Comment: Why I fear for the future of the beautiful game

FANG, blue, v Belton in last year's Norfolk (Sunday) Junior Cup final.

FANG, blue, v Belton in last year's Norfolk (Sunday) Junior Cup final. - Credit: Archant

At the age of 25 it is probably no surprise my phone is red hot on a Saturday night.

But while most would expect me to grow excited every time my mobile vibrates, the truth is my heart sinks. For the message or call usually has nothing to do with the offer of an exciting night out. But more to do with a late call off for the Sunday team I run.

I promised myself when I became a player/manager of a grassroots club in August 2011 it wouldn't take over my life. After all, it's only a group of friends playing football together for 90 minutes once a week. But it has. Every day I think about our team. Who is available at the weekend? What formation should I play? Who will I ask to run the line? Have I sent my texts out?

Just a few questions that unfortunately only I can answer. And I count myself as one of the lucky ones. I've got a great assistant to lean on. A brilliant group of mates and players who give their all. A secretary. A kit washer. And most importantly a girlfriend who barely moans at my ability to make the Sunday league sound as important as the Premier League. Well that's because it is to me.

'Management' is simply in my blood. My dad played and ran teams. So did my grandad. At the age of 80 he still helps me put up our nets and clean the dressing rooms. He's given more than 50 years of service to the game. But I won't. My job means I eventually won't have the time. And that's part of the problem. When I'm gone, who'll replace me? And when he's gone, more importantly, who will replace him?


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People don't realise how much effort it takes to run a men's team. The organisation it needs. The dedication it requires. And in the ever-increasing busy worlds we live in, people just haven't got the spare hours or the desire to play regularly – let alone become a manager.

There is hope though. King's Lynn Sunday League bucked a growing trend in the summer by increasing their numbers from 13 teams to 26. It was an achievement driven about, in my eyes, mainly through their use of Twitter and creating a buzz. They offered reduced affiliation fees, which helped. But people want to get involved with what's cool. What's happening. What's hot. And right now, our Sunday league is.

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As to how long that excitement will last, who knows? But we need more youngsters coming through. And we need them now. We need to create a new era of players. A new breed of enthusiasts. And vitally, a new crop of people like my grandad.

- To read Mark Armstrong's interview on the matter with Norfolk FA chief executive Shaun Turner, click on the related link on the right-hand side of this page.

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