Wingate & Finchley chairman says £6,000 grant is ‘a massive help in terms of youth development’

Wingate & Finchley's Harry Abrahams Stadium. Pic: Martin Addison

Wingate & Finchley's Harry Abrahams Stadium. Pic: Martin Addison - Credit: Archant

Chairman Aron Sharpe says Wingate & Finchley have been given “a massive help in terms of youth development” after the club were given a £6,000 grant.

The Football Foundation has handed out the money as part of its Grow the Game scheme, which is designed to increase football participation among under-represented groups such as women and girls, disabled players and boys’ teams from the Under-15 age group upwards.

Sharpe has always been keen to establish Wingate as a club for young local players and give them a chance of progressing to the first team.

He told Ham&High Sport: “It allows us to have a couple of other youth teams maybe a year earlier than when we were able to, so it’s a massive help in terms of youth development, which is the key to the football club.”

Sharpe continued: “This allows us to have Under-15 and Under-17 teams as well as Under-16 and Under-18s so it’s just accelerating that process for us.

“The problem is that for years I’ve been pulling favours and getting young guys in, and it works for them because they can put it on their CV.

“Most of them have moved on and there are a few in the academies – one’s doing the West Ham Under-21s – but it gets to a point where you can’t expect youngsters to do it for nothing. This enables us to at least cover some expenses. It’s not big money but it allows us to bring on paid coaches.

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“There are a lot of people out there putting time and effort into youth development, and that’s a very hard thing. You’ve got to balance up success, your position, your ability to attract players and also to bring through youngsters, and that’s the reason I do it. I’ve got no interest in players who have played for 25 clubs.”

Wingate, who were challenging for promotion from the Ryman League Premier Division last Christmas, endured a poor second half to the season.

Manager Simon Lane was replaced by Keith Rowland in early January and the Blues only won four of their last 19 league games, dropping to a final position of 13th.

But they have just signed ex-Wealdstone defender Sean Cronin, who has also played for Cardiff City and Wales youth teams, and defender John Mbamarah, who had a spell with Wingate in 2014.

“It was a very disappointing end and there was no real reason for it,” said Sharpe. “Bue’ve retained the majority of the squad, we’ve made two or three good signings which we think will enhance the squad, and we’re ready to go again.

“I’m not into shipping out our old squad every time I change managers, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about a football club, the boys are part of that club and they need to be managed.

“I think we’re in a very good position. We’ve consolidated. People didn’t expect us to be able to compete at this level. We’ve shown that we can, and for me it’s just about improvement.”