Flying high in the West Cheshire First Division, Heswall FC are firm favourites for promotion this season.
Situated near the Wirral of Merseyside, the club currently sit top of the table with a game in hand, boasting a defence that has conceded just twice so far this season.
Football Focus spoke to club secretary Peter Leay, who told us that youth football is one of the clubs staple philosophies.
“(Youth football is) very important as it’s the life blood of the Club. Last season ten of our u-18 youth team were signed for our West Cheshire team & were called upon when necessary throughout the season. We have a junior section, providing football for u-8’s to u-16’s, and next season we want to change our infrastructure and bring them into the main body of the Club so that we have a flow through from aged 8 to youth football then into adult football.
“At pre-season training some of our sessions bring together the youth team and adult teams which enables the senior team managers/coaches to see the new u-18 players, gives the younger lads the opportunity to train with more experienced and older players and to see for themselves the higher standard of football to which they need to aspire.
“And throughout the playing season these joint sessions take place every couple of months. The Club Manager, Mike Keegan, will also liaise with the youth team manager, Steve Prance for his recommendation of which u-18 player may be ready to experience West Cheshire football. When this happens, to start with the player is told he probably won’t play during a match but he travels with the team, does the warm up, experiences the banter and sees for himself the high standard of the West Cheshire League.
“Last season when we reached the final of The Cheshire FA Amateur Cup, the 1st team manager included in his squad a 17 year old youth player, Danny Lees, as recognition of the part the youth team had played in helping out the senior teams, especially at the end of the season when the fixtures piled up and we were playing four times a week. Danny didn’t get to play in the Final – which we won – but is one of the youngest players to receive a Cheshire FA winner’s medal.”
Commonly for armature sides, a war on two fronts emerges as finances and the need to renovate facilities become almost as important as the football. For a club like Heswall, the savvy use of the clubs facilities has become a financial lifeline for the club.
At the end of the season we receive many requests from our district & County FA and local leagues to play their finals at Gayton Park, and we have our annual pre-season friendly with Tranmere Rovers FC.
“There are areas within the ground and the Clubhouse which need renovation and improvement, but cash flow is always a problem for grass roots not-for-profit clubs, and we have to become dependent on any grants which may be available. But in these days of national & local government austerity – these are becoming few and far between.
“We want to renovate & improve the Clubhouse so that we can capitalise on its availability and central location. We have had training organisations hiring the club during the day and this was a welcome improvement to cash flow. And as part of our development plan we want to outreach more and advertise the fact that facilities are available all week round – except on match days of course.”
On his hopes for the rest of the season, Leay says that success on the pitch is the main focus.
“To consolidate all that is good about Heswall Football Club’s history – we started a year before Liverpool FC! To build on the successes we are having on and off the field of play. To grow into a club which is the centre of the community; to attract even better players, managers and coaches.
“Currently our 1st team is in the semi-final of the Cheshire Amateur Cup and is in the top four of the West Cheshire 1st division with 5 games in hand over the leaders. So if we stay on course we should have a satisfying end of season. Whilst it’d be good to retain the Cheshire Amateur Cup for a second season, the 1st team manager would relish winning the Championship.”