British football is often regarded as the hallmark of sports entertainment, with many clubs harbouring hopes of securing a highly coveted place in the Premier League.
With an audience of 4.7 billion people spanning 212 territories, England’s top division is the most-watched sports league in the world, fending off competition from well-established sports franchises such as the NFL, NBA and UFC.
Despite the lure of the top division, football teams plying their trade in the lower divisions of the football pyramid continue to maintain the traditional values and charm that some believe has been sacrificed by clubs in higher leagues, with Cheadle Town Football Club a cornerstone within the local football community.
Established in 1961, Cheadle Town Football Club currently 12th in the North West Counties League Division One South, with Chairman Craig Brennan targeting promotion for the club where he graced the turf, before deciding to focus on interests away from the pitch.
“I’m a local lad and I’ve worked in sports education for fifteen to sixteen years. As a company, Little Sports Group, we were looking for somewhere to relocate the head office and also wanted to develop the facilities as well.
“We found that a lot of our junior players were leaving at the age of sixteen and playing open-age football. Therefore, we decided to merge Little Sports Group with Cheadle Town Football Club to develop the football club.”
Given his previous association with Cheadle Town FC, Craig Brennan has a vested interest in leading the club into an exciting new era characterised by growth and expansion. Despite considering other options for the project, the development of Park Road Stadium, located in the heart of Cheadle village, was the most natural option.
“Cheadle Town is one of my former clubs. I knew that they were struggling and wouldn’t last much longer as a club. Therefore, in January 2018, I approached the club about us taking over as owners and we’ve been delighted with the progress so far.”
Since the change in ownership, a series of changes have been applied to enhance the facilities available at the club and offer high-quality amenities for fans and players alike. For instance, the former clubhouse has been fully upgraded & refurbished which is also available for hire on non-match days.
“We wanted to improve the facilities as much as we could, without spending too much money, purely because we have so many plans for future developments. We’ve also rebranded the club, changed the badge, built an outside cafe, and so forth.
“We’re keen for fans to enjoy their matchday experience and want them to stay at the ground for as long as possible, rather than go to the game and make a dash when the referee blows the final whistle.”
Craig Brennan is a football enthusiast, equipped with business acumen. Cheadle Town Football Club’s forward-thinking, pro-active Chairman is making a concerted effort to improve the future of the club, whilst simultaneously ensuring that a sustainable infrastructure is in place for years ahead.
“The matchday experience is so important – for instance, nobody wants to be spending their hard-earned money on a warm, flat beer! Addressing small, but important improvements such as these will keep people happy and bring more money into the club. It’s our ambition to make the club sustainable and self-sufficient, so if I was to leave, there wouldn’t be a reliance on our funds to continue.”
The comparative plight of grassroots football in the UK, in relation to other countries has been the subject of long-term discussion, with opportunities considered scarce when compared to the likes of the Netherlands and Germany, countries devoted to encouraging young people to take part in sport.
The coaching staff and board members at Cheadle Town Football Club recognise the importance of nurturing young talent, as such, plans are in place to develop the site to encourage participating, allowing youngsters to recognise their footballing potential, whilst socialising and having fun.
“At the grassroots level, it isn’t necessarily just about dropping children off to play football with their teammates. Rather, it’s about encouraging support from family members, as well as local businesses.
“Here at Cheadle Town, we’re extremely lucky because we have excellent facilities and the area itself is quite wealthy, so we’re fortunate to receive additional financial support, in comparison to some other teams based in South Manchester.
“As a club, it’s our job to bring the community in, offering boys/girls, women/men the opportunity to enjoy the sport they love, from grassroots right through to semi-pro.”
The family philosophy at the football club stretches further than the terraces, with Mark Brennan, Craig’s Dad, adopting an active role as General Manager. He highlighted how the club’s family atmosphere has improved in recent times.
“The whole football club has been refurbed and has a welcoming atmosphere. The clubhouse has Sky Sports, BT Sports and a fully licensed bar; it’s warm, it’s welcoming, so people now come in and enjoy their experience.
“From the footballing side, the changing rooms have been upgraded, we have a vision for a women’s team, while Craig has the ambition to take the club into the National League, in which case, there’d be even more developments to the ground. There’s a lot of changes taking place and it’s exciting to be a part of.”
The village of Cheadle is fortunate to have a local football club with such grand aspirations, with the club’s facilities not only open to sports enthusiasts. Cheadle Town Football Club is keen to build relationships with people in the local community, as explained by Mark Brennan.
“In addition to pensioner days, we’re also working closely with Chelwood Food Bank and we’re always interested in partnering with lots of people in the local community. The clubhouse is available to hire for events and we’d be delighted to show the space to anyone who may be interested.”
High, yet attainable targets have been set by representatives at Cheadle Town FC, as they plan to take the club to the next level. In eighteen-months, promotion to the next division would represent on-pitch success for Craig Brennan and Cheadle Town FC.
Long term, the club hopes to continue their rebuilding process, with plans to construct a site comprising offices, cafe, restaurant, bar, as well as a state-of-the-art, flood-lit 4G pitch and a brand-new stand within five years.
In the meantime, the Chairman, staff and players are urging the Cheadle community to support the club for the remainder of the 2019/2020 campaign and beyond, with an exciting future in the pipeline for the local football club offering a unique family experience.
For information on upcoming fixtures at Cheadle Town Football Club, visit the club website.