Church Stretton Town FC a club full of volunteers and local players that has a great balance of being a team for the locals whilst being a successful side.
They currently sit 9th in the West Midlands Division 2 after winning promotion from the West Mercian Premier Division last season. They are now in a league with very well established clubs with a great history’s such as Warstone Wanderers, Ludlow and Gornal Colts, ‘The Stretton’ are doing far more than holding their own.
These days ‘grassroots’ funding is a big topic around England but its teams like Church Stretton Town FC go out and find their own sponsors. In Pre-season the club hosts fundraisers and charity sports matches to help raise money for the upcoming season. This of course would not be possible without the help of the volunteers, players and staff who help out at the events because of the love for their club. In this league they are competing against a vast majority of the other teams who have sponsors for kit, training equipment and professional coaching during training. Stretton Town have none of this yet they are still able to stand their ground within the division.
Paul Smith is not only the manager of Church Stretton FC, he is also the secretary, jobs he does for free. Paul Smith spoke exclusively to the Yorkshire Voice about the success of the club and how Church Stretton has done such a great job of keeping local lads playing whilst being a very successful team, something that most grassroots teams simply can’t do. He said: “We really are lucky here we’ve got such a great support community that do so much for the club in the way of fundraisers and helping with training that it really makes my job enjoyable”.
Jordan Wells is a centre back who is a Stretton lad born and bred. He played professionally up until he was 19 but he decided to move back to the area and play for his home town.
He believes the morale of the squad and the sense of the togetherness is what enables such a small team in terms of stature compete with the teams in this division. He said “We really have got a great bunch of lads, we are all really good mates which definitely helps when it comes to the matches. Off the pitch we spend a lot of time together going on nights out and stuff so the team spirit is always going to be high”.
Joe Bartl who plays in goal for Stretton, added: “To be honest if I didn’t play for Stretton I wouldn’t bother playing for anyone else, I love the lads that play for us and the crack we all have together on and off the pitch. I’m just happy to be a part of it”.
As grassroots clubs begin to climb the leagues, many tend to lose their identity, looking for players elsewhere and turning their backs on the local lads. As a grassroots level football team Church Stretton Town FC appear to be doing it the right way. They are managing to keep the local community heavily involved and playing local players and being successful whilst doing so.