With reports of Grassroots Football in the UK declining in the past few years, the passion for the game at this level is apparent in junior teams in the North-West.
But it isn’t just the players whose passion keeps the country’s favourite game alive, the FA estimates that a workforce of 400,000 volunteers devote their time to the Grassroots game across the country, organising training and matches for their clubs and players.
Formed in 2006, Adlington Junior Football Club began with one team, the Raiders, but have now expanded to hold 17 teams that cater for 270 children from under 7s to under 16s. Established by volunteers, the club aims to get children active and away from computer games through Football, hikes up Rivington, and bike rides along the canal – all which benefit the children’s health and wellbeing.
Adlington Boca Juniors have been playing as a team since June 2017. Coached by Darren Cayton and Rob Knight, with assistance from Ste Crossley, they play in the Bolton, Bury & District Football League played during the summer to ensure the children play as much as possible.
Darren Cayton said: “I am lucky in that I coach with Rob Knight and we have assistance from Ste Crossley, so if I’m travelling with work I know that training or match days will always be taken care of.
“I must admit though it takes up a lot more time then I envisaged, planning for training sessions, taking training sessions, liaising with parents, sorting out times and locations for playing games and organising the team on matches.
“Without the other coaches help and parents support it would be much more difficult.”
The FA does not allow the publication of results or league tables for teams playing under 7s football as they believe the extra competition and pressure this brings would be destructive to the player’s and game’s development.
Darren agrees with this but believes, “we can’t take away the fact that children are competitive by nature, you only have to watch the children train to see that.”
And, like at the end of every kids sporting event, a round of applause for the parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, brothers and sisters, and carers who brave the cold, muddy Monday nights and the frosty, far-too-early Saturday mornings.
Speaking about the stereotype that surrounds Football families Darren said, “The parents are genuinely nice, they are very supportive of the children and us coaches.
“They don’t attempt to coach or manipulate the players while they are playing in games, instead they offer praise and support.”