Ex-Man United Youngster on Life as a Grassroots Coach

With clubs such as Manchester United and Sunderland on his CV, the Fulford Ebors Under-12s certainly have a manager that can call upon a wealth of experience in Stuart Wormleighton.

The grassroots coach has seen both sides of football, having been at one of the biggest clubs in the world as a youngster. From his release at Old Trafford, he then moved to Sunderland, his hometown club, before spells at Darlington and the Spanish lower leagues.

From Spain to Fulford

Upon moving back to the UK, initially back home on Wearside, Wormleighton decided on York for his new chapter. It wouldn’t be too long until he found himself involved at Fulford FC in the York and District Youth Football League, largely thanks to his son, Oscar.

“The boy wanted to get involved with football,” Wormleighton told Fen Regis Trophies. “So, we got involved with football.

“We moved to York and started the team up; the team is pretty much the same core of players that we’ve had from the start.

“I’ve had some of the boys since they were four or five years old when they first started.

“We do tend to get a lot of approaches to join at the start of the season, so we are in a lovely position where we can have a look to make a decision and add maybe one or two a season.

“That’s only as the squads have gone up from five-a-side to seven-a-side and to nine-a-side.”

He added: “My son, Oscar, has been with us since the start and we’ve got another Oscar – Oscar Dawson – and another in Taylor Blogg…they’ve all been with us since day one.

“They are always there week in and week out, whether they are playing or not. There’s a good core of lads that have been there for a long time.”

Wormleighton was also keen to praise the hard work and dedication of his assistant coach, James Shutt, and his son, Jacob, who has played in various positions for his side.

He said: “The other manager, James Shutt, has been with us since the start as well and his son, Jacob, he’s also been with us since day one.

“He’s another one that been to every match and every training session. He deserves a lot of credit as well.

“He’s been a really, really good player for us and he’s really keen; he’s played in goal, he’s played up front, and he’s now a right-back.

“It just shows that most of the boys can play in at least two or three positions, which I’ve always encouraged.”

Academy Interest

Wormleighton knows better than most what it means to be given an opportunity at a professional club as a youngster. Now, as a coach, he is finding that several players in his team have been presented with the same opportunity with various clubs in the area, such as Leeds United and Doncaster Rovers, showing interest.

“At a young age, I was professional…I played in Spain for a bit and then come back to the UK,” the Fulford Under-12s coach said.

“I was at Man United when I was only a youngster before I got released.

“I had a spell at Sunderland and Darlington and various different clubs. I also went on trial at Chelsea under Glenn Hoddle.”

Talking about the players he coaches, Wormleighton added: “I wouldn’t want to name any names, but I know there’s at least three or four that are attracting interest.

“Last season, we had six or seven that were training with Leeds. This season, I know there’s three or four that have strong interest from Doncaster and, potentially, could be joining them at the end of the season.”

Both Wormleighton and his assistant would take nothing but pride from seeing players they have coached picked up by professional clubs.

“If any of those boys go on to academy level, and get a contract, then myself and James have done our job properly over the years. We would never stand in the way of that.

“It’s 100% pride. You know you’ve done something right over the years.”

Fulford Under-12s after winning a tournament at Killinghall Nomads JFC

Proudest Achievement

In England, no results or league tables are published by the FA until Under-12s, meaning that this season is the first that Wormleighton’s side are officially competing for honours (though coaches in the league had unofficially kept record). Heading into the closing weeks of the season, Fulford are in pole position to win the Division 1 title with only one team, Brooklyn Lions, standing in their way.

Fulford travel to their title challengers in their last game of the season on 24 April in what is likely to prove an effective play-off for the title. Regardless of what happens, Wormleighton believes that this season will be his proudest achievement as a coach.

“It’s the first season where the points are scored and published,” he noted. “We’ve won cups and tournaments before, but the fact that you can see the amount of goals we’ve scored – 104 goals in 17 games – and the points tally in the top league this season.

“If we can go on to win the league, that will definitely be the one.”

Wormleighton added: “We’ve had a little bit of a rollercoaster season. We lost the semi-final of the York and District FA Cup on penalties.

“When it goes to penalties it’s a lottery – it was one of those where it was a tough game. We just couldn’t put the ball in the net basically.

“I’ve not won any trophies for coaching. The boys have won lots of trophies and leagues, where managers have kept tallies.

“Last year, we were second by a point, but we’ve won many, many tournaments.”

Fulford’s incredible goal tally of 104 goals in 17 games has come as a result of the side winning many of their games by big scores. The former Man United youngster said that one of the biggest challenges he has faced is keeping his players motivated and focused, especially when bigger tests are just around the corner.

“When we are the dominating teams it’s about trying to keep them motivated…to give 100%,” he said.

“It’s not nice for the opposition to lose like that, but it’s just the way the leagues have worked out this year.

“The hardest part is about getting the boys, if we’re winning 10,12, 13-0, motivated if we have a tough game the following week. That’s been the most challenging thing this season.

“It’s understandable that at such a young age when we are winning games all the time they can think that they just need to turn up.

“As the coach, it’s really difficult to get their mindsets correct.”

Ask any grassroots coach and they will be quick to tell you of the challenges of managing a team as a volunteer and Wormleighton is no different, but believes that the positives far outweigh the negatives.

“Please ensure you have thick skin,” was his message to anyone thinking of getting involved in grassroots football. “It is well worth it and totally enjoyable.

“You will never please everybody but as long as the boys are happy that’s the main thing.”

Good luck to Stuart and his Fulford Ebors Under-12s for what’s left of the season and fingers crossed that it ends with much-deserved silverware.

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