Special report: AFC Bentley - the newest football club in town

AFC Bentley
AFC Bentley

AFC Bentley are the newest football club in town.

But who exactly are they and what are their ambitions? We got the lowdown from chairman Barrie Abbott.

AFC Bentley manager Kenny Taylor and assistant manager Dave Vann. Photo: Chris Etchells

AFC Bentley manager Kenny Taylor and assistant manager Dave Vann. Photo: Chris Etchells

FP: Who are AFC Bentley and how was the club formed?

BA: AFC Bentley was formed at the end of last season.

Formerly Brodsworth Welfare AFC, we were evicted from the Welfare Ground in Woodlands by the Welfare trustees in January 2016. The reasons are well documented.

So we basically found ourselves with no ground. At the same time Bentley Colliery FC had disbanded. That gave us a chance to move to Bentley to finish our season off.

After discussions with the Bentley trustees we were invited to play at The Avenue, Bentley.

We contacted the Central Midlands League and changed our name to AFC Bentley.

FP: Who is running the club?

BA: The club is ran by the same committee that ran Broddy. I’m the chairman, Gary Barnes is secretary and Tracy Bell is treasurer. There are many more people involved.

We were happy to add three members from the Bentley Colliery FC committee: Nigel Bates, Roy Butterworth and Peter Tooth. They have been a massive help with getting us settled in quickly.

FP: What are the club’s short and long term ambitions?

BA: Our first target was to secure our place in the Central Midlands League for this season, which we did.

The committee then sat down and looked at the provision of football in Bentley. We took it upon ourselves to make sure we would provide teams for our area from infants to veterans.

We went to local junior teams and secured the next generation for the first team. We approached Mick Brooks at Scawthorpe Scorpions JFC to come under our banner as our U18s.

Next we contacted Craig Theaker and negotiated for the whole of the Bentley West End Boys junior club to come under the AFC Bentley banner.

We also approached Bentley Hallcross JFC to come on board. That gave us 11 junior teams for this season.

Finally a big friend and sponsor of the club Shane Miller plays for an over 35s team.

Through Shane we got to know them and thought it would be a good idea for them to join us and play their home games in Bentley.

That gives us 14 teams in total, under 8s through to under 18s, first team, reserves and over 35s.

We also quickly realised that the ground at The Avenue was dilapidated.

So we have contacted SHCFA and we have put the wheels in motion and applied for planning permission to have a new changing facility built on the ground to replace the existing portable cabins.

If and when planning is through we hope to apply for a grant through the FSIF (Football Stadium Improvement Fund).

We will be building a modest structure to start with, concentrating on the changing areas and making sure it is of Step 6 standard. We will build it in such a way as to make it easy to extend in the future.

Step 6 football is our ultimate goal and when the new changing rooms are finished we will be straight on with the task of sorting floodlights out.

FP: Who is your manager and why is he the right man for the job?

BA: Kenny Taylor. Dave Vann is his assistant.

When I was chairman at Broddy I took it upon myself to try and set up a similar structure to what we now have at AFC Bentley. Part of my vision was to have good coaches and a strong junior set-up feeding the senior sides.

I identified Kenny and Dave when they were junior coaches at Bentley WEBS more than five years ago.

At Broddy they did the U19s team for a few years and a lot of our current team are the result of that.

The beauty of these two is that they put loads of graft in for the club and not just with their own team; cutting the pitch, fundraising, ground maintenance and more.

They are both excellent coaches. Kenny is an FA level 2 coach and we feel that they are right to take AFC Bentley forward. They enjoy working with younger players and developing them. We are a club set up to produce our own players.

FP: How is your squad shaping up for the new season and who are this summer’s new signings?

BA: Kenny and Dave are happy with their signings.

Through our captain Graeme Severn we managed to secure the services of Askern FC trio Gary and Shaun Mundy and also experienced defender Andy Walkden.

Kenny then landed a player he has been chasing for a while, Jake White, who is formerly of Frickley Athletic.

We have also signed Jordan Snodin.

We have had a number of trialists that have impressed, including Fanso Maria and Ransford Anthony.

And then there’s the next raft of under 18 players coming through too. Eighteen-year-olds Josh Diggles and Matty Hughes have come into the reckoning.

The manager has been busy and he’s pleased with the squad.

We look like we have a strong group, although you never know when you may lose a couple of players. Ollerton Town have been sniffing round a couple of our midfield protégés. They have just been promoted to Division One of the Northern Counties East League.

As a club we won’t stand in any player’s way if they want to go onto a higher level. They will with our blessing and a good bit of advice from our manager who was a promising player at Sheffield United, Frickley, Nuneaton, Rossington and the decent Armthorpe Welfare side in the 90s.

FP: How will AFC Bentley be funded?

BA: When we were at Broddy we had to fund ourselves and we have got quite good at it.

The players all pay a yearly membership fee, plus we will do big fundraisers like race nights.

We also run a Soccer 6 prediction game. This was super successful last year.

The other boom for us has been the support of the local business community. Companies like Persimmon Homes, Jewsons, Club Class Travel, Custom Windows and X Blades have really got behind us.

We have got all of the junior teams sponsored for next season. As is often the case there seems to be a reluctance to sponsor the senior sides. It’s something I have come across a few times and it can be frustrating.

FP: Where do you play, what time, and how much will it cost people to get in?

BA: The Avenue, Bentley, DN5 0PN is where the first team and reserves will play. Kick offs are 2pm.

There should be a team there just about every Saturday, either first team or reserves.

The under U18s play at the same venue on Sunday mornings, 10.30am kick offs.

The junior teams play on the school playing fields at Bentley High Street and a couple of teams play on the fields at Arksey. That’s so we can fit them all in.

Entry for a first team home game in the league is £3 adults, £1 concessions.

FP: What is your view on the current standard of the Central Midlands League and how do you think AFC Bentley will fare this season?

BA: Football in the main is struggling at grass roots level.

The Central Midlands League is no different and the law of the jungle applies.

The leagues above promote teams from the leagues below and by the time it gets to Step 7 we are at the bottom of the pile.

So it’s up to our league administrators to find clubs to come into Step 7. They are finding this to be a problem.

Most clubs trying to get into Step 7 play on park pitches and can’t rope the pitch off or don’t have the facilities. I know Eddie Pearce, the CML chairman, is trying to find ways of solving this problem.

A good initiative has been the introduction of set match officials fees. There’s no travelling expenses as such. This means clubs know exactly what the costs are.

As for the season ahead, I always believe in setting realistic targets.

Top six is the first one. It’s a must with this squad.

Then after that let’s go top three.

If we are in contention after Christmas, who knows?