WE ARE SHEFFIELD: Unsung hero Ann's six decades of commitment to football

Ann Holland at Hallam FC
Ann Holland at Hallam FC
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Non-league football relies on its army of dedicated volunteers - without them the players simply wouldn't be able to take to the pitch.

Sheffield has perhaps the shining example of the sport's traditional unsung hero. Ann Holland has been volunteering at semi-professional outfit Hallam FC for more than 60 years.

She is now responsible for the catering at hospital at the Northern Counties East Division One side and is almost as well-known in the sport as the club's ground, which is the oldest in the world.

Ann's involvement with Hallam started when she was a young girl and she quickly became hooked on the sport, but more specifically, the club.

She said: "I was born just up the road from the ground and my grandad and dad used to take me as a baby and a child and that's how it all started.

"I couldn't say exactly when I started volunteering because it was more of a natural thing really. Back in those days we used to serve refreshments in pop cups and people used to leave them on the ground so I used to go around and pick them up.

"When I was 11 or 12 I used to do the raffle and any other jobs that needed doing. To me if you are a helper, you just do whatever needs doing."

Ann, of Wincobank, took over the refreshments and hospitality at Sandygate in 1974 - and you will still find her in the same place at Hallam's home games now.

But she doesn't get to see too much of the football on matchdays at Sandygate as she is too busy keeping the fans warm by serving hot drinks, pies and pasties from the hut near the dugouts and stand.

But she certainly makes up for that when she travels to the away games up and down the country with the team.

"After the match people will ask me if I enjoyed the match but I never see any of it really. It's nice to go away because I can relax a bit more and watch the football," she said.

"There are so many people that think volunteering is an easy way of watching the match but there are so many little jobs that need doing. Like when the ball goes over the stand or onto the road - someone has to fetch it - little things that nobody thinks of."

Ann lists Hallam's success in the Sheffield and Hallamshire Senior Cup in the 1960s and promotion to the NCEL Premier Divison in 1994 as her highlights.

And given the club's history as the second oldest football club in the world and Sandyagte being the oldest ground, Ann says she often shares a chat with ground-hoppers and football fans from around the world.

She said: "I remember a few years ago we had really bad weather and there was one gentleman who wanted to come up from London and every match seemed to be called off.

"When he eventually did come up he only saw about half-an-hour of the match because he had to leave for his train but it's nice when we get people from all over."

Despite admitting she was glad of the summer break, Ann, 70, said she had no intentions of stepping down from her roles at the club.

She said: "Saturday has always been about football all of my life. We have never missed football to go shopping or do anything else. Football on a Saturday is just the norm."

Hallam FC chairman Steve Basford said Ann was a 'wonderful credit to the club' and that the team simply wouldn't be able to play without her dedication.

He said: "Ann is wonderful and the amount of people who come to the games and ask about her. It was 70th birthday last season and all the clubs we visited around the time of it got her presents and flowers.

"I can't remember the last time she missed a game. She really looks after everyone. She has sent some of the young lads we've had playing for us over the years home with a pack-up or put money on their phones. She is the definition of an unsung hero."