Story & Photo: Danny Hall
Despite facing a bigger challenge on a bigger pitch, Burngreave Saints have held their own during the first half of the season and the club hold strong hopes of finishing well in the league. The team is currently third from bottom of their league having won twice, drawn 4 and lost 9 games. However, their coach Patrick Blake says, their league position betrays them.
“We’ve lost players to other teams, a few have gone to academy sides, and most other teams are a lot bigger than we are – I think we’re the smallest team of the lot.
“It also doesn’t help when teams are putting ringers in (players of a higher age group), I think it’s sad really. At this age, it’s all about developing the players and that doesn’t help.”
After a very successful last couple of years, with 5 major trophies sitting on the Saints’ mantelpiece, many could see the season’s performance as a disappointment – however, as team secretary Emma Wilkinson says, the side aren’t pushovers.
“We played Sheffield Wednesday Junior Owls earlier in the season and we didn’t deserve to lose, we went down 1-0.”
Goalkeeper Niall Wilkinson has already joined Rotherham United’s School of Excellence, and scouts from The Millers and Leeds United have flocked to their training base at Sheffield United’s Academy to view the talent in the Saints’ squad.
“I believe some of these lads could make it professionally – they usually say one in 100 will make it in the game, but I’m confident more will from here.”
The team experienced a taste of being a professional footballer when they had the opportunity to parade their trophies to a near-30,000 crowd at Bramall Lane when Sheffield United played QPR, and Patrick said:
“The kids loved it – how many kids can say they’ve had that experience? It was a big boost for the kids – they won the day after!”
The Council have given the club use of Parkwood Springs to use as their home base from next season, and Patrick showed his gratitude to both Parkwood High School and Sheffield United for allowing use of their facilities.
“They’ve been a big help”, he said. “We’re a family community club and any help is gratefully received.”