Youth football club gains more than 150 players in just two years but needs funding to help with rising costs
- Credit: Archant
One mid-Norfolk youth football club is taking huge steps to get children involved in football, as Dan Bennett reports.
It was only two years ago that Jack Cassidy and his wife Sue founded Dereham Saints Football Club, forming a team of 18 players after their son Jay received little game time at his previous club.
Two years later and Dereham Saints have around 180 children involved in their setup, from the minis to girls teams, in an effort to give all children across Breckland the chance to get involved in football.
'We won't turn a child away, if we get too many we will just form another team' Mr Cassidy said.
'Even this time last year we had one team but we've just formed an under 15's team as well to play in the league.
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'We take all kinds of children with disabilities. I want everyone to play.'
Based at Toftwood Recreation Ground, the Saints now have 158 players registered to play, as well as minis sessions for younger children and wildcats training, an FA initiative aiming to encourage girls to play football.
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But as more children are given opportunities and the size of the club grows, so do the costs involved with running it.
In winter, Dereham Saints cannot use Toftwood Recreation Ground for training and must go to either Neatherd or Northgate High School to use the well lit astro pitches which costs the club around £6000.
The changing rooms and hut at the recreation ground are also in dire need of repair, with vandals continuing to damage the already dilapidated building.
Mrs Cassidy said: 'It's putting people off. It just doesn't look good when teams come and see it.
'The children can't really use it like this.'
The wait for funding is ongoing but someone has already agreed to take on the building work should funding for the materials be given.
In the meantime, the club continues to rely on fundraising activities and is looking for new sponsors to help with the cost of kit, with the under 15's kit alone recently costing £625.
After struggling for game time at his previous club, Mr and Mrs Cassidy's son Jay has thrived in his new team and has even been selected for extra goalkeeper coaching in Norfolk.
Dereham Saints FC continues to provide opportunities for children to play football who otherwise might not get the chance.
Award for Dereham Saints girls football coach
A coach from Dereham Saints Football Club has been given a county award to recognise her work with the club.
Emma Hart was given the Respect Award at Norfolk's Grassroots Football Awards for her efforts coaching the girls teams at the club.
The Saints have two groups of Wildcats, which is an FA initiative to offer girls the chance to play football in a relaxed environment, as well as two girls teams at under 11 and under 12 level.
Founder of the club, Jack Cassidy, said: 'My son had 5 girls in his team and in a lot of cases they were better than the boys.
'All these visiting teams had no girls involved. I picked up the phone and now we have the wildcats, 60 girls turned up on the first night.'
For more information about Dereham Saints visit https://derehamsaints.club/ or contact Jack on 07709251775.