Ex-Owls boss backs Sheffield junior club's campaign for permanent home

Ecclesall Rangers Reds Under-10s team (photo: Daniel Ward)
Ecclesall Rangers Reds Under-10s team (photo: Daniel Ward)
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Ex-Sheffield Wednesday manager Howard Wilkinson is among the big names backing a junior football team's campaign to secure a permanent home.

He has joined the likes of former Premier League referee Keith Hackett and leading cricket umpire Richard Kettleborough in signing a petition by Ecclesall Rangers Junior Football Club to guarantee its long-term future.

Howard Wilkinson (photo: Gerard Binks)

Howard Wilkinson (photo: Gerard Binks)

The club, which has 23 teams, has played at Bannerdale playing fields, off Carter Knowle Road, since the early 1990s but had to move this season to Whirlow playing fields in Dore while the new Mercia School is being built beside its long-term home.

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It wants to fence off the pitches at Bannerdale to protect them from vandals, who have previously targeted the site, and help get the funding it needs for changing rooms and other new facilities.

The club - whose alumni include Owls keeper Cameron Dawson and Manchester City Women and England Women's Under-17s defender Esme Morgan - has claimed that without permission to fence off the pitches its future could be under threat.

Keith Hackett (photo: Jason Chadwick)

Keith Hackett (photo: Jason Chadwick)

More than 800 people have signed the petition so far.

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Howard Wilkinson, who is probably the highest profile backer so far, declined to comment.

But Keith Hackett, who officiated some of football's biggest games and is the man behind the You Are the Ref comic strips, said it was vital clubs like Ecclesall Rangers got the support they needed to keep youth football flourishing.

Richard Kettleborough (photo: Chris Lawton)

Richard Kettleborough (photo: Chris Lawton)

"A safe environment for children to play football is so important, and this long-established club which serves the community so well deserves to have its own secure ground," said the former referee, who grew up at Parkwood Springs and played football in Crosspool as a child.

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"All the top players and officials come through grass roots football, and I couldn't have achieved what I did without it. But it's not just about producing stars of the future, it's about ensuring everyone has the chance to play football."

Richard Kettleborough, the former Yorkshire batsman who is now one of cricket's top umpires, helps out with Ecclesall Rangers' under-sevens who won both leagues and cups in which they competed this season.

"This club is a bit of an institution and it gives so many youngsters the chance to play sport, get healthy and learn about being part of a team," he said.

"All it wants is to put a fence up so it can get funding from the FA and Sport England to upgrade its facilities and give it the secure home it needs.

"It's not a lot to ask but we need to get this in place for next season so these children have somewhere to play."

Sheffield Council has said it is in talks with Ecclesall Rangers and Millhouses Junior FC, which also uses the ground, but is also taking into account the views of the wider community.

* Ecclesall Rangers' petition is at https://chn.ge/2IJN6B9.