Saints alive and kicking with ambitious £1m plan
9:05am Tuesday 19th March 2013 in Headlines
THRIVING Horwich St Mary’s are on the verge of a new era as they embark on an ambitious £1million development of their Scholes Bank home.
The club, which boasts 31 teams in various leagues across Lancashire and caters for more than 500 players, has received a Football Foundation grant of £738,807 and a £50,000 contribution from Sport England.
Although the club were obliged to come up with £171,000 themselves, they have already raised more than that, so work at their base, on the boundary of Horwich and Anderton, can start soon.
Included in the scheme is a new clubhouse, car park and eight pitches of varying sizes to cater for matches across the full range of age categories.
It represents quite a journey for the club which started as a junior church side in 1978.
When it became apparent there was a demand for organised football in the Horwich area, St Mary’s opened up membership to all denominations and launched teams in leagues in Wigan, South Lancashire, West Lancashire and Bolton, Bury and District.
The granting of the cash is the culmination of 10 years of hard work by the club’s committee who have been hampered by complications related to the exact location of Scholes Bank.
“Scholes Bank is in the Bolton borough,” said secretary Lesley Allon. “But we’re also taking a lease on the field, which is in Chorley, so we’ve been dealing with two councils, two planning authorities, two highways authorities, Lancashire County Council and United Utilities.”
The grant, however, is rich reward for an inclusive club ethos, which impressed the awarding bodies.
“The ethos we have is that we don’t turn children away, regardless of their ability,” said Lesley. “We are committed to providing organised football for the youth of Horwich and surrounding areas.
“Not all children will be ready to play in a team. Some are content to train, but it doesn’t matter.”
The club, meanwhile, have forged a valuable partnership with Bolton Wanderers, whose scout is a regular visitor to St Mary’s matches.
“Wanderers are extremely good,” said Lesley. “Their scout does it just the right way. He always goes up to the managers, shows his identification and introduces himself.
“Some clubs I could mention – Premier League clubs – are not as good as that. They can be quite under-handed, talking to parents and harassing them.
“Of course, if a Premier League club is interested in your child, you’d be flattered, but so many kids who get signed up are later released.”
However, for Lesley and husband Tom, who is chairman, it is sometimes easy to spot a talented young footballer.
“Some children are good on the ball,” said Lesley. “Others are good at being where they should be to receive the ball and can read the game.
“It’s very rare that you get a child who has both capabilities and one we had recently was like that.
“So I phoned up the scout and told him I thought we had one he needed to come and look at.
“He’s now at the Wanderers Academy, playing under-11s and, hopefully, has a big future, just like our club.”