Colliers Wood United look to expand youth football in order to stay afloat


High costs mean survival is a constant challenge for the club


By Ryan Bembridge

Colliers Wood United are steeped in youth football history, yet just keeping the Merton club functioning these days is a challenge, according to Press Officer Chris Clapham.

“To survive or keep going, there’s an awful lot of competition in the area,” he said.

“Youth football is more and more difficult to run because of the cost and people needed.”

The semi-professional club, celebrating its 140th anniversary next year, boasts a cabinet full of youth trophies, while Premier League footballers Steve Sidwell and Leon Britton played for the club as juniors.

The Wood, also known as the South London Milan, will once again play competitive youth team football from August after they were forced to discontinue the U18 side in Southern Youth League last season.

The club’s home, the Wibbandune Sports Ground, became waterlogged, leaving the U18s unable to complete their fixtures, and forcing the first team to play home matches in Cobham until a new drainage system was installed.

Joint first team manager Mark Douglas said: “Youth set up is extremely important to us.”

He added: “If they’re good enough they will come through to the first team.”

Running such youth teams requires volunteers to give up their time to coach, while there is a constant danger of larger clubs poaching the most talented players.

Despite such challenges however Clapham admits the club would like to expand youth football.

“If we could run an under 15, or under 13 or 14, that would be good,” he said, while he added that the club could potentially take other youth teams who require better facilities under their wing.

The club also face a challenge in attracting players due to their location in West Wimbledon.

“We punch above our weight because of our isolated location,” Clapham said.

The club need all the income they can get to pay fees to pay groundskeepers and also officials, who command £120 a match.

Consequently gaining a club sponsorship remains a priority, yet the club has not secured one for several years.

Ticket receipts from cup matches are another key source of income, as the club made £3,500 from an FA cup game against Maidstone United last August.

Last season Colliers Wood finished 18th in the Combined Counties League, making a miraculous escape from relegation with seven wins from their last 11 fixtures.

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