Grassroot heroes

Meet the unsung stars of the grassroots game, as recognised by McDonald’s Community Awards

FA Charter Standard Club: Banbury United

Banbury United play in the Southern League Premier Division, but the Oxfordshire outfit is about far more than one side – in fact the Puritans currently boast 28 teams. And as the club’s chairman and reserve team manager Paul Jones admits, it’s a labour of love.

“We made a commitment to build a team that would hopefully make a contribution to our local community,” he says. “We’re all volunteer staff, there’s no full-time person working for the club.”

More after the break

Jones believes the key to the club’s success is the army of volunteers that continue to help propel the club forward and onto new heights.

“To say we’ve never had stressed out volunteers would probably be an incorrect statement but this is really a timely boost to morale for everyone involved – it gives a shot in the arm to everyone involved in the football club.”

FA Charter Standard Community Club: Wyrley Juniors FC

The Midlands-based club will operate almost 50 teams over the forthcoming season, an incredible increase on the six teams run by Wyrley just 10 years ago. “The 45 teams are made up of three adult men’s teams plus a veterans’ team, a ladies’ team and 11 girls' teams, and then 29 boys’ teams,” says club chairman, Keith Hardy. “We probably send Walsall about 20 players each year, about five or six of whom are taken on.”

Volunteer of the Year: Michael Judd

This award recognises the outstanding contribution of a man who has been part of the furniture at Stony Stratford Town FC for over 25 years and is rewarded for his tireless work at the Ostler’s Road ground, which has become his second home.“I’ve spent many a year down there,” says Judd. “I was quite chuffed really to receive the award, to say the least. It’s like my extended family down here really, I’m 72 now but the football keeps me young.”

FA Charter Standard Development Club: Underwood Villa FC

Further north is another club that has excelled in youth development, Nottingham’s Underwood Villa FC. “There were one or two tears when I got the letter through – a lot of hard work has gone into it from a lot of people,” admits vice-chairman and junior secretary Clare Dennis. “The fact that we’re able to provide an opportunity for so many children is our greatest achievement. That sounds corny, but it’s true. We’re giving children the chance to focus on something; who knows, some of them might end up playing at Wembley themselves in the years to come.” The club has forged close links with Nottingham Forest in recent years, with Martin Goodfellow, one of the club’s football development officers, also coaching at the City Ground’s development centre.

FA Charter Standard League Award: Harrow Youth League

The Harrow Youth League has been part of chairman Andy Lowe’s life for the best part of 40 years and has been instrumental in raising the profile of mini soccer in Middlesex through its pioneering Harrow Soccer 7s Combination.

“I think [the award] demonstrates the tremendous work that everybody within the Harrow Youth League does, both at club level and obviously the officers and managers of the league, too,” says Lowe. “2012 will be the league’s 70th anniversary. Last season, if you take it in aggregate, we had in excess of 560 teams and just under 9,000 players – we are also expecting probably in the region of a 10-12 per cent increase this season. The number of people we’ve been able to provide football for over the years must run into the hundreds of thousands.”

Young volunteer of the year: Rabiya Ahmed

Preston-based Rabiya has gained a Level Two in sports leadership and Level One football coaching award, and has shown her desire to make a difference through working with young people in care, or with physical or learning disabilities. “It’s an honour to be recognised for working in local communities. I hope it’s a springboard for other excluded ethnic minority females to excel in football.”

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