Club chairman surveys football field of dreams

Parramore's key people - from left to right: Max Ross, Pete Whitehead, John Ward, Steve Holmes
Parramore's key people - from left to right: Max Ross, Pete Whitehead, John Ward, Steve Holmes
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Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United....Handsworth Parramore.

Pete Whitehead has a dream that one day Handsworth Parramore will be Sheffield’s third biggest football club. And if his past is anything to go by, he might just make it come true.

Parramore chairman Pete is a man using past disappointments in the game he loves as his driving force to help him establish the club in the Conference North.

After that, who knows.

The man behind Windsor Foodservices - the company he started when he bought a house and built a garage to hold four chest freezers - knows how to build from small beginnings. Twenty-five years on, Windsor Foodservices has become one of the UK’s leading independent food service operators.

The transformation of Parramore is not going to take as long as that.

Their planned amalgamation with one of Sheffield’s biggest and best youth systems at Handsworth FC means Parramore has roots deep in the community. Handsworth FC has been turning out young footballers since 1986 and it is hoped the amalgamation can be completed in time for this coming season.

That should make a pretty powerful unit in local and regional football.

Since Pete Whitehead took over Parramore in 2006 from Pete Hodkin, a stalwart who committed over 50 years to the Amber Parras, he has led the club to three promotions in six years from County Senior League to respectable non-league status in the Northern Counties East.

“I had offers from other clubs,” said Pete. “But I wanted to take over the lowest ranked team possible, and at that time, it was Parramore. I wanted to give something back to the community and I am confident that this club will continue to rise through the pyramid. We will be successful. Sheffield deserves a big non-league club.”

Pete is looking to a bright future where Handsworth and Parramore merge and play in a new stadium good enough to host League football on Oliver’s Mount, in Handsworth, between Tinsley Park Golf Club and the Parkway.

He knows he may be the face of the new club, but he needs a team to help make his dream become a reality.

Max Ross, Pete Whitehead’s right hand man and vice chairman at Parramore, and Steve Holmes, who joined Whitehead’s revolution most recently as the club’s development manager, believe Sheffield will have another football option on Saturdays.

“He is so focused.” Max Ross says about the chairman. “He will ring me up between 10 and 15 times a day to talk about football and about how to move Parramore forward. He wants to stay one step ahead of the competition. Football is his life and it is infectious listening to him talk about the future of Parramore.

“The best non-league football clubs are the ones that have a community that buy into it. With Handsworth, we have over 2,000 people associated through all our sides – the kids, seniors and most recently the over 35’s team.

“It’s the place to be. We want to give Sheffield something unique. Real football made in Sheffield. That’s what we want to be and everything is in place to make that happen.”

Handsworth FC bring something to Parramore and Pete that the chairman admits he would not be able to build over a short-term period, a youth development programme held up as a model for the rest of the country.

Whitehead has looked into building a new stadium before. After acquiring 18 acres of land in the north of Sheffield in 2006, Whitehead was willing to pay a seven figure sum to secure Parramore’s move, but after being refused planning permission, Whitehead and Parramore were forced to explore other options.

Currently the lease holders of Sandy Lane – a ground they share with Worksop Town – Parramore want to establish their own home on Oliver’s Mount, Sheffield, in the next 12 months – a deal that the ambitious chairman says is ‘very close’ to being confirmed.

“We let Worksop become tenants and share the ground with us, but it has not quite worked out the way we wanted it to. We haven’t been able to develop our teams the way we liked so we realised it is time for us to resurrect plans and move back to Sheffield.

“We are aiming to build a new ground on Oliver’s Mount. A grade C stadium that would allow us to move up the leagues. I have only ever aimed to finish first, but I can’t do it on my own. I have a great team at Parramore and Handsworth and I believe everything is in place for this football team to be successful.”