WHEN Keith Claridge started his love affair with his town football team, the sporting landscape was a different world.
The European Cup was in its infancy and had only ever been won by Real Madrid, the world transfer record was £93,000 and English football was dominated by the likes of Burnley, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday.
Mr Claridge, who retired this summer after 54 years with Charlbury Town FC, said that the biggest change was that, back then, there were fewer things for youngsters to do.
He said: “The interest isn’t there now because there’s a lot more things for youngsters to do so they don’t all show the interest.
“They start at eight so by the time they get to men’s football they want to do other things.
“I don’t think it’s as competitive as it used to be – there’s still some good players but it’s not as evenly matched.
“The league was bigger and everyone showed more commitment then.
“Running a team is also a lot dearer now – years ago people used to do things voluntarily but there’s fewer people involved now.”
Mr Claridge, 69, started playing for the club’s boys’ team aged 15 in the Witney and District Minor League in 1960.
He graduated to the men’s team when he was 18, playing right wing-back, inside right and right wing.
He was part of the first Charlbury team to win the Witney and District League Premier Division in the 1970s before retiring in his late 30s.
After about two years away from the game, he returned as manager for the youth and men’s sides, before taking up a secretary role.
The self-employed decorator, who works with his wife Janette, was given the Doug Margetts Award, handed out by Witney and District FA for long service.
Mr Claridge, who has four children and two grandchildren, said: “I got involved because I lived in Charlbury and years ago you had to play within a five-mile radius of where you lived, so you tended to stay in the same village.
“Being manager was difficult because people drop out on a Saturday morning and you struggle to find a replacement.
“I’ve met a lot of people through football and I’ll quite often see referees, managers and players.
“Some opposition players you don’t want to meet again but when you’re off the field it’s fine.”
Club secretary Russell Jeffries said: “We are extremely proud that Keith has been recognised by the Witney and District FA for his dedication and long service to football, and the club is grateful for all of his hard work and commitment over the years.”
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