stewardship, kicked off their new campaign last weekend with another trek into the unknown.

It led to a thrilling but ultimately disappointing 5-4 loss in Oxfordshire at the hands of Hellenic Division Two North hosts Adderbury Park in the first round of the Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup.

Unbowed, new boss Rees said of this weekend’s FA Cup appointment with Spartan South Midlands Premier Division side Leighton: “I’m really excited and the players are too. This is a milestone for the club and we’re keen to play our part in this year’s FA Cup story.

“It’s generated a lot of interest and anticipation here and the lads are looking forward to saying they’ve played in the world famous competition we all know and love.

“That said we can’t be embroiling ourselves too much in the occasion itself; we want to progress in the competition and test ourselves against other teams of our standard and possibly beyond.”

To mark their successful tie-up with Thornbury Falcons a decade ago, Town’s travelling cup hopefuls will sport a new yet familiar blue and yellow away strip in keeping with that old youth section tradition.

Club committee stalwart Richard Shorey, a founder member of Falcons way back in 1990, said: “Since the merger we have seen an increase in players from our youth sides representing Thornbury in our adult teams, some of them playing a crucial role in our promotion to the Hellenic League.”

Thorns follow up their maiden FA Cup adventure this Tuesday night, August 13, with a Division One West opener at home against league new boys Malvern Town (7.45pm).

Shortwood’s new-look side get set for Hellenic long haul in bid to rekindle glory days

SHORTWOOD United players and staff are braced for their return to UHL Hellenic League activity after experiencing a bumpy ride since their fall from Southern League grace in 2018, writes Simon Parkinson.

Six years after their long-awaited rise to Step 4 status on the non-League pyramid, the Nailsworth club took the hard decision to take a step back as financial challenges beset them, an act that saw them functioning as a new-look youth-orientated operator in last season’s Toolstation Premier Division competition.

It was a bold move but one that proved a step too far long before the campaign concluded – United’s eager yet out-of-depth fledglings completed their 38-game programme rock-bottom of the table with one solitary win to their name, high-riding Westbury United embarrassed one memorable early March day as elated Levi Matthews’ 65th-minute strike secured Shortwood a precious win in Wiltshire.

It was downhill pretty much all the way with relegation an inevitable consequence of those sweeping summer 2018 changes, although six commendable draws along the way at least presented a more respectable picture and gave rise to some encouragement.

As the FA recently undertook another round of close-season restructuring, Shortwood find themselves commencing a new campaign in an Hellenic League they do know something about having won the Premier Division title on two occasions way back in the mid-1980s and early 90s.

The club’s long-serving former player and volunteer Simon Grant, recipient of a recent highly commended Grounds Team of the Year distinction at the 2019 GFA Grassroots Football Awards, explained: “It all went wrong financially for us the season before last.

“We’d had a financial backer, someone who’d been part of the club over many years, who decided the time had come to stop paying the players.

“We got together as a group and all expressed a feeling that money, and so often a lack of loyalty as a consequence, was ruining football at that level. So we decided to go back to grassroots basics and start all over again.

“Now we’re going with two youth sides and a Development team, which will play in Hellenic Division Two West a division beneath our firsts.

“They are being run by Chris Hicks, who has worked for the FA for many years and manages the GFA’s Under-16 rep team.

“With Chris on board I’m sure it will be a real boon for Shortwood United all round as his expertise will go hand in hand nicely with the raft of talented young lads we have here.”

  • Coming soon: part three of Shortwood United’s rocky journey and their hopes of a quick bounce-back to Step 5 action.

GFA award offers Grant grounds for encouragement ahead of new Shortwood chapter

SHORTWOOD United’s devoted volunteer Simon Grant says he is still on a high after gaining recognition at the summer’s annual Gloucestershire FA Grassroots Football Awards presentations, writes Simon Parkinson.

Whilst he didn’t claim the top prize in the Grounds Team of the Year category which went the way of Chesterton AFC’s worthy winner Steven Bond, Grant and his club were nonetheless delighted to scoop a highly commended accolade at the Bristol Golf Club ceremony.

Grant enthused: “It’s always an honour to get nominated. I only live a three-minute walk away from the ground and barely a day goes by when Steve Ash and I are not working on our pitch. And there’s certainly been a lot of watering required after a long and hot close season!

“Although I’m chief groundsman I’m also chairman of the social club and I’ve just become a trustee of the football club along with Mark Davies, who is part of the Grant family, and Lee Jones, who is vice-chairman of the social club.

“The Grant and Webb families founded the football club way back in 1900 so a lot of generations have gone on to serve Shortwood United, myself included amongst something like seven of us Grants and Webbs still involved. There’s a running joke that the Webbs actually spawned from the Grants!”

Simon explained: “I’d received an invitation from the GFA to attend the awards evening and I did so with Lee, who does a lot of work behind the scenes at Shortwood. We’d been nominated for the award by our first team manager Jason Scrivens.

“It’s a privilege to be given recognition like this as we’re such a dedicated team; we do put a lot of effort into producing what we, and hopefully others who come to Meadowbank Stadium, feel is a first-class surface.

“I for one spend most evenings on the pitch for an hour or two and more time over the weekends. Steve (Ash) and I took over the ground duties at the start of last season from Mark Webb, who had been doing it for 30 years having taken over from his own grandfather, Howard Webb, a former club secretary.

“I had been social club chairman and general matchday helper looking after the bar and suchlike although I’m continuing to do all that!

“Of course it would have been nice to have won the top prize at the GFA Awards but to be recognised at all is rewarding enough and fair play to Steven at Chesterton as grassroots clubs don’t always get that recognition they deserve.”

Simon said of his own family’s long-standing involvement: “Two of my sons, aged nine and 12, regularly attend Shortwood games.

“With my two brothers not really interested it’s down to me and my sons to provide that ongoing Grant representation, although the boys tend to spend all my money on food and fizzy pop!

“But they also both play for Tetbury Town’s juniors for whom I’ve agreed to take on a coaching role with their under-10s.”

The lads’ 43-year-old father enjoyed playing too, with Whiteshill once upon a time and RDS, where he recalled of the latter: “We started it up with a group of friends and enjoyed a long and successful ten-year rein before merging with Minchinhampton.

“I finished my playing career appropriately with Shortwood at the age of 31.”

  • Coming soon: Shortwood United prepare for another long haul – this time with the UHL Hellenic League.

Marcliff sign up again as Gloucestershire County League prepares for sin bin saga!

GLOUCESTERSHIRE County League administrators have been given a welcome boost ahead of the new season, reports Simon Parkinson.

An extension to a deal involving the non-League Step 7 competition’s main backers has been confirmed, to the delight of league secretary Ron Holpin and his committee.

He said: “We’re extremely pleased that our long-serving sponsors, Marcliff (Yate-based plumbing and heating merchants), have once again agreed to sign a two-year contract and we’ll be completing the formalities of that arrangement prior to the Little Stoke-Frampton United game on the first Saturday (August 10, 3pm).

“There’s also going to be added interest on the pitch this season as we’re gearing up for the introduction of sin bins to our league for the first time.

“This only affects episodes of dissent and involves players being sent to the sidelines for ten minutes – and they have to be full playing minutes which don’t incorporate stoppages - whilst the game is in progress.

“This will undoubtedly present a challenge to our match officials although some leagues, the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League amongst them, have been operating with sin bins for a couple of seasons and successfully so as it does seem to have reduced dissent and bad language.”

As for those August 10 openers, 2015-16 champions AEK Boco, with chairman John Winter and the club’s successful former boss Gary Lancaster now at the rudder, welcome Gala Wilton to Greenbank Road.

Little Stoke and Wick face first day home tests too against Frampton and Broadwell Amateurs respectively as Rockleaze Rangers (at Hardwicke), Henbury (at Quedgeley) and Hanham Athletic (at Sharpness) all hit the road.

All fixtures kick off at 3pm.

Sharpness, Bromley Heath and Quedgeley on starting blocks for County League assault

A BRAND-NEW Marcliff Gloucestershire County League campaign is set to get underway, with three new teams creating a fresh feel to the 51-year-old competition, writes Simon Parkinson.

Bromley Heath United, who so dramatically clinched the Bristol and Suburban Premier Division crown courtesy of a superior four-goal difference ahead of runners up Avonmouth after the sides had been in 51 points apiece deadlock, have taken up their place at non-League Step 7 level for the first time in their history.

They are joined by Quedgeley Wanderers, despite the Gloucester outfit winding up sixth on last season’s Gloucestershire Northern Senior One ladder, and Sharpness, champions of the same division who won the County League championship way back in 1984 and went on to perform in the Hellenic League for a spell.

Of the trio of clubs that crossed the promotion line, Holpin enthused: We’re delighted to welcome Bromley Heath and Sharpness, who were both champions of their respective leagues, and of course Quedgeley Wanderers.

“Some may think it strange that they were given a chance to step up to us given they finished sixth in the Northern Senior table.

“Of course Chalford, who finished second behind Sharpness, would have been considered but unfortunately for them they failed to reach the required ground grading, and the next club to have everything in place facilities-wise was Quedgeley.

“The Northern Senior League, who have always been happy to support ambitious clubs and the Gloucestershire County League, were very understanding and we have to give an awful lot of credit to them and their secretary John Green for allowing it to happen.

“We as a league would not normally have gone down as low as sixth place but had we not done so we’d be running with even fewer teams – 14 – than we did last season when we’d been looking to get that figure up to 16.

“Stonehouse, despite finishing third last season, had applied to the FA to go up. The FA had been trying to increase numbers in Hellenic Division One West to 16 clubs after only running with 12 last time.

“Stonehouse insisted they were ready to go up facilities-wise and had the money behind them, so the FA wrote to us and asked if we’d consider releasing them.”

Holpin continued: “The upshot was we agreed to let Stonehouse go with our full blessing and our chairman Peter Langley wished them well at our AGM, while Stonehouse in turn thanked our management committee and said how they’d thoroughly enjoyed playing in the County League but just wanted that chance to test themselves at a higher level.

“Quedgeley, of course, were absolutely overjoyed when they found out they had been accepted by us because it was totally out of the blue for them.

“Now we’re very much looking forward to seeing how they and our other two new teams get on at Step 7 status.

“Sharpness have, of course, been in our league before and successfully so having gone on to progress to the Hellenic League before they lost their ground.

“They played in several places after that whilst trying to find a permanent home until they secured the present Hamfields site.

“It’s taken them three or four years to get it together but they’ve certainly done that as the dressing rooms there are worthy of possibly higher-level standards, which is testament to the hard work and dedication of their committee and other volunteers.”

It’s far from all about me, insists our award-winning ‘unsung hero’ Sue Henson-Green

FAITHFUL female football supporter Sue Henson-Green insists her prestigious national award is testament to “so many” who have made the women and girls game the “roaring success” it is in the county and beyond today, writes Simon Parkinson.

Sue, still enjoying a role as president of a thriving Gloucestershire County Women’s League competition she was instrumental in setting up with others in the late 1990s, was stunned when presented with an Unsung Hero accolade at a recent annual FA Women’s Football Awards ceremony held at the FA’s national football centre in Staffordshire.

Sue admits she is still absorbing the “whole unexpected experience” but was quick to stress: “One thing’s for sure; this hasn’t been all about me. I certainly hadn’t got to that point in my life alone, by being a sole volunteer.

“I have been so fortunate in my long off-field football stint to have had so many good and hard-working people around me. The award I won is testament to their efforts too.

“Without people like Alexis (Lunn-Gadd) at the GFA and Helen Brain, who is such a brilliant secretary of Gloucestershire County Women’s League, you wouldn’t be winning awards like these.

“And when you first become a football volunteer, the last thing on your mind is the potential to be acclaimed in these ways, to be parading trophies for everyone to see.”

Asked about her background as a long-serving and still-active operator on the local football front, Sue replied modestly: “I really don’t like talking about myself because as I say, it’s not all about me, far from it.

“Many years ago I worked for Bristol City Council in conjunction with Bristol City Community Trust refereeing girls’ football at a time when female football was yet to really take off.

“We still had a big challenge to confront when we formed Gloucestershire County Women’s League in 1998, with one division involving only seven teams.

“I know people didn’t think we could keep it going but we did, to such an extent there will be three divisions, one up from the two we have run with up until now, for the forthcoming 2019-20 season.

“I’m president now so I don’t do an awful lot but it’s a position I’m so proud to hold and they still keep me updated with what’s going on. It’s an extremely well-run league, well respected and well known to the FA at large.

“I still chair the county match committee which incorporates our three Gloucestershire FA representative squads for boys under-16s and 18s and women, and I continue to attend every game and training session.”

Many years before her involvement with the rep scene Sue, in August 1999, had been the first female in England to become a licensed referee instructor.

“It was in an era when there were hardly any female referees around and I was refereeing with the Bristol Downs and Bristol and District leagues,” she said.

“Around that time I became referee appointments secretary for the County Women’s League when we first got it off the ground and I went on to become chair of the league for eight years.

“I’m still a GFA director and have been for six years, and I’m on the disciplinary committee. I just love the involvement I have in local football generally.”

Flank-man Freckleton and classy Clatworthy such worthy recipients of GFA gongs

GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA representative teams manager Calum Wands says 2019 GFA Grassroots Football Awards winners Andre Freckleton and Beth Clatworthy can rightly take a bow, writes Simon Parkinson.

Flying winger Freckleton and creative central midfielder Clatworthy were delighted recipients of Glos under-18 and women’s player of the season trophies respectively during last month’s annual county football association hand-outs at Bristol Golf Club.

In an interview with GFA Local Football News, Wands, as boss of both teams, claimed he had “no hesitation” in picking out the pair for the prizes.

Of Bristol & West Ladies star Clatworthy, he explained: “Beth is one of the more experienced members of our women’s rep team yet one of the quietest too.

“I chose her as my player of the year because of how well and professionally she conducts herself on and off the pitch. She is a model rep player - a team full of Beth Clatworthy’s would go far.

“Beth is something of a silent assassin! Whilst she is creative with the ball at her feet she can be physical and tenacious too which may surprise some people as she is quite shy and reserved.

“That said she has developed into a more confident player and why not? She puts everything into her game and everyone I work with say she’s well liked and respected.

“Jake Brown has now taken over from me as women’s manager and I’m sure Beth will continue to give good service now he’s in charge, if selected of course!”

While Wands has stepped down from the ladies hot seat, he continues to oversee the rollercoaster fortunes of Gloucestershire’s aspiring boys’ under-18 starlets and he said of his 2018-19 top-player selection Freckleton, who also won Male Athlete of the Year at Filton’s SGS College he also represents on the pitch: “Andre played an integral part of our under-18s before I took over and I gave him the captaincy as much for his leadership skills and professionalism off the pitch as on it.

“He seemed to thrive even more as a result of taking the armband; it brought out the best in him, just as he in turn has been so good at getting the best out of his team-mates.

“Andre is a born leader but as a player he is technically gifted, strong, fit and sharp who can perform excellently on either flank. Even opposition coaches, along with refs and officials, respect him for the way he carries himself.

“I’m just gutted Andre is, now that he is moving into his third year at SGS College, too old to continue rep football with us as I’d have loved for him to play under me for another year.

“In fact I’m surprised local pro clubs haven’t, to my knowledge, been knocking on his door as he’s definitely worth a look in my estimation and would top my list of player recommendations, not just because of his football qualities but for his off-field characteristics too.”

We’re facing drop down with dignity, Cribbs Women supremo Shepherd insists

CRIBBS Women’s philosophical manager John Shepherd insists he is looking forward to pitching his team into a bigger and more competitive Gloucestershire County Women’s League competition – despite kicking off the new campaign in a new third tier, writes Simon Parkinson.

The Station Road side completed their 2018-19 fixtures tenth in the Second Division standings and will now line up at the back of the restructured three-division competition alongside league newcomers Southmead Community Sport, Tuffley Rovers, Tytherington Rocks, Winchcombe Town, Stonehouse Town and Whitchurch and Bristol Ladies.

Shepherd said of the scenario: “It’s a long-term project for us so we’re okay about starting in a new lower division.

“We’re just happy to have the opportunity still to play competitive football and long may it continue.

“Just because we’ve dropped down a level doesn’t mean we’ve lost the appetite to progress; far from it.

“It’s not all about us: the fact is a lot of new teams came into the league over the summer and that can only mean more girls and women are wanting to play, encouraged by what they saw in the Women’s World Cup, possibly.”

Like so many female clubs across county and country, Cribbs confront perennial player recruitment challenges.

Their leader stressed, however: “We don’t care whether or not someone has played football before, or to what standard. We’re after females aged 16 and up of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. Provided they come to us with enthusiasm to play we’re happy.

“As it stands we have a hard core of around a dozen players but I’m looking to build a squad of around 20, to cater for the absences we’ll inevitably face at times.

“Last season we did okay; we won some games and took some heavy defeats on the chin against more established teams.

“Even in some of those we competed really well for an hour or so and held our own until our girls grew increasingly tired and the goals started going in.

“I liked the fact that at the end of the season we were part of Cribbs presentations involving the whole club, men and women. It was a great night and our girls got a great reception when they went up for their individual trophies.

“And the facilities and pitch we enjoy at the Lawns are among the best throughout the South West, let alone Bristol.”

Cribbs Women train on Tuesday nights between 7pm and 8.30pm, and again on Sundays during the close season between 1pm and 3pm, at Cribbs Sports & Social Club.

Anyone keen to get involved with Cribbs Women can call John Shepherd on 07804 643499 or email club secretary Ceri Shepherd at cerimai1@hotmail.co.uk

  • Coming up here soon on Local Football News: part two of our look-ahead to Cribbs Women’s new Gloucestershire County Women’s League campaign.

Female football for all at reformed Bristol Rovers Women, pledges Trust chief Tutton

BRISTOL Rovers Community Trust chief executive Adam Tutton reflected on the formation of a brand-new women and girls football section and promised: “No one will be turned away,” writes Simon Parkinson

Recently acclaimed as Gloucestershire FA Grassroots Project of the Year at the county football association’s annual FA Grassroots Awards ceremony, Rovers Trust has been busy gearing up for an exciting chapter in the charity’s history, which involves two adult female teams being thrust into the Gloucestershire County Women’s League fray for the coming campaign.

Trust organisers recently succeeded in entering a senior first team into the top-tier Division One, whilst a Rovers Development side will kick off in Division Two of a league that has been increased to three divisions ahead of the 2019-20 off.

While the teams will perform under an official Bristol Rovers Women FC umbrella they will also affectionately refer to themselves as Gas Girls, even displaying their own logo depicting a female pirate flanked by Rovers’ traditional blue and white quarters which will be displayed on merchandise, clothing and badges.

Tutton acknowledges there will inevitably be a competitive aspect to the new teams, who will play and train at Lockleaze Community Centre.

But he was quick to point out: “It’s certainly not all about winning trophies and gaining promotions. For us it’s about participation, getting women and girls playing football, whatever their age and ability and background.

“No one will be turned away and to back that up those players who are not going to be featuring initially with our first and development teams will have an opportunity to take part in weekly participation training at the Lockleaze centre on Tuesday evenings starting in September.

“And the good thing is they won’t be alone: our first and second teams will also be involved at the same time and that underlines our mantra that football is for everyone and no one should be excluded.”

Bristol Rovers originally launched a female football wing in the late 1990s, performing in the South West Women’s League and going on to become Bristol Academy WFC following a tie-up involving South Gloucestershire Council and Stroud College.

They finally became Bristol City Women FC in 2015, who these days ply their trade successfully in the top-level FA Women’s Super League.

Now proudly back in business under their own Rovers banner, Tutton insists they don’t want to simply stop with the two newly-formed teams.

“The plan moving forward year on year is to set up an under-16s, then under-15s and continue from there,” he said. “Obviously we can’t do everything in one go but that’s our next goal with the women’s section.

“We have been fortunate in receiving sponsorship from Bristol Rovers Supporters Club. They donated £5,000 – a great sum of money – to get us started with new kit etc.

“We’ve also been taken aback by the sheer interest in female football and the formation of these new teams: there’s been something like 100 women and girls aged from 16 upwards taking part in five open training sessions at our Lockleaze base, so it’s been a huge success story already.”

Rovers Trust say they will be offering food and drink promotions during the season, “as well as organising family fun days, barbecues and special guest appearances most (Sunday) matchdays.”

An electric atmosphere: Wheels in motion for Rovers powerchair football programme

BRISTOL Rovers Community Trust say the imminent arrival of an “exciting” powerchair football programme is further evidence their “sport for all” strategy is bearing fruit, reports Simon Parkinson.

The charitable arm of the League One club were recently presented with a Gloucestershire FA Grassroots Project of the Year Award at an annual Bristol Golf Club occasion which also featured Longwell Green Juniors’ disability section receiving a highly commended accolade.

Chief executive of Rovers Community Trust Adam Tutton enthused: “There was recognition by the GFA of how inclusive we as an organisation are and I’m sure that was a key factor in us winning that particular award.

“We already run junior, youth and adult disability football sessions which are due to start up again in September. In fact one of the highlights of our season as a Trust is getting them playing at half-time during a Rovers game in front of the Mem crowd, something we have been doing for a few years now.

“Recently we formed a partnership with a charitable organisation Goals Beyond Grass (GBG) which specialises in the provision of powerchair football. That has led to the formation of Bristol Rovers Powerchair Football team which we’re very excited about.

“GBG have expertise and electric wheelchairs and with their support we’ll be able to supply Rovers kits to our players and provide specialist training for our coaches to enable them to specifically coach and referee powerchair football.

“It’s another in a long list of examples of how Bristol Rovers Community Trust continues to give everyone access to football, even those with physical, sensory or learning impairments, as well as mental health. It’s about getting people of all ages and backgrounds active and able to represent Bristol Rovers FC in some capacity.

“That ethos includes our popular weekly walking football sessions for the over-55s, which are attended by some 15 to 20 people on Tuesday evenings between 8pm and 9pm at Bristol Metropolitan Academy (Fishponds).”

Tutton continued: “The four key principles that underpin what we do as a Trust incorporate health, social inclusion, education and sports participation.

“Our education courses involve more than 50 full-time students studying for BTEC Level 3 in Sport, which is an alternative to conventional college and higher education courses.

“It means our students learn within a professional sports environment and play national league football as well as studying in our classrooms at the Memorial Stadium.

“We also offer a degree programme in association with University of South Wales in community coaching and sports administration, again here at the Mem under Rovers Community Trust education banner.”

Of that powerchair football emergence, which caters for anyone using an electric wheelchair or those who have limited moment in a manual wheelchair, founder in 2016 and CEO of the Cheltenham-based Goals Beyond Grass charity Brian Dix explained: “The biggest thing for us is participation and I was always very keen to set up a team in Bristol.

“Jason Lee (football development disability officer) at the GFA put me in touch with Bristol Rovers Community Trust who were very enthusiastic about the project.

“We know there’s a lot of people in Bristol who could play powerchair football so for us it was a no-brainer to link up with a Community Trust that has a fantastic reputation.

“As soon as an individual comes to one of our taster sessions they instantly fall in love with powerchair football, which is why it’s become the fastest growing disability sport in the UK.

“When I first got involved with the sport five years ago there were around 70 clubs. But we now have 105 and the figure continues to increase. It’s a fully inclusive sport and everyone is welcome to take part and give it a go.”

Rovers Community Trust will hold a first powerchair taster session at Easton Leisure Centre, Bristol, on Saturday, October 5 between 11am and 3pm.

More information about the new Rovers powerchair football team can be obtained from www.goalsbeyondgrass.co.uk

To book a taster session, email powerchairfootball@bristolroverscommunity.org.uk

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