Building on a rich footballing past
Friday 13th February 2015 @ 10:48 by Mark Phillip
Droylsden Football Sports

For a man that has received an MBE off the Queen, Alan Bradbury couldn’t be any more modest.

Alan (middle) with delegates from around the world who took part in a level 1 coaching course

Alan (middle) with delegates from around the world who took part in a level 1 coaching course

As one of the founding members of Droylsden Juniors FC, Allan has experienced more than 50 years with a club that pulls at his heart strings.

Before we started the interview, I was given a tour of the fantastic facilities now in place at the club, which have provided local children with a golden opportunity to make a name for themselves in the football world.

Testament to this assertion are Darren Beckford, Michael Clegg, Richard Wellens and Nicky Butt, who all played for the club in their younger years, before embarking on extensive professional careers.

The most recent player to have made shockwaves at the club is the hotly tipped Manchester City prospect, Brandon Barker.

The 18 year old signed a first year scholar contract with the Premier League Champions in July 2013 and has made his presence known ever since, recently travelling with the first team squad to Abu Dahbi.

Having previously spoken to Alan about Brandon’s exploits on the pitch, I could see him brimming with excitement to tell me more.

“Brandon played with us when he was about seven or eight” Alan said, “and he’s making a bit of a name for himself with City at the moment.

“He’s played at Under 17’s and Under 21’s level and by all accounts he’s on the verge of breaking into the first team squad.

“It’s great to see him progressing from our point of view because he moved up through our system when he was younger.”

Despite plying his trade with the Premier League Champions, Brandon still remains loyal to his roots and especially to the club that nurtured him. Alan continued “Brandon was back here a few weeks ago, because City TV were doing a profile on him to show how he’s been doing at the club so far.

“We’re following Brandon’s career very closely at the moment.”

The club has experienced massive changes since Brandon’s departure in 2013, but an even bigger reformation has taken place during the 50 years of Allan’s tenure.

Starting out as a Youth Club in 1963, the set-up, which was essentially a boxing club, has been engaging with the community for half a decade.

The progression since its inception has been astronomical, and the former facilities were a million miles away from the modern football utopia now made available.

Despite highlighting the problems that accompanied the former facilities, Alan reminisced on times gone by. He said “It started in 1963 as a youth club, and we had a boxing section that was based at the Butchers Arms.

“It was essentially a boxing club, then a youth club and then a football team.

“There were street teams around the area that formed a league called the Droylsden Junior Football League, and that started off with one age group and then expanded into more, and that’s how we grew.”

Although the foundations of the club were created in the confines of the former building, there was a desperate need to escape its confines and give the youth of Droylsden something to be proud of.

The club moved to Sunny Bank Park in July 2013 following a rigorous pursuit to obtain financial funding, and although the road was rocky, the club have been rewarded ever since.

Expressing his delight on the way things have developed, Alan said “When we first moved in it was an empty building and we didn’t have a seat to sit down on, so we had to go out and purchase some furniture.

“The boxing club has moved back in because there was nowhere for them to go when the old building shut down.”

Having been an instrumental part of the club since its creation, there was no way that Alan and his associates were going to deprive the boxers of a venue to train.

And with this in in mind, the club dedicated a gymnasium area in the new building that boasts a number of weights, exercise bikes, sparring bags and boxing ring, which cater for the increasing number of boxing participants in the community.

Such is the popularity of the sport that they have recently dedicated more coaching time for those who wish to train. Alan added “The boxing club has been an integral part of the club since 1963 and it was important that we continued with it.

“Charlie Grice is the chief boxing coach who founded the club and last month the boxing side expanded by introducing more coaching time, which includes Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays for juniors, and we’ve also introduced a senior session, which runs until around 9pm.”

Boxing holds a special place in Alan’s heart due of its alliance with the football, but his loyalty truly lies on the pitch, where can often be spotted throughout the week.

The club, seeking to become the best in the area, cater for a range of age groups on a daily basis.

The youngest players to grace the clubs state of the art, 4g pitch, are four year olds, who stand shoulder to shoulder with five and six year olds every Saturday morning.

The club, and Alan in particular, are fully aware of how important it is to plant a seed of interest at a young age.

According to the 73 year old, it’s invaluable. He added “We’ve now got 26 junior teams and two senior teams, and up until last year we ran a girls teams.

“We struggled to get a girls team out when they hit 16 years old, so we decided that the way forward was to let that season run out with the 16’s squad and then start looking at bringing girls in again from a young age.

“There are 18 children down at the moment which is building up nicely and that’s mainly from Greenside Primary School.”

Forming strong coalitions with primary schools is considered to be the best method of developing a nucleus of players; an aspect of the club Allan embraces. He added “We’ve got another link with a team from Abbey Hey Primary School, St Stephen’s, Manchester Road, Moorside and St Marys.

“We get them to come down on a Saturday, starting with the four and six year olds for 90 minutes, and then at about this time in the year, we’ll look to form an under 7’s side for next season.”

Encouraging younger children into the sport often overshadows the importance of providing football for the older generation, but the club harbour ideas to combat this problem.

From next year, Droylsden are hopeful of forming a vets team, aged 35 years and upwards.

But with so many ages provided for, who, and how, are the teams managed and coached?

Without due hesitation, Alan spoke proudly of the cluster of volunteers who sacrifice their time and efforts religiously to make the club what it is. “There’s roughly about 40-50 volunteers and that’s steadily built up over time and if we see interest coming and think that parents are actually interested in getting involved with us, then there is an opportunity for them to start coaching properly.”

The transformation of the club over the past few years has been remarkable, but complacency isn’t a characteristic associated with Droylsden, and they harness ambitious desires to develop even further.

Alan said “We might look at expanding the building at some point but I think we would build upwards rather than sideways.

“The best thing that could happen to us is getting another AstroTurf, because that would bring more people to the club and we would be getting maximum usage out of it.”

In order for the club to reach their desired aim, they will have to raise a staggering £600,000 which is the estimated cost of housing a full size AstroTurf pitch with floodlights.

For the time being though, Droylsden, and its members, can look forward to an exciting end to the season.

51 years old and still going strong.

The club, aided by its army of volunteers, look set to continue the brilliant memories.