By Ian Haughey - 6th September 2012 7:02am
It is quite a milestone: 10 years of Audlem Saints.
I recall in early 2002 being 'volunteered' by my better half to meet a chap by the name of Reuben Palin: "He's starting football training for the kids on Saturday morning up on the field. I said that you would be interested in helping."
The subsequent meeting up at the playing field was the start of Audlem Saints, Reuben's vision for a free community football session for the local kids.
With Jane Palin the driving force behind the scenes, the ethos of free football for all and two 'coaches' who hadn't got a clue about running a training session, the club formed and training began on 06 April 2002.
Andrew Smith became the treasurer, and volunteers soon joined to help training and fund raising and the kids arrived.
Ten players attended the first session, pretty much double that at the 2nd session and Kapaz Pizza sponsored the football kit. With sponsorship from ADAS, ASET, Audlem Parish Council, Lottery Grants and the tireless efforts of Hilda Nagington, the club flourished over the years.
A typical Saturday morning would witness 80 plus kids on the field.
Coaches became FA & SAQ qualified, the numbers of children, coaches and assistants grew.
Founded on strong principles, the club developed its ethos of the opportunity for children and teenagers, males and females from the village and surrounding areas to participate in football training free of charge all based on a philosophy of fair play and the enjoyment of sporting activities.
Using the FA guidelines as a basis, the club built its own structure and policies with the guiding hand of Jane Palin and the committee.
Over the years the club has benefitted from the input of Chris Thornton, Geoff Stretch, Brian Hughes, Simon Lilley, Sally Keighley, Adam Naden, Steve Naden, Paul Ratcliffe, Lisa Ratcliffe, Heather Bateman, Ian Buckley, Kevin Mort, Dave Joynson, Victoria Wright, Neil Morley, Bill Higgs, Charles Bloomer, Andy Poole, Karen Vaughan, Jill Sanders, Steve Nash, Dave Parry, Mike Hancock, Chris Walley, Dave Mansell, Phil Cottrell, John Hines, Oliver Nixon and Mark Wilding to name a few.
A number of players have also become coaches, Callum, Alfie, Sam, Dave Davenport, Jack Warrington, Jack Preston, Jarrod Southallmartin and Dan Keighley.
Spurred on by the training, football teams have been formed, local kids have gone on to represent Nantwich town, Crewe Alex and local league teams.
It's a testament to the early days that the sessions on a Saturday morning thrive. It was never about football success it was about inclusion, fun, competition and developing personal achievements whatever the ability, providing a strong framework and developing respect for all involved in the club.
It has had its high points and low points, it's had its success stories, but most of all its been about the kids, and the testament? That today, as it enters another season 10 years later, it is still running, that those kids from the early days are now coaching and running the sessions.
On a personal note, I have taken a lot away from working with Audlem Saints over the years. I qualified as an FA Coach and SAQ qualified through the support of the village, I've met a lot of people, made lasting friendships, especially two extraordinary people in the case of the Palins.
I've laughed, cried with the kids and wondered what the hell I was doing on cold, wet winter mornings but I would not have missed it for the world.
Audlem Saints is more than a football club, it's a product of the village community — long may it continue.
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