50 years ago football fever gripped the nation – England had just won the World Cup at Wembley, beating West Germany 4-2, Geoff Hurst completing his legendary hat trick during nail-biting extra time.
The Roy of the Rovers style story inspired legions of schoolboys to play, and to meet the demand Horsham Sparrows was formed, becoming founder members of the new mini Minor league, now HDYFL (and, in 2004, the Sussex County Women’s and Girls’ League). The name Sparrows stuck after someone commented that the kids looked like a flock of the birds in pursuit of the ball! From that humble beginning, involving less than 20 boys, the club has grown and grown to encompass 17 squads with around 300 members playing in nine boys’ teams, five girls teams, a women’s side and the Little Kickers, starting as young as four years old.
Sparrows’ Secretary Simon King tells the District Post: “We’re entirely run through our fantastic team of over 40 volunteers and have dedicated committee members also serving on the League’s committee. And, we’re very fortunate to have 10 of our players helping to coach our younger teams. We rely on such goodwill – and our kind sponsors. The club is really thriving – we’ve been awarded the FA’s Community Charter Standard accolade, the only club in Horsham to currently hold this. To qualify for that we had to satisfy the FA that our coaching, children’s safeguarding, equal opportunities and general conduct and organisation comply with their requirements. We’ve actually been targeted by the FA to be involved with their initiative to get young girls into football and have applied for funding accordingly.”
The icing on the cake came when the Sparrows won Sussex FA Community Club of the Year in 2015. Players are clearly playing for the club because they really enjoy it, everybody getting a chance, whatever their ability, the club’s maxim being: “to give children a good, positive experience in a safe, supportive and encouraging environment”. The club are also rightly proud of the in-house Level 1 course that they ran which meant that many of the clubs current coaches were able to gain their qualification together.
Horsham Sparrows is a progressive club, so what of the future? Simon says: “We’ve formed a partnership with Horsham YMCA FC, hoping that some of our players will stay in the game through the YM youth set up, and we’re also partnered with Brighton & Hove Albion in the community – we play in Horsham Park in our iconic blue and white colours – and are participating in their disability project at the Holbrook Club. Basically we just want to carry on being successful, getting even better as we grow.”
Meanwhile, May 6 will be another red letter day for Horsham Sparrows when there will be a special golden anniversary Sparrows Day celebration at Collyers College, with five pitches in action and an evening presentation. Ian Wright attended a previous Sparrows Day and Simon King would be delighted to hear from any former Sparrows – especially if they have any photographs or special memories of the club and would like to come along on the big day – firstname.lastname@example.org – www.horshamsparrows.co.uk.