‘Head of the game – ambitious club goes from strength to strength

WHEN the 2019-20 Manchester League season was curtailed due to coronavirus, Springhead AFC were placed fifth in the premier division, 10 points off top but with two games in hand on leaders Dukinfield Town.

Springhead were also the best placed Oldham team.Here, Chris Leach, who pens a grassroots football column for our sister paper, the Shaw and Crompton Correspondent, interviews chairman Dave Donlan about all things Springhead AFC related.

Chris started by asking Dave a little about the club’s history.

“We were formed in 1922 as Lees Amateurs, changing the name in the early 1960s to better reflect the area it represented.

“From being solely an adult set up with one open age male team, the club, through the hard work of its members, has grown into the community club which exists today.

“We currently operate more than 30 football teams from our small clubhouse premises at St John Street, Lees.

“Many train at Waterhead Academy, Hathershaw Sports Centre, St Damian’s School, Hathershaw School and New Charter Academy venues in the evenings.

“In addition to our open age male sides currently playing in the Manchester Football League premier, third and fifth divisions, the club runs 28 junior teams from Under-6s through to U18s in various local leagues.“This season, for the first time in our history, our U18s played in the North West Youth Alliance League, which is predominantly for semi-professional academies and were competing for the league title prior to its early conclusion.

“For our older players, our veterans’ side continues to play non-competitive and charity matches against other over 35 teams.

“Finally, for our four to seven-year-olds we run our soccer school on Saturday mornings at 9.30am-11am at Waterhead Academy.”

You have definitely got a lot on your hands there so you must have a huge amount of support all round?

“We currently provide facilities for playing football ‘from cradle to grave’ and Springhead AFC is committed to providing sport at a grassroots level to all areas of its community.

“Our latest estimates show in excess of 2,000 people every week are directly involved with the club: players, members, volunteers, parents, not including those indirectly involved (spectators, local businesses) who benefit from our existence.

Your standing in the grassroots community is something to be very proud of.“The club is recognised by the Football Association (FA) and has obtained the FA Charter Standard Award.

“The Charter Standard endorsement, by the national governing body, recognises Springhead AFC is committed to supporting football at grassroots level and possesses an infrastructure, organisation and facilities of a sufficient quality to support this.

“It also ratifies our coaches and volunteers are qualified to a required standard and have undergone the necessary criminal records bureau checks. We have dual affiliation with the West Riding and Manchester County FAs.

You must have a lot of outgoings?

“We are a not for profit organisation with any surplus funds being re-invested into improving the facilities, the environment to play football and for the general promotion of social interaction between its members.

For the 2017-18 financial year outgoings came to £51,973 including £18,186 for pitch hire (matches, training and coaching), equipment £12,709 (kits, balls, training equipment) and £14,143 for league match fees (referees, linesmen, league and county).

How has Springhead progressed since you took the helm?

“When I took over as chairman we had a single figure of teams. But through the excellent commitment of our senior committee members we put a five-year strategic development plan in place.

“With this plan we were able to reach out to the local community and key stakeholders to provide a facility for everyone through sport and social interactions which benefits health and well-being.

“I am so proud of where we are today and the brilliant work of our members, coaches, managers who have collaboratively developed the club into a footballing family which is gaining credibility and recognition throughout the North West and beyond.”

How has Covid-19 and isolation effected the club?

“We had to close down our clubhouse for social distancing but the stock which we will lose I have confidence can be replaced with support from our key stakeholders.

“Many of our teams are now keeping in touch through social media and I know one age group has an Xbox league up and running where they are still working together as a virtual team.

“I am confident when all this is over we will hopefully resume where we left off as sport is an important part of our community life and our clubhouse is the hub where people of all ages socialise each week to support each other.

“My hope is when we do start up again we are committed more than ever to keep our footballing family safe.

“This may be by providing the support and guidance to assist our members who may need signposting to the relevant services or financial assistance from both the club and local authority.

“We are a footballing family and families look out for each other and people within their communities.”

I understand as well you have a big milestone in two years. So, how are the plans going?

“We are working towards our target date of our centenary year in 2022.

“Our consultants have completed the majority of the feasibility stage tests. But the estimated costs of a new 4G pitch with floodlights and stand along with an extension to the clubhouse is currently £1.3 million.

“The next stage is to finish our own surveys and submit the plans back to Oldham Council.

“I believe the costing is overestimated but the next stage is for OMBC to continue their support so we can evidence this to the Football Association and Football Foundation whom we have been working with throughout the development.”

If you had a wish list, what are the kind of things that you would be looking at?

“More coaches, volunteers to get involved and continue to grow our footballing family.

“Our reputation is second to none in grassroots football with regards to our mixed and male teams.

“We have historically had female teams at the club but our last female team went on to a semi-professional club to play at the next level and we have never sustained our female teams involvement for some years.

“We do have success with developing female footballers as evidenced with Phoebe Hollin, who is contracted at Manchester United, and some of our younger females who are playing in our mixed teams at younger age groups are also playing at professional clubs.

“I would love to have a female section involved at the club and would welcome anyone interested to get in touch.

“I would also welcome other community groups or teams to use our facilities; our club house was built by our own members for present and future members.”

If anyone would like to get involved and for any more information on any of Springhead AFC’s teams contact via social media sites Twitter and Facebook or email Dave Donlan d.donlan@sky.com or call 07813 027072.

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