There’s an old metal goal on the edge of Lydford Sports Field. It weighs a ton and requires the strength of three men to move it. It is, from a youth football perspective, a health and safety nightmare.
But for many weeks, if not months, it represented a significant part of football in the village. Every Saturday morning, a bunch of children and a couple of dads would gather around the goal for an impromptu kickabout. There was no plan and no end goal, if you’ll pardon the obvious football cliché.
Soon, word got around. Perhaps it was the yelps of delight coming from the corner of the village. Maybe it was talk in the primary school playground. Whatever, the football ‘club’ was growing. Football fever had gripped the village.
From a handful of children, the numbers grew to two dozen: enough, quite literally, for a couple of teams. Two health and safety compliant goals were purchased, and the old metal frame was moved to the edge of the field.
A village tournament was organised: the children had a taste of competitive football and were eager for more. The ‘club’ became Lydford Foxes, named when we stumbled across a child’s fluffy fox, seemingly lost in the field.
It was clear that we had outgrown the ‘lads and dads’ approach of before. FA coaching badges were completed, a club strip was designed and purchased, new training kit was acquired. The stage was set for the next level.
Tomorrow, we enter a new era. Having been affiliated with the Devon FA and accepted into the Devon Junior & Minor League, our Under 11s and Under 13s get their first taste of competitive football. It’s a big moment for the village and the fledgling players.
We’ve welcomed clubs to the sports field before. We’ve had our share of defeats – some of which have been close to a cricket score. But we’ve had our moments of glory, too. When you’re starting at the bottom of the ladder, minor victories are everything.
A goal, a clean sheet, a perfect tackle, the first win: small steps on a far bigger journey. We know our limitations, but we also know we have tremendous team spirit and a sense of pride in the badge. That’s what happens when your squad is made up of children recruited from Lydford and the surrounding villages. There are no egos here. Just proud Foxes.
Where we go from here remains to be seen. We will lose games, that’s a given. We will trundle back from away games feeling dejected and defeated. But we’ll learn, and we’re determined to add something to the league.
We’ve come an awfully long way in an incredibly short space of time. That’s thanks to the volunteers who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make the club what it is. But it’s also thanks to the players who turn up week in, week out, regardless of the weather, to pull on the orange of Lydford Foxes.
It all starts tomorrow morning when we welcome Bodmin Youth U11s and then Plymouth Marjons U13s. And, because there’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end, on Sunday we play a Devon FA Youth Cup match against Moors Youth U13s of Tiverton. No pressure, then?
We have some talented players on our books. We have players who have improved tremendously since last year. But above all, we have children who play with a smile on their face. Long may it continue.
The old metal goal is still there. It’s a poignant reminder of where we started and how far we’ve come. Just how far will become clear by Sunday evening, when we’ve played our first three matches.
Regardless of the results, if we’ve had fun and the children have enjoyed themselves, it’s a case of job done. Running a football club, even one as small as this takes time and effort (and money). But by heck, it’s worth it.
As we say in Lydford, ‘Go Foxes!’