WITH over 150 members on their books, 10 youth teams and one adult team, it is unusual that Blunsdon FC cannot call anywhere home.
For a club of their size they are in a strange position, where they must hire multiple venues to accommodate the large numbers at every training session. However, their name is borne from the support the club receives from Blunsdon Parish Council and that their main pitches are at Sutton Park.
Training normally takes place on Thursday or Friday evenings and during the winter months the club benefits from a block booking at Swindon Academy, where they can avoid the mud and train on the 3G astroturf.
Chairman Ian Dowdell explained the ethos of the club and how they struggle as a result of trying to make membership affordable.
“Youth football is mostly about getting the children to enjoy the game and work on their technical abilities, such as control and passing,” he said.
“Our key focus is on keeping the kids playing football.”
“What we try and do is make it very affordable for everybody, so that everyone can have a go at the sport, but obviously in doing that we incur a lot of cost.
“The hire of training facilities is the biggest expense that we have each season.”
Until recently, members of the club could start at the age of six and partake in age group teams up to under-18 level, but that was where their ability to represent Blunsdon FC ended. A landmark occasion occurred this year when, with support from the Parish Council, the club launched its first adult team. Dowdell explained how important this achievement is for the club, as it means the children are not forced to give up football or move clubs.
“It’s fantastic because our hope is that if we can keep them playing football after they are 18, obviously it’s good for their health and fitness, but also if you’ve got a bunch of young adults in their early 20s playing in the adult team, some of them might come back and coach the youngsters,” he said.
“Also it gives the youngsters something to aspire to, as they know they can stay involved. It engenders the right sort of team spirit, and that’s what we’re after.”
On the competition side, the youth teams are entered into the North Wilts Youth and Minor League, with the adult side in Wiltshire League Division One. It is telling of the club’s priorities that when asked about the results of the club this season, Dowdell’s focus is more on the numbers of children on the pitch than the numbers on the scoresheets.
“Depends what you mean by a successful season, the way I would view it is that it’s been a great success again because we’ve still got over 100 children playing football, plus an adult team,” he said.
“Obviously, when the children go onto the pitch we want them to give everything they can to try and win, but if they don’t enjoy it in the first place they won’t be here next week.”
In terms of offering a talent development programme, coaches can nominate players with extra ability to the County FA, and they may progress to represent the county.
With each team requiring a coach and manager, in addition to someone dealing with administration, one of the biggest issues the club faces is gaining the commitment of enough volunteers to keep it all going.
“As with everything, it comes down to how many people are willing to help out”, said Dowdell.
“We’ve got a fantastic bunch of volunteers helping to run it, who put in a lot of time and effort and do an amazing job. We’ve got lots of ideas about how to develop it, but it’s finding the time to do that given that everything is voluntary.
“The general feel of it is very positive. We have a long term plan and objective to secure our own pitches at some point, but at this stage that is long-term. At the moment, there is enough to do just keeping the club running and the kids playing football, without having other tasks to take on.”
Depending on the number of volunteers and the level of interest, the club’s plans for the coming years are to reinstate the girls sides that were lost six years ago, and form a second adult side.
It may not even be too many years until Blunsdon FC secures its own facilities, but for now they are doing a sterling job ensuring a love of football runs throughout their members.