Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

CLEVELAND'S KICKSTART; Thriving Juniors Boun Nce Back from the Brink

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

CLEVELAND'S KICKSTART; Thriving Juniors Boun Nce Back from the Brink

Article excerpt

Byline: ADAM STEEL

CLEVELAND JUNIORS Football Club is thriving again - after being saved from the threat of extinction by a Facebook campaign.

Dwindling numbers led to Under-13s managers Peter Butler and Paul Breslin posting an SOS forum on the social networking site in July.

And the response has been so remarkable that the Acklam club now has more than 100 young players on the books after setting up a free academy and forming a new committee.

The resurgent FA charter standard club also plan to cap their revival by entering three or four more teams into the Teesside Junior Football Alliance next season, when they will host a 25th anniversary tournament. "It has been unbelievable the reaction and how far we've come," said club treasurer Michelle Rush, whose father Frank set up Cleveland Juniors in 1985.

"My dad had to take a back seat through ill health two years ago and he died last November.

"For one reason or another, there were only three teams left in the whole club.

"But 600 people joined the campaign within a week and it spurred me on to get involved - I couldn't bear the thought of losing the club as well as my dad.

"We formed the new committee and decided that an academy was the best thing and the council gave us use of the Mill Hill ground. It has just gone on from there."

Cleveland Juniors' free academy coaching sessions, for players aged five and upwards, have flourished from day one. "The first week we had 45 and by the sixth week we had 119," said Michelle.

And delighted Michelle says her football-mad father would have been proud that the club - which helped the likes of Phil Stamp and Robbie Blake on the road to professional stardom - is being restored to its former glory.

"I'm so proud because it was something my dad believed in so strongly," she said. …

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