The Tarporley Playboys: A Grassroots Story
We have always known that grassroots sport, and its accessibility to local communities, is a fundamental part of social, mental, and physical fitness across the UK. One of our hirer groups at Cloughwood Academy, Northwich fully personifies the concept of community.
So, we wanted to share their story with you this December!
We caught up with lead hirer, Gary and hope his story gives you the same warm, fuzzy feeling that it gave us!
Tell us more about your team…
We are The Tarporley Playboys. This photo was taken in December 2019. The older gentlemen in the picture turn out at Cloughwood in Northwich to play six-a-side on Thursdays, and every Christmas we play an 11 a side match on a pitch we call ‘The Bog’. There are no changing facilities, the pitch is atrocious, but to us it’s ‘home’. This has been happening for the last 23 years! We only postponed only once, due to snow.
Who are your team members?
The older fellas range from 50 to 63 years old; the younger ones are mostly the sons of the older ones, and we have a couple of grandads playing. After our matches in the festive season, we have mulled wine and mince pies and then head to the pub for chip butties.
Regardless of age, football has brought us together as friends, many of us have been through tough times, a few have suffered tragedies, but the help and support of our closely knit team have helped them through.
What does playing football with the Tarporley Playboys mean to your players?
Our grassroots football sets the rhythm to our lives, gives us purpose, and keeps us sane and fit; most of us call it the highlight of our week. Some of us think we might still get scouted, most of us are still trying to improve. I bought new boots, aged 58 and a half. I can’t wait to try them out.
When new people come to our village, we welcome them with open arms (as long as they are not too good!). One of the players runs A&E at Crewe Hospital. He says that the weekly football keeps him functioning at 100% and without it he feels bereft.
What values do you pass on to younger players?
We teach the younger ones what sportsmanship is all about: not to roll around after being tackled. Not to claim corners and throw ins if they know they were the last to touch it. Old fashioned, but core to our ethos. If anyone doesn’t buy into it, and there have been a few, we ask them to leave. We have a waiting list of people who want to join. Without grassroots football we would not be the people or the village we are.
Favourite football quote?
I have always thought that Bill Shankly’s comment; ‘football isn’t about life and death, it is more important than that’ was extreme, but after the pandemic, I have re-appraised.
Gary and his fellows play weekly on the 2G Pitch at one of Vivify’s school partners, Cloughwood, Northwich! Even though they enjoy the yearly trip to 'the bog', we're glad to provide a drier and cleaner alternative pitch for the rest of the year!
Stories like Gary’s make us proud of what we do and more motivated than ever to find the right venues and make grassroots sport available to all communities - so that everyone has an opportunity to play a muddy Christmas football match, followed by a chip butty!
If you are looking for a facility near you for your next sport, event or game visit here.
Or if you are a school interested in letting your facilities out, visit here.