Club as One with Leylands Park at its Core. Writes Colin Bowman
When Vince and Tina Alfieri signalled their intent on becoming our Owner Directors BHTFC grew in size as the blossoming Junior Section joined forces to become a potent force right here in the heart of Mid Sussex. The couple and a host of other driven individuals had already developed a robust and fast-moving environment for young people to play football at all levels. The journey started in 2014 when Vince set up Athletico Burgess Hill with 24 players signing on. Move on 10 years and there are now 10 committee members and no less that 45 coaches on the staff looking after a wide range of age groups.
More recently Vince’s right-hand man, Jason Hopper has been promoted to Director of Juniors Football. We caught up with him at training on 27th January to find out more. He said ‘Vince asked me to come on board with the Junior section and I was delighted to help out. We are moving forward as a unit, over the past couple of weeks we have had our Coaches meeting with the Committee which has brought us closer together. At all levels we have a number of talented volunteers with enthusiasm commitment and skills’ On the pitch many of our teams are doing extremely well like the U16s who are in the County Cup final.
Jason remarked ‘of course we want success, but the overriding aspect of our philosophy is for the children to have fun in a safe environment. We want our players to be enthused and energised about being with their team at training and playing matches!’ ‘We are looking to go from strength to strength!’
As most of our fans are aware plans are underway for BHTFC to have a brand-new artificial surface laid right here at the Homecall Carpets Community Stadium. Alfieri has often said ‘getting a 4G pitch here will be the silver bullet for huge progression. Not only for 1st team matters but it will also allow for our youngsters to use this facility. It will become our home for everyone!’ That dream is a currently a work in progress with projected timescales of perhaps season 2025/2026. In the meantime, our Juniors are operating out of Burgess Hill Academy School utilising their fantastic 4g pitch for training and various grass pitches for matches. The committee decided to buy a tractor which is used for mowing the grass pitches which are in very good order. There is a tea hut on site which is very popular with parent and players alike during the long winter months. Generally speaking, the ebb and flow of the section takes place on the property. Saturday morning is set aside for training while Sunday’s are a hive of actual league and cup matches.
Children as young as five are invited to join the club as Mini Hillians, Vince himself is the Manager of the section. At U7s players are set into teams who then stay together as they rise through the age groups. In most cases with the same Manager and Coach. Most age groups have at least three teams with the best players finding their way to the Blacks or top team. By under 14s every player has the opportunity to play league football, but the best players are chosen for the elite squads. Our very own First Team Manager Gary Mansell is heavily involved with mentoring these players. Obviously by this time certain players are being targeted to play in our Isthmian U18s squad and beyond. Who knows the strength of talent that might come flooding through this system. How abouta budding England number 9??!!
But in the meantime, we take you to the nity gritty of an U12s County Cup matched played on 21st January 2024 as a cold wind barrelled across the Academy lawns.
Under 12s Give it Everything in County Cup Quarter Final loss.
We caught up with our fearless U12s who were playing Horsham in the County Cup quarter final on grass at Burgess Hill Academy. They play nine v nine over two 30 min halves with smaller goals. With a very keen breeze sweeping across the pitch under leaden skies a hugely competitive fixture unfolded. The home team bossed the early exchanges with some neat passing down the channels. However, it was the visitors who got their noses in front on 20 mins as their centre forward outpaced the back four to slot past the on-rushing keeper. In a ‘robust’ 2nd half neither side wanted to give an inch leading to some fierce tackles. Chances were hard to come by as both keepers were untroubled. In the final min Hill managed to load the box as a well hit free kick speered towards the goal. It was heartbreak for our youngsters as the ball cannoned off a Horsham foot to safety. The ref blowing up full time just moments later. Under 12s Manager Lee said ‘I am very proud of the boys they are a joy to manage. Horsham got the goal, but we stuck to the task and never gave up. Perhaps we just came up a little bit short on the day’.
We hope that both parts of the club have enjoyed this introduction to our Junior Section. As time goes by itsinevitable that we will all operate as one in our Spiritual home Leylands Park. Until then the message to both parties is to tune into what’s going on. Junior members and parents are encouraged to go watch 1st team matches while BHTFC fans get along to watch our Juniors in action and perhaps get involved in Management/Administration.
As Hopper suggests ‘There are huge aspirations here at BHTFC we are going to be massive!’
Together We Grow!!
Colin Bowman 24/01/2024.