Arlesey Town FC’s Director of Football talks about the club, the community and Arlesey’s impressive youth system.
During the current football economic climate, teams from the Southern Football League Premier Division to the Premier League are looking to rely on youth, and Arlesey Town are no different. The Bedfordshire team has an ex-player list that stretches as far as England’s top division, and even international level.
“We do have many players who show promise at the club. The club has produced many players who have gone on to play a higher level of football – Craig Mackail-Smith who recently made his debut for Scotland, Dave Kitson currently at Portsmouth, Shane Blackett at Luton Town, Zema Abbey ex Norwich to name but a few.” said Gary King, Director of Football.
The more senior readers amongst you may also remember Reg Albon, who played for Fulham and Arsenal throughout the 1930’s and 40’s.
King joined Arlesey in 2009 to find a club in turmoil, but with the help of a new coaching team, including ex-player Zema Abbey, the side is looking to return to its relative glory days.
In 1995 this small town club came away from Wembley with the FA Vase having beaten Oxford in the final, whilst last season the signs of improvement were apparent as the club became the Southern League Division One Central champions.
“On the field, in the last three years, the club has won four trophies (Southern League Champions, Beds Senior Cup twice and Beds Premier Cup) as well as reaching the FA Cup First Round Proper. We are currently playing at the highest level we have ever played in our history and our ambition will be to maintain this.” explained King.
Arlesey looks to include its community at every opportunity, inviting players of all ages to play as well as offering its modern facilities to the public.
“Arlesey Town is a community club; this is something we have placed a lot of emphasis on. The committee decided three years ago to work towards anybody from the age of 6 to 60 to be able to play under the Arlesey Town banner, be it for the Youth, Adults, Ladies, Veterans, Disabilities teams.”
“Our facility is relatively new and very impressive for the level of football we compete in. It does receive favourable comments from visiting teams and people in the local area enjoy having the opportunity to use the facilities and play on the pitch, which is well maintained by volunteers.”
The 2,930 capacity aRMadillo Stadium plays hosts for the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Cup Finals, as well as allowing players from all levels of football the opportunity to use the facilities.
“The club has a function room which is hired out most weekends. We have also held local networking meetings for local business to increase the clubs commercial awareness. In truth, the club needs to do more to maximise its commercial potential.”
With the Olympics approaching, women’s football is set to grow in popularity. The first event of the 2012 London games will be an England ladies football fixture, which is set to see more girls than ever signing up to play the beautiful game. And this is something Arlesey and Mr King are looking to capitalise on.
“We do host ladies and girls football. Our ladies team have recently set up a formal link between themselves and Biggleswade United.”
The main aim for the club over the next five seasons is to ensure its financial safety as it looks to avoid the same financial failings that have crippled the likes of Portsmouth and Rangers in recent years.
“The only challenge the game faces at our club and in the local area over the next five years is to stay afloat. The current climate has seen sponsors stop sponsoring and people stop socialising.”
King is urging that off the field, everyone involved with the club will need to keep pulling in the same direction, giving up their time for free, in order to keep the Arlesey FC stable, which he is proud to admit the club currently is.
And with great facilities, a forward thinking management team and a youth system that consistently produces players capable of playing league football, the future looks bright for Arlesey Town FC.