BY KEVIN LAWTON29 JUNE
The future for grass roots football in the town has been given a huge boost.
Congleton Town, Congleton Vale Rovers and Congleton Rovers have officially launched their merger at a recent ‘socially-distanced’ photo shoot after announcing plans last month. The enlarged Club will play entirely under the Congleton Town name with a newly designed kit and club badge. It is particularly exciting for all those connected with the Club that Ian and David Brightwell, both with their well-known connections with Manchester City, have agreed to represent the enlarged club as ambassadors.
‘When myself and Ian were approached about this opportunity, we both said yes straight away. We have lived in Congleton for almost 50 years and have graduated from local teams and gone on to play professional football. We both know how important these early years are to learn the basics and feel part of a team! This new merger will mean that the town have teams from the Mini’s and Under 7s up to the Reserve and First teams, and all boys and girls will get the chance to represent Congleton in their age group, and hopefully some will go on to the professional game. The town has been represented in the Football Leagues in the last 30 years and I am sure that this collaboration will see many more players carry on that tradition.’
This is a valued endorsement of the decision by the three clubs to merge and offers Congleton Town Football Club with an enhanced profile both locally and in the North-West.
Nigel Moorhouse, Chairman, Charles Porter, Director, Chris Rowley, Director, Congleton Town Community Football Club and John Greening, Secretary, Congleton Rovers together with representatives from Congleton Vale Rovers have been in discussion for several months to plan the new combination and enlarged Club and along with respective colleagues are delighted to have reached an agreement.
The football provision in the town has historically been disjointed with individual clubs working separately and without a defined structure for juniors to move through the age groups and into local senior football. This new working arrangement will provide this structure and offer a significant incentive for ambitious juniors looking to represent their local team ultimately at senior level.
The merged Club will operate boys’ and girls’ teams from under 7s through the age groups to under 18s and then combine its senior football with an Academy team, Reserves, the semi-professional First Team and a Veterans team.
Anyone interested in supporting the Club will be able to acquire a share in Congleton Town Community Football Club, the Community Benefit Society which will run the organisation. In the first year, new members will be gifted a share offering a stake in the Club’s future. All families with juniors will be given a new membership card offering concessional rates to watch the First Team. The card will be extended in future years to provide further concessions on Club merchandise and retail discounts.
For many years the football provision in the town has been split between junior and senior clubs but this new development will allow any youngster in the area to develop skills from an early age with the opportunity to stay within the Club all the way up to senior football. Coaching from UEFA ‘A ‘& UEFA ‘B’ and other highly-qualified staff will be available at all levels with additional support from first team management and players offering their time to junior teams.
Representatives of juniors and seniors are to be appointed to the main board to work on further initiatives to give everyone in the town who enjoys sport and particularly football to take part either as players or volunteers and become involved. The Club will always welcome anyone who wishes to join the growing team of volunteers.
The existing Congleton Rovers committee will continue to run the junior section under Rowan Kitton. Chairman, John Greening, Ian Byram VP and Liz Greening Child Welfare Officer. There are 20 junior teams with membership of the Mid-Cheshire Youth Football League and the Cheshire Girls League. The teams will continue to play and train at Congleton High School who have provided fantastic support for the merger and provide state of the art facilities including a full size 3G pitch with a 200 seater stand donated by the Daniel Sturridge foundation, 4 full size grass pitches of excellent quality, one Junior Pitch, 2 grass mini soccer pitches all of which enables the Junior/ Youth teams to play in one location. The School will also now become the training base for the whole Club.
Congleton Rovers has evolved since 2007 and through the subsequent years has shown a consistent growth both in terms of the number of teams, development of players and success on the field that can now be seen across the age groups. Their management, coaches and players alike are excited to become part of Congleton Town and support and fully endorse this combined Club initiative. A real ambition for the committee is to increase the number of girls playing the sport and to continue to develop the progressive structure within the Club.
Congleton Vale Rovers has been re-named Congleton Town Reserves and will continue to ground-share with the First Team at the Silk 106.9 Stadium at Booth Street. The team will remain members of the Cheshire Football League Premier Division with a real ambition to win that championship. The team, managed and coached by a staff including Graham Booth, James Dodd and Neil Hammond has enjoyed hugely valuable support from The Vale Club for many years and the strong connection will continue with the provision of the much-appreciated team sponsorship.
The senior football provision will be enhanced in the coming season with the under 21 team. This has been an important part of the Congleton Rovers club, managed by Ian Byram and assisted by Andy Frost and Mark Curry. It is now renamed as Congleton Town Academy and become members of the Coors Sunday Football League. This will be a big step forwards for the team and with the support of the enlarged club it is hoped that new players will be keen to join the existing squad.
The First Team, Reserves and Academy players will have opportunities to train together at Congleton High School and Booth Street enabling coaches to identify talented individuals who have the ability and ambition to fulfil their own targets. The Club has strong links with local and regional professional clubs and for anyone who is seen as exceptional even put themselves in the shop window for a professional career.
The First Team with Steve Burgess Chairman and Ken Mead, Secretary, has a new management trio with Ryan Austin and Richard Duffy joining Anthony Griffiths the current coach. Their ambition is to not only take the team out of the North West Counties League and into the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League but also to see more local boys representing the team and flying the flag for the undoubted talent that exists within the increasing number of young footballers among the town’s growing population. The management trio have played a total of 966 professional games and between them have 33 national representative honours with Richard Duffy having played for the Welsh national team on 13 occasions. The Club has never been blessed before with a management team holding such a representative tally and it is hoped that they can fulfil their ambitions and bring home some silverware. The Club will not be holding back from supporting them with all the resources it can apply. The sponsors of the First team, the Manchester based solicitors Fieldfisher, the large local employer Cambi, local software house Cleric and the Macclesfield-based radio station Silk 106.9 have provided very much appreciated financial support.
Off the pitch there is a lot of activity and this will now accelerate as the combined resources and enthusiasm of committee members and other volunteers move forward with plans to develop the Club further.
The Silk 106.9 stadium has been significantly improved recently by the installation of new floodlights. It is hoped that improvements will continue to be made to the much loved and ever-vaunted clubhouse and pitch. The facility benefits enormously from the Club’s maintenance group known affectionately as ‘The Wednesday Club’ (no guessing as to which day they attend to their duties!) who keep the stadium looking splendid for every fixture.
The Club is delighted to have been approached to be a new participant in supporting Congleton in Bloom with a number of new trees and shrubs being planted at the stadium and making a contribution towards enhancing the spectator experience and improving its carbon footprint.
The junior committee is advanced in their plans to develop a clubhouse at the High School which will include changing rooms and a class room where coaching strategies can be taught to players before and after training, whilst also offering shelter to spectators when viewing the various games on matchday.
As a Community Benefit Society the enlarged Club is very aware of its community responsibilities. It will be making focused efforts on supporting local businesses and offering opportunities for joint promotional initiatives through sponsorship, advertising, annual events and new events to be added to the calendar. The Club has agreed to support the local charity Ruby’s Fund and in previous years has helped Friends for Leisure and Cheshire Carers. David Gay, a local resident and a member of the junior committee has been appointed the Club Commercial Manager and will be making contact with as many local businesses as possible over the coming months.
The new merger is a landmark step within the sporting life of the town. Club members, players, volunteers, sponsors, managers, coaches and anyone interested in local football to work together ultimately for the benefit of Congleton youngsters to have the opportunity to become part of a larger sporting family and to develop their talents, achieve their ambitions and remain within the town’s boundaries to do so.