Dedicated Sheffield volunteers 'humbled' by royal honour

Martin Windle and Teresa Smith with the Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant for South Yorkshire Andrew Coombe after receiving their British Empire Medals
Martin Windle and Teresa Smith with the Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant for South Yorkshire Andrew Coombe after receiving their British Empire Medals
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Between them they have helped hundreds of youngsters flourish, both at sea and on the football field.

Now two of Sheffield's most dedicated servants have been honoured by the Queen for their voluntary work with children around the city.

Martin Windle coaching youngsters at Ecclesall Rangers

Martin Windle coaching youngsters at Ecclesall Rangers

Ecclesall Rangers chairman Martin Windle and Teresa Smith, former chairwoman of Sheffield Sea Cadets, have both been awarded British Empire Medals.

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Martin, a 71-year-old retired driving instructor, founded the youth club in 1990 and has spent countless hours nurturing the talents of generations of footballers.

Teresa, a secretary from Carterknowle, reinvigorated the cadets during her time at the helm, overseeing a four-fold increase in membership and a much-needed move to larger premises.

The pair were presented with their medals by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant for South Yorkshire Andrew Coombe during a ceremony at Sheffield Town Hall last week.

Teresa Smith with Royal Marine Cadet Mike Smith and Petty Officer Christopher Smith (photo: Anwar Suliman)

Teresa Smith with Royal Marine Cadet Mike Smith and Petty Officer Christopher Smith (photo: Anwar Suliman)

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Martin was coaching his son and a friend outside Ecclesall Infant School in 1989 when the other boy's father suggested he start a football club as the area needed one, and the following year Ecclesall Rangers was born.

Three decades later, the club has 23 teams and Martin also runs Saturday morning and after-school kickabouts for local schoolchildren, enabling up to 500 youngsters to enjoy the sport each week.

"It's humbling to get this award. I've always loved what I do and never expected anything like this," he said.

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"We've had such lovely people at our club over the years, and I'm now coaching the children of the youngsters I started out working with.

Martin Windle with friends and family at the investiture ceremony

Martin Windle with friends and family at the investiture ceremony

"For me, the most rewarding thing is seeing all the friendships being formed, between both the players and their parents.

"That's the beauty of the game. You can't win everything all the time but the friendships that are formed often last a lifetime."

Martin has been climbing over the wall to access the club's grounds for 29 seasons now, putting youngsters through their paces even in the rain and sleet.

He barely missed a session until 2016, after being diagnosed with cancer and having a kidney removed, but was soon back in action.

Teresa Smith with (l-r) Lewis Butler, Olivia Spankisman, Charlie Atkinson and Petty Officer Christopher Smith during a charity bag pack at Tesco

Teresa Smith with (l-r) Lewis Butler, Olivia Spankisman, Charlie Atkinson and Petty Officer Christopher Smith during a charity bag pack at Tesco

The club has become somewhat of a family affair. His wife acting Linda is the secretary, his son Jonathan, daughter Katie and his in-laws are among the loyal band of volunteers, and his six grandsons all play for the side.

Teresa began helping out at the cadets around five years ago when her youngest son Michael joined, and she soon became chairwoman - a position she held for four years, before stepping down last autumn.

When she became involved there were only around 20 cadets but membership has since soared to around 100, and its base has moved from an old unit on the Wicker to new larger premises on Rutland Road with outdoor space and plenty of potential for expansion.

"I'm very proud of what I achieved with the rest of the volunteers and I really appreciate that someone considered me for such an award," she said.

"When I got involved I think the cadets were a bit of a secret. Not many people knew who we were or what we did, and one of the first things I did was to raise awareness across the city.

"I loved my time with the cadets. They would often be quite shy when they first came, and some had been bullied at school, so it was great to see them grow in confidence, lead teams and develop new skills."

She explained how members of the cadets, aged 10-18, get to try a vast range of activities, from sailing and first-aid courses to social events and volunteering in the community, where they carry out regular clean-ups.