After a successful season on the pitch, Sutton United are now celebrating a campaign to remember off it too after winning big at The Non-League Paper’s National Game Awards in association with SCL.
The U’s descended on Stamford Bridge, home of Premier League champions Chelsea, to recognise the work and efforts behind the scenes which saw them named as The Football Foundation Community Club of the Year.
The club laid down a new 3G pitch at Gander Green Lane, a facility used by upwards of 40 teams, opening doors to disability and walking football teams in the area.
And for Bobby Childs, community fund manager as well as first-team physio, the award is recognition for many hours of work in south west London, from players, staff and community alike.
“It’s fantastic for the club, there was a lot of work before I started at the club, so for those guys who have put the groundwork in over the years is great for them,” he said.
“Things like this bring people into the club who wouldn’t normally be involved, who wouldn’t necessarily come to games, and it raises our profile too.
“We’re not just there to pay players, it’s deeply-rooted in the club.
“We’ve been working closely with Crystal Palace and people who are out of work, we’ve done referee courses and we’re looking to invest in modular buildings for community use going forward.”
But the club’s exploits were far from done there this season, enjoying a miraculous Emirates FA Cup run which saw them pit their wits against some of the best teams in the country.
Cheltenham were beaten before Sutton also got the better of local rivals AFC Wimbledon, while Leeds United were the latest team to be shocked by the non-league side.
But the real icing on the cake was bringing Premier League giants Arsenal to Gander Green Lane, giving a huge windfall from which the club can continue to invest in the community.
“It’s absolutely unbelievable, we’ve had a surreal season anyway so it’s a great way to end it. When we put the 3G pitch, people had their opinions of it, but we’ve had it there for two years now,” added chairman Bruce Elliott.
“We thought we were a community club anyway, but since we’ve had the 3G pitch we can use it all-day every day and it’s really become a hub for all the teams locally.
“It’s enabled all of our teams to play on a main stadium pitch which is fabulous for them and us, everybody can come to our club and we can play all our games there.
“People forget that we only got promotion from National League South a year ago so we were concentrating our efforts on the league, but we got wrapped up in an unbelievable cup run and we did ourselves proud.”
SCL are a government approved post-16 education provider in the sports sector who run Academy programmes with over 60 football, rugby and cricket, professional and grass roots sports clubs, foundations and community trusts. Find out more at www.wearescl.co.uk/education