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Hon. Secretary's Report 2012-13


In some ways I feel that perhaps I should not be making the report this season.  In other years I have talked of the teamwork apparent in our organisation and this year in particular this has been very evident.  I have been proud to follow a distinguished line of Northumberland schoolteachers in serving as Chairman of the ESFA but it has, by necessity, meant that I have relied on others to ensure that all that needs to be done has in fact been done. I, and by implication the Association, am indebted to Chris Newman and Peter Tracey for the support they have given.  They already take on a lot and have stepped up to the plate on many occasions and taken on even more.

And there are others too who do their share at Executive level.  All those who regularly attend our meetings, those who run cup competitions, Andy Littleton and his very able stand-in, Chris Bland, all make a telling contribution.  Owen Aiston has supported Peter as his ‘vice’ and also been a surrogate ESFA Council member, helping me whenever he could. So, thanks to you all for ensuring that NSFA continues to flourish.

And so - to the football.  Special congratulations go to Seaton Burn College who were ESFA National Champions, winning the U.14 Cup for Small Secondary Schools.  They then went on to represent England in the SAFIB Alan McKinstry International Schools Cup against champion schools from the home countries.

At home all of our County Cups reached a satisfactory climax although there was some concern that we were not able to produce finalists on time so that our ‘finals week’, which has been such a success in recent years, had a rather disjointed feel.  It has been stated time and again that we will be determined not to allow schools who do not play their matches on time to inconvenience others.  Without ESFA distractions next year I hope that I can help cup organisers in their quest to have matches played in a timely fashion.  A list of winners can be found at the end of this report - congratulations to all concerned.

Our finals were enhanced by an efficient and impressive set of referees who demonstrated the worth of the work done by Clive Oliver and his colleagues at the Northumberland FA and the local Referees’ Associations.  Our thanks are expressed to all referees who support schools’ football.

Inter-association football causes concern throughout the country - sometimes it is strong and a product to be proud of; sometimes it is non-existent or, even worse, it is organised badly and does nothing for the reputation of schools’ football.  Discussions in the Executive Committee have led to some ideas for enhancing what we do next season but is pleasing to note that an improved percentage of matches were played this year in our County inter-association competitions.  I am convinced that the quality of inter-association football depends, almost entirely, on the drive of the people responsible for organising it.  The work of Neil Robinson (South Northumberland), Nigel Shields (East Northumberland) and John Farnie (Wallsend) is evidence of this fact.

Peter Tracey has again been instrumental in ensuring that we had a good programme of girls’ football - that unfortunately fell foul of the weather late in the season so that the competitions could not be properly completed.  It is testament to the work that Peter has done (and Nigel Shields before him) that the new season will see girls’ football organised by the teachers who run the girls’ teams.  The teachers acknowledge the quality of the programme and are now ready to take on its organisation.  This has to be a positive step.

Two of our County teams had new managers and both Mark McCutcheon and Natalie Henderson had problems with selection during the season and found the experience of leading a County team challenging - but also rewarding.  Because of these difficulties results were mixed, with the U18s particularly finding it hard after a heavy loss in their first game.  The girls’ results were very close at times and but for an inspired opposition goalkeeper or a missed open goal they could have done so much better.  Both managers will benefit from the experience of their first year and we thank them for their commitment to the Association and look forward to their long association with our County teams.

Chris Bland and Andy Blight had a great start to the Northern Counties season with 5 straight wins.  Defeat to a fine Greater Manchester side in the NC semi-final was no disgrace - nor was the narrow defeat to Humberside, our nemesis of recent seasons, in the ESFA national cup.  Andy has had to juggle a new job with being Assistant Manager of the ESFA national U.18 team, as well as working with our U.16s (and bringing up a young family!).  We thank him for his hard work and also congratulate Chris (another with young mouths to feed!) on his new job, which unfortunately will take him into deepest, darkest Durham - a scary thought… (for him or for Durham?).

Another season has gone by and we can look forward (after a well-earned break) to the next one.  There are development opportunities ahead: implementing The FA Youth Review with regard to smaller-sided teams on appropriate pitches with the correct goals; the development of girls’ football at inter-association level as well as in individual schools; exciting opportunities for primary-aged football in conjunction with The Premier League; better inter-association football; the development of Futsal as an integral part of our football programme; and, who knows, our county cup matches played by the correct date!

Neil Pont

June 2013