POOLE Town were celebrated for their trailblazing community exploits last week with a visit from local MP Sir Robert Syms – who added his name to their long list of volunteers, writes Tum Balogun.
The Dorset-based side, deep into preparations for the upcoming season, tasked the 65-year-old with assisting in watering their home turf.
And all on a day where the Dolphins, whose on-field fortunes have dramatically improved in recent years, were honoured for their array of local projects.
Of special note was their children’s initiative, named the Trident Soccer Programme, which offers free coaching to children in the holidays.
Syms, who was greeted by club chairman Chris Reeves before joining the team in pre-season preparations, shared his admiration of the club’s work and praised the effort of its many contributors.
He said: “I’m very impressed, I know the club has had a difficult history in recent decades.
“And what always inspires me is the volunteers, the people who come in and work, the sense of community.
“This is one of those football clubs that is rooted in the town that has a lot of people who really go out of their way to help promote football and help promote the town.
“It's always humbling to see what work people will do for absolutely nothing just because they love it.”
Volunteers are vital to non-league clubs across the country, and it is now easier than ever to get involved thanks to Pitching In's Trident Leagues Volunteer Hub as part of their multi-million pound investment in grassroots football.
With that help the Southern League Premier South side have rebounded from the edge of the abyss in the early 1990s to a stable club, in their own stadium with big plans to grow in the near future.
Chairman Reeves, first appointed in 1978, expressed his pride in what has been achieved and applauded the many supporters at the Black Gold stadium.
He said: “I’m immensely proud of this football club, I don’t think there are many football clubs who have had as many problems and issues and millstones as we’ve had.
“I can’t do it on my own and I’m surrounded by wonderful people that care so much, do so much.
“Everything you see here has been put here by us, everything, literally everything.
“When we first came it was just a field and we know that our facilitators here are not an impressive football stadium but it’s what we’ve created.”
One of the club's volunteers, Alan Fisher, who helps maintain the playing surface in the summer by pulling the weighty irrigation systems up and down the field, has been pitching in for the past six months.
The 73-year-old urged others to lend a hand and expressed his delight in being involved with a football club again.
He said: “I think [volunteers] are very important, if clubs haven’t got volunteers then somewhere along the line either the management or players has to do it themselves.
“If someone said to me ‘what's it like to be a volunteer?’ I would say ‘great!.’
“When I got asked to volunteer to do this job I thought: ‘wow, great I’m getting back into football.’
“I’ve been away from football for eight years so it’s good for me - I’m appreciative of it and I appreciate the club for taking me on.”
Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million-pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/