BOASTING more than 150 players in ten junior teams, in recent years Chadlington have become one of the biggest centres of football in west Oxfordshire, writes MATT BRUCE.
It’s been a remarkable success story for the club, as just six years ago the section was almost non-existent.
“I saw the club as a central part of the village, but at the time it had no formal youth section,” said head of junior football Jason Chipchase.
“It started a few years ago with some small sessions for about six children on Saturday mornings and has just grown from there.
“When we got started we took ideas from some of the parents to get more people involved and the whole thing has just snowballed since then.”
The intervening period has seen a remodelling of the club’s ethos as they seek to prioritise local participation.
Last year the club left the Oxfordshire Senior League and returned to the Witney & District FA, having left a decade earlier in search of senior level football.
For many clubs it would be a backwards step, but for Chadlington the move made sense.
“Three years ago we were haemorrhaging adult players because as a west Oxfordshire side it can be a lot of travelling in the Oxfordshire Senior League,” said club treasurer Paul Duester.
“The players wanted to stay local and as a club you have to listen to the players.
“We aim for stability; we don’t want peaks and troughs where we have an abundance of players one year and then none the next.
“The club had a lot of players from outside the village in order to play in the Oxfordshire Senior League,” added joint-manager Greg Kemp.
“It’s a high standard of football and there’s lots of travelling around the county involved. We found that the only way to attract new players was to play in a local league.
“We’ve attracted a lot of young lads now, players who we didn’t even know existed before.”
The surge in popularity of the club put a strain on their facilities and in 2012 – the club’s centenary year – they opened a second sports field to allow for the expansion of junior football in the village.
And having been awarded FA Charter Standard status in 2009, the club is expanding rapidly.
Kemp said: “Having so many new, local players has really injected a lot of energy into the club and it’s great to see it go from strength-to-strength.
“We’ve got a lot of promising young players and if they were allowed I think some of them would be good enough for the first team now.”
Chipchase added: “Our next goal is to ensure that the pathway to senior football is complete and allow our players to keep playing once they get older.
“But, most importantly, we want to keep it enjoyable for all our players in every age group and keep them engaged with the game.”