It all started way back in September 2008, when 60 or so boys and a few girls turned up one Saturday morning at the Lea School, where Bob Trevor - the then Club Chairman - played the role of Pied Piper to the new U7s; and the kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves. A few of them have stuck at it all the way through to U18s and many congratulations to them.
Colts has changed out of all recognition since then - but the overriding goal then, as now, was for the children to enjoy themselves. I remember begging, borrowing and stealing samba goals, hand-me-down kits and, most of all, footballs. We must have been through many hundreds of footballs down the years! The muddy pitches remain, but are now somewhat mitigated by the fantastic 3G training facility at Roundwood Park School, and the more widespread use of artificial surfaces for matches.
The Blues and Blacks were the first hierarchical training squads to form, playing competitive 7-a-side matches at Redbourn Rec. The following season Whites were formed (where I started my Colts career as Assistant Manager to the inspirational Dave Clarke - couldn't really avoid it after my dark secret of already being a qualified coach leaked out...!), then the Greens and finally the Reds training squad. All this supervised by Raphael Villareal, then Year Group Lead, to whom many thanks.
Over time players came and went, coaches came and went and the various squads' fortunes waxed and waned. After I assumed leadership of the year group at U10s, initially alongside another ex-Club Chairman Ian Holden, my goal was to increase participation while retaining the critical focus on enjoyment as we moved first to 9-a-side and then 11-a-side.
We started a Saturday squad, the Hurricanes, to cater for the rugby players and church goers amongst our number - who had one spectacular season before we had to fold it as Saturday football ceased at secondary school stage. We also launched the Jaguars and Tigers, and at one point were running six 11-a-side squads on Sunday mornings (peaking at over 100 players) catering for all abilities - something I remain incredibly proud of. And I mean all abilities! - ranging from a now-professional, to a couple of kids who struggled to run - but all equally valuable to the year group.
Now, as we move with sadness towards the end of our final season, we are still four squads – Sporting, Blues, Whitecaps and Hawks – something I am very proud of. The challenges are quite different with the boys - now men - focusing on A levels, college or apprenticeships, but still, I hope, enjoying their football and the friendships they have made down the years. Thank you to everyone involved for making it all possible.
Peter Northcott (U18 Year Group Lead)