Youth is key to the future for Crows

THE future of Royston Town Football Club looks bright following the club s merger with Royston Town Colts Youth. The Colts have long held links with the club. But now the two will come together under one banner, with the Colts taking the name of Royston T

THE future of Royston Town Football Club looks bright following the club's merger with Royston Town Colts Youth.

The Colts have long held links with the club. But now the two will come together under one banner, with the Colts taking the name of Royston Town Youth for the forthcoming season.

Club president Alan Barlow told The Crow: "It's a move that we have been discussing for the past two or three years. And all involved decided it was the right time to make a real effort to achieve it.

"We believe that it is really important to build a strong relationship with Royston's youth football - which will be providing the players for the future of our senior teams, both the men's and women's. They are the backbone of this club for years to come.

"The integration also opens up the possibility of creating a football development plan which will allow us to achieve FA Community Club Status and higher levels of 'grass roots' funding from the Football Foundation."

In recent years it has become increasingly difficult for youth teams to survive, in what has become an extremely expensive and time consuming level of football.

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The Colts had been managing effectively as one of the strongest clubs in Hertfordshire, but the amalgamation will give their youth teams crucial stability and added guidance.

First team manager Paul Attfield and his coaching team will also offer help, while Garden Walk will serve as a permanent headquarters, with meeting and training room facilities.

Royston Town Youth will also have a representative on the new Royston Town Executive Management Board, which will give them the opportunity to help direct and contribute to the club's improvement plans.

Mr Barlow said: "We have a lot going on at the moment, and these are exciting times - both on and off the pitch.

"We are determined to take the club to a higher level and our youth set-up will be central to that ambition."

Royston Town Youth secretary Michael Dyke described it as a "fantastic opportunity".

He said: "The club was looking to raise its community status, and this was an important step in achieving that.

"Before, we were generally seen as two separate clubs, but now we can work together and push forward.

"It's a fantastic opportunity, especially for the youngsters to develop and progress on to playing for their home town. It also gives them a sense of belonging and the young players can feel part of the club.

"Craig Hammond is a great example of a former youth team player doing well for his home town. He rose through the ranks of the youth team and is now the club's shining light."

Mr Dyke, who had been the Colts' secretary for the past two years added: "Former chairman Rob Stewart worked particularly hard for this while he was at the club, and he did a lot to set things in motion.

"Graham Phillips and Alan Barlow have also been instrumental, and I really do think that it's a good move for all involved. The club is looking to move forward and hopefully we can help with that."

Last season the Colts had 10 mini soccer teams, more than 12 teams from under-11 to under-16 in The Royston Crow Youth Leagues, and two girls' teams.

Under-nines manager David Baulk said: "It's all very positive and I think all the other managers and coaches feel the same. Potentially, our juniors could now go all the way from the under-sixes right the way up to the first team.

"A lot of them already go and watch the first team on a Saturday, and the players have become hero figures to them.

"So to be part of the same club is very exciting. They look up to the players, and manager Paul Attfield."

Attfield, who is well-known for his commitment to youth football, said the merger was "essential for the forward movement of the club".

He said: "It's a great time to be part of the club, and working with the youth teams is an important step for me because these young players are the future of the club. This integration is essential and it will open up a lot of avenues."

The transition from the youth ranks to the first team has long been a tradition of the club, and welcomed by club members and supporters who like nothing more than seeing home-grown talent making the step up.

Over the years a number of players have made the jump, with former Colts Peter Chappell, Carl Edwards, Craig Hammond, and Greg Jackson all part of Attfield's promotion plans for the coming season.

Hammond said: "The youth set-up has always been important to the club, and it is always nice to see youngsters coming in and playing for the reserve and first teams.

"I remember watching the first team play at Garden Walk when I was a Colt, thinking that one day I'd like to play for them, and I'm sure there's a lot of young players thinking the same.

"The Colts always had an excellent set-up and I'm sure Royston Town Youth will keep that going for a very long time.