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Secretary's Report 2015-16

NORTHUMBERLAND SCHOOLS’ FA    Hon. Secretary’s Report

It is sad that I must open my report by marking the passing of Ray Smith.   Ray worked tirelessly for the South Northumberland SFA for many years and served with distinction on the Executive Committee of NSFA. He was both Secretary (2000-2004) and Chairman (2009-11).  Latterly he continued his involvement as a County Cup organiser.

In recent years Ray suffered with mobility problems, as his many years of participation as a talented player gradually caught up with his joints.  But, he was uncomplaining and his smile, ready wit and wise counsel will be sorely missed.  As a drinking companion he was without equal
- many of us will remember the lengthy train journeys to ESFA AGMs with great nostalgia!

We send our sympathy to Ray’s family and thank him for a life of willing service.

This has been a long season - there seems to have been a lot of activity at County level and a lot of re-arranging and logistics to sort out.  For that I need straightaway to thank Chris Newman for all the (extra) work he has done this season - thank goodness for artificial pitches during the NE Monsoon Season. We played 25 competitive County fixtures, reaching three finals.  Unfortunately all finals were lost - but you’ve got to reach the final to be able to lose it!

The U18s and the U16 girls had new management teams - their work with our players has been very impressive and appreciated by the Executive Committee, players, families and supporters alike.

Lee Coulter raised the playing standard of our girls’ team to a new level.  We finished
runners-up in the East League by the narrowest of margins.  This meant a difficult trip to Lancashire for the Northern Counties semi-final.  A tightly contested game ended in a 1-2 defeat - so this was to be the end of the girls’ competitive season.

Steve Swinyard and his management team nearly had the perfect season - they reached the final of the Northern Counties competition and also contested the final of the ESFA National Inter County Trophy, against Sussex at St Andrews (home of Birmingham City FC).  Against Durham in the Northern Counties Final (played at Seaton Delaval Amateurs FC) our team was below par and we could not complain about the 0-2 result - although several chances were spurned.

The National Final was another matter.  Another 0-2 defeat could not have been so different from the Durham game.  Shots blocked on the line, hitting the wood work 5 times - it beggars belief.  Despite these two late setbacks it was certainly a season to be proud of.  Thanks are due
to Moette who sponsored special tops for the players to wear at the National Final - they certainly looked the part!

Ursene Mouanda (Monkseaton HS) was selected for the national ESFA U18 team and was honoured to captain England v Northern Ireland.  Unfortunately, because of injury, he was unable to play in any other internationals as England, managed by Andy Blight from the Northumberland C of E Academy, won the Centenary Shield.

Chris Bland, in his farewell season, can look back on ‘what might have been’ as well.  A narrow
1-2 defeat to Lancashire saw us knocked out of the National trophy - two late goals were very cruel at a windy Walker AD. A solid East League campaign saw us visit Lancashire in the Northern Counties semi-final and revenge was gained.  The final, played on an outer pitch at the Etihad Complex, saw us lose 0-2 to a very powerful Greater Manchester team who were better on the day.  Chris was well supported by Lee Savory, Roch Karaa and Chis Anderson - who is also stepping down from his work with the County.  Chris Bland has worked hard to maintain the high standards expected in county teams for some ten years now and we thank him for his dedication - especially as he has worked ‘south of the water’ for a few years now.

Our own county competitions reached their normal successful conclusions - though the dratted rain did its best to interfere again.  A full list of winners is attached to this report.  Congratulations
to all concerned for their success and thanks to all Executive Committee members who were overseeing these competitions. This work is much appreciated. Hopefully some of these tasks will be shared more widely next season with several teachers already having agreed to take on some extra responsibility.

Inter-association football is still a concern.  The playing of matches is very patchy - with some notable exceptions who make sure they provide a regular diet of high standard games.  I will continue to maintain that football at this level can only be an attractive proposition for players and parents if a regular programme of matches is provided.

Girls’ football continues to improve - overseen in his own inimitable way by Nigel Shields - but also supported by others such as Heidi Swaffield, Cath Pendlebury and Marc Burnip.

Peter Tracey has continued in the role of Chairman for yet another year - and given his time selflessly as ever.  He has maintained a controlling hand on U19 football but it is pleasing to know that others, such as Peter Shelley, have taken over some responsibilities and that more will do so next season.

We have been very grateful to David Martin for appointing and organising referees for our important matches this season.  It is gratifying to see a healthy mix of young and ‘more experienced’ referees officiating at our matches.  Thanks to all of them for their support.

Owen Aiston has represented us well on ESFA Council and we congratulate him on his election as Vice Chairman of ESFA for next season.  He was pleased to be present when ESFA made a 50 Year Award to Andy Littleton.  A great achievement - well done Andy!

Our relationship with ESFA is about to enter a new and importantly different
phase from next season.

We will enter into a Service Level Agreement with ESFA in order to receive funds.  This will not be
difficult.  We already meet the requirements of this agreement.  However, in addition, we have bid for an extra grant of £4,000 per annum (for 3 years minimum) to employ an Administrative Officer. This post holder will take on many of the organisational duties currently carried out by your officers who have made it quite clear in recent years that they no longer wish to volunteer their service in quite the same way.  We are currently engaged in negotiations with Northumberland FA with the aim that a member of their staff will take on this role.  Hopefully all matters will be
in place ready for the 2016-17 season.

On a personal note I have to say that I think this approach to the administration of county schools’ football has come in the nick of time for Northumberland.  We have a proud history going back over 100 years and it is this heritage that has kept me ‘hanging on’ for longer than I really wanted to.  Others too share these feelings I believe.

All is not perfect by any means - for the first time ever the AGM of ESFA has had to be postponed because not enough members were going to attend.  This is really quite worrying.  We repeatedly reflect on the low numbers at our own AGM and on how most of the work is done by so few.  But, for us at least, there are glimmers.  Teachers have agreed to takeon responsibilities with County Cups and U19 football.  We have good applications for the vacant U16 manager post - and enthusiastic managers for our other teams.  And now we could move into a new and beneficial relationship with the local FA.

So I may be moving from ‘grumpy old man’ to a more positive outlook.  I will be able to
continue to book exotic holidays and not feel guilty about leaving the work to others. I reflect on a successful season and interesting times to come.

Neil Pont

June 2016