After 20 years, Rottingdean’s St.Margaret’s Football Club has come to an end, leaving many players to find a new club or leave the sport completely.
The club, whose home ground was Happy Valley Park in Woodingdean, had two teams; an Under 10’s and Under 16’s.
2012-2013 season saw the Under 16 side play some ‘extremely attractive football’, winning more games than they lost, leading to them being awarded the runner’s up trophy at the end of the season.
Unfortunately, a football team having to close is not uncommon amongst grassroots clubs, mainly due to losing players as they grow older.
Stephen Phythian, St Margaret’s Under 16 A licence coach, states ‘so many young men and women leave their football teams as, unlike 30-40 years ago there is much more to do at the weekend’ and feels that this is because of the ‘societal changes’.
It was not a surprise that St Margaret’s had to call it a day – over the school Summer holidays the under16 side never had any more than four players turn up to train.
A few players left as the matches clashed with new part time jobs, whilst others did not want the commitment of 11 a side football every weekend, and left to play smaller sided football.
In the 1960’s there were 16 divisions of the Sussex Sunday Youth league, whereas now there are only eight.
Despite very few players turning up, Mr Phythian and Dean Fitzpatrick, the team’s manager, do not feel as though it is because of St Margaret’s that these players have left the sport.
St Margaret’s Club always had a very ‘positive environment’ and was an ‘inclusive arrangement’ and Mr Phythian told me ‘whoever turned up got a game.’
The FA have also recently reviewed their rules, and changed them, allowing up to Under 18’s to have ‘roll on roll off substitutes’. This allows everyone who turns up to have some game time whether they begin on the bench or not.
The team relied on the subs from the players and fundraising to pay for the equipment and kits. They had money left over and at a meeting this week coaches, managers and Jim Deverall, the club’s chairman have decided how to split the remaining funds.
It was decided that some of the funds will be given to St Margaret’s in Rottingdean, the Parc Projec (a Rottingden based charity organising activities for youth), while the rest will be given to Hamilton Lodge School.
Hamilton Lodge School is a school for deaf pupils, which was close to the team as their centre midfielder, Harry Fitzpatrick attended this school.
The kits have been given to St Margaret’s school in Rottingdean for their P.E football lessons.