The Sheffield football coach using power of sport to improve ‘dodgy’ neighbourhood

A grassroots football coach from Sheffield is using the sport’s transformative power to flip negative perceptions of her neighbourhood.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 11:03 am
Updated Monday, 6th September 2021, 1:22 pm

The Manor estate was labelled the “worst in Britain” by former MP Lord Hattersley in 1995 following an arson attack on a school and, according to government data, remains one of Britain’s most deprived areas.

But the efforts of 26-year-old Hayley Smedley are helping to build pride in her community.

Home Office worker Hayley set up Millstone Ladies FC in January 2020 – the first women’s team on the estate – and had a tough introduction to management, to say the least.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Players and volunteers from Millstone FC stand with the club's mascot, Murphy.

"In our fist game last season against Rotherham United we lost 21-0,” she recalls, “Now it’s turned around and we are winning eight or nine nil. It’s amazing.”

Not only have results improved, the club has also established a second women’s team as well as a men’s side and four mixed junior teams from under-8s through to under-12s.

No fewer than 88 players are now registered with the club, which is supported by about 20 volunteers and recently settled into its new home on the Corker Bottom Field, just off Harborough Avenue.

“Blood, sweat and tears have gone into this,” says Hayley.

"Many hours I have been up until two in the morning doing paperwork.

"Something needed to be done around here and what better way to get kids into sport than through football?”

Money from the ward pots of the local councillors – council leader Terry Fox, deputy lord mayor Sioned-Mair Richards and Anne Murphy – has also helped to pay for improvements at Corker Bottom Field to create two new pitches for the teams.

It is hoped a new pavilion could be built in future.

“It’s just brilliant,” cllr Richards says. “Isn’t that a great thing to be happening on the Manor?

"Hayley’s stunning. It’s such hard work and she just gets on with it and does it because she wants to help.

"I know everybody talks about the Manor as being a dodgy place. This isn’t a dodgy place, it’s lovely.”

Dot Crossley, who has lived on the estate for 27 years and now volunteers for Millstone FC, adds: “There’s not very much happening for Manor Park and we are going to alter that.”