Next year, Clevedon United Junior Football Club celebrate their 30th anniversary. Being such a popular, community based, family orientated club, I was very keen to talk to one of their founder members Colston Ridge. Colston started as Treasurer and Manager of the under 8s, stayed with his team all the way through until under 16 and was then asked to be Chairman at the end of that season. Thirty years on Colston remains Chairman. His outstanding efforts were recognised by the Somerset FA in 2016 when they gave him an award for Outstanding Contribution to Community Football.
Under Colston’s leadership, they did it again this year when they were recognised as being one of the leading junior clubs in girls football in Somerset and coach Phil Williams was awarded the ‘Coach of the Year’. ‘Joanna Williams and Roxanne Found received the ‘Inclusive Volunteers of the Season’ award in recognition of the tireless work that the club do in their inclusive/disability section.
Colston’s initial involvement, all those years ago, came about because of his children, Jody and Christian, and in the early days, he had just eleven boys wanting to play! At present, there are over four hundred children, boys and girls, twenty-six teams, a Year 1 and Reception section and an inclusive /disability section which was introduced last year.
I asked Colston what he considered to be his three biggest successes. He talked about the growth from eleven boys to over four hundred, which is of course of great significance as was the development of Jack Butland who trained with the club from six to fourteen. Jack who now plays as a goalkeeper for Championship Club Stoke City and the English national team is an inspirational role model for the young players and has been back to the club twice and presented prizes at their annual presentation evening.
Colston also spoke very warmly and with great pride about the culture of the club describing it as a family. He is delighted to offer the children a welcoming, inclusive safe, family environment where they can be active, fit and technically good footballers while being encouraged to follow their dreams.
“You must always encourage young people; when they put on that shirt they see themselves as the next Maradona which is something to be cherished – you must never put a child down, you must never step on their dreams.’
As a former teacher at Clevedon School, having daily conversations with students and their families, I was in no doubt that Colston was held in great esteem. The quote below from a parent, Jo Lenny, is typical of the view of the club and its tremendous worth.
My daughter has been part of Clevedon United Girls’ Football club since she was eight. She is now fifteen. In that time she has rarely missed a practice or a match because she enjoys it so much. Last year she trained to be a referee and has now added this to her weekend activities. The club has given her friendship, focus, strength, passion and a huge sense of belonging and achievement. The club is run by volunteers who tirelessly give their time and devotion to football. Phil Williams has coached our team since the beginning. His patience, encouragement and support is outstanding. It has been amazing to watch the girls football grow and we are really looking forward to being part of the women’s team soon to be formed.”
The adults working in the club are all volunteers – the committee of twelve, the fundraising committee, the managers and the helpers. Managers are all taken to Level 1 football coaching, and the club has satisfied the challenging criteria of the FA Charter Standard which is the FA’s accreditation scheme open to all grassroots clubs and leagues. Colston explained that this award is only given by the FA to clubs that reach the highest standard of professionalism. Once awarded, FA Charter Standard clubs are given an annual ‘health check’ to ensure the standards of provision are being maintained.
We went on to talk about the challenges that Colston has faced over the years; finding somewhere to play has been the greatest challenge. At the moment they are playing on Strode Road playing fields which are far from ideal having a very uneven surface. They also play at Hazell Close which Colston felt very positively about but having twenty six teams makes it a really difficult juggling act.
Funding is always a problem, as it is for all clubs, be it Scouts, gymnastics, or football and the club are always looking for sponsorship for kits and equipment. They are currently redeveloping the clubhouse at Hazell Close which is costing a lot, and of course, giving a kit and a football to all 400 players does not come cheaply. If reading this, you as an individual, local or national company are seeking to give something back to the local community and grassroots football then please do get in touch email@example.com
Colston’s son Christian is on the club committee’s and his son George played with the club until he was sixteen and is now helping to train the Reception and Year 1 squads. Katie, Christian’s daughter, also attends the inclusive football training sessions on Sundays. Jody helps whenever he can and Jody’s two sons, Jacob and Callum, aged ten and six are also now playing for the club. This intergenerational involvement at the club is not unusual – many of the children currently attending had parents who grew up with the club. It really is a family affair!
In terms of the future, Colston would like to see the girls’ section develop and describes girls football as one of the biggest growing sports. He would also like to grow the disability/inclusive section which is just into its second year. Clevedon United are in fact the only junior football club who offer inclusive football in North Somerset. Colston would also love for the club to have their own ground and is always on the look out! Not having enough pitches, they do sometimes play at Clevedon School but he and the club would really like to have a home of their own.
Colston is now semi-retired and enjoys spending time with his sons and grandchildren who all live locally. He also loves having more time to spend with his wife, going out and going on holiday.
It was extremely interesting talking to Colston, Chairman of Clevedon United Junior Football Club of thirty years, who has offered so many opportunities to young people and their families, to learn new football skills, to socialise, meet new friends and improve their general health and fitness levels. May it continue for many years.
Find out more about Clevedon United Junior Football Club here: