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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

NEVER MIND JESPER GRONKJÆR, MEET SVEND RINGSTED

A fair number of Greenland-born footballers have moved abroad down the years to study, find work or try and carve out a professional career in Denmark. Famous Greenlandic footballers are not exactly ten a penny, however, and the name Jesper Gronkjær crops up every time someone mentions something about the subject, more often than not in an article on the final stages of the country's football tournament, which will also invariably include the hackneyed "shortest football championship in the world" and/or "the football championship which only lasts a week" one-liners. 

Gronkjær was born in Godthåb (now known as Nuuk, of course) in 1977, where his mother worked as a nurse and his father found work as an electrician and a butcher, but he and his family moved to Denmark after five years in Greenland when he was only three years old, and the former Ajax, Chelsea and Atlético Madrid player, who went on to win 80 caps for Denmark, has never really had any further connection with the land of his birth.

A number of Greenlandic players have made the trip to Denmark in the last twenty-five years or so, most notably Rene Overballe, Niklas Kreutzmann, Aputsiaq Birch and Anton Overballe (the last two of whom should be familiar to anyone who reads PFB). Nowadays, some of the country's best Futsal players, international players Malik Juhl, Federik Funch and Malik Heimarij among them, have found a home for their skills in Denmark.

And, young Asii Kleist Berthelsen has been making waves in Denmark as a member of women's champions Fortuna Hjorring's squad over the past couple of years, and, as a result, has become a regular member of Denmark's under-age squads.

But, perhaps the first Greenlandic-born footballer to play the game abroad was Svend Ringsted, who was the son of Carl Ringsted, one of the Danish colonial administrators in Greenland at the time of his birth. Ringsted, whose story somewhat mirrors that of Gronkjær, was born in Julianehåb (now Qaqortoq) on 30 August 1893. 

Ringsted's father was returning to Denmark on a year's leave in 1896 when the ship he was travelling on, Castors, was lost off Cape Farewell, Greenland's southernmost point, in 1896, and all hands went down with the ship. In all, twenty-six people, twenty-one crew and five passengers, perished. The rest of the family - Carl Ringsted's wife and four children - including three year-old Svend, moved back to Denmark a year later, never to return to Greenland. 

Ringsted left secondary school in 1911, and joined Akademisk Boldklub the same year, and stayed with them until 1923. He won two Danish titles with them in 1919 and 1921 and also represented Denmark on five occasions, making his debut away to Sweden on 20 October 1918 in a 2:1 win.

The defender was also part of the Danish team which travelled to Antwerp to take part in the the 1920 Olympic Games under former Seaton Burn and Newcastle United manager Jack Carr, but did not play as Denmark were elminated in the first round after losing 1:0 against Spain. His fifth and final cap for Denmark came on 12 June 1921, when the Danes drew 1:1 against Holland in Copenhagen.

Ringsted qualified as a mechanical engineer during his time at Akademisk, and, after retiring from football, went on to manage and sit on the board at a number of companies, including that of his son. Svend Ringsted died in Hillerød, near Copenhagen, in 1975, at the edge of 81, and was survived by his wife and two children.

Svend Ringsted's story is not as well-known as that of Jesper Gronkjær, but if the latter can be referenced every time a story on football in Greenland is written, Ringsted's is one which deserves a honourable footnote in the history of both Greenlandic and Danish football. He was surely the first Greenlandic-born footballer to both lift the Danish title and play for Denmark, and not even Jesper Gronkjær can match that.
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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Much of the above information was gleaned from Wikipedia, mortencarsten.dk, geni.com,  transfermarkt.com and dbu.dk.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

THE GREENLANDIC NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: THE FIXTURE-LIST

The final stages of this year's Greenlandic national championship will take place this coming week in the northern town of Ilulissat, home of Nagdlúnguak-48, who are this year's designated hosts and, as a result, were exempt from taking part in the qualifying stages. 

After a couple of tournament featuring ten teams and another with six teams, and last year's tournament being scrapped as a result of the Corona virus crisis, the finals make a welcome return this year with a tournament featuring the more traditional total of eight clubs.

Happily, East Greenland will be represented for the first time in a number of years, and by one of the region's oldest clubs to boot. ATA, formed in 1960 and hailing from the town of Tasiilaq, return to the big stage for the first time in a decade after coming through a five-team qualifying tournament which also featured its reserve side.

Elsewhere, the usual suspects - B-67 and IT-79 - made it through the Sermersooq/NBU qualifying group after overcoming stiff resistance from Nagtoralik, G-44 qualified from the Disko Bay region as per usual (and will be joined this year by T-41 Aasiaat), K-33 will have made the long journey north from the southernmost reaches of the country after coming top of their qualifying group, and Upernavik's UB-83 will be representing the Avaanaa region. SAK, from Sisimiut, qualified after defeating Aqissiaq in a play-off.

The draw was made by the KAK (the Greenlandic FA) on 30 July, and was refined on 6 August, with the Group B clash between heavyweights B-67 and Nagdlúnguaq-48, which was originally scheduled to kick off at 15:00 on Monday being swapped with the game between UB-83 against ATA, and will now take place at 19:00.

Please find below the fixture-list for the final tournament of the 2022 Greenlandic national championship (kick-off times in CET).


GROUP A

G-44
IT-79
K-33
SAK

FIXTURES

08/08/22 17:00 IT-79 : G-44
08/08/22 21:00 K-33 : SAK
09/08/22 17:00 IT-79 : K-33
09/08/22 21:00 G-44 : SAK
10/08/22 17:00 IT-79 : SAK
10/08/22 21:00 G-44 : K-33


GROUP B

ATA 
B-67
Nagdlúnguaq-48
UB-83

FIXTURES

08/08/22 19:00 UB-83 : ATA
08/08/22 23:00 B-67 : Nagdlúnguaq-48
09/08/22 19:00 B-67 : UB-83
09/08/22 23:00 Nagdlúnguaq-48 : ATA
10/08/22 19:00 B-67 : ATA
10/08/22 23:00 Nagdlúnguaq-48 : UB-83


PLAY-OFF FIXTURES

12/08/22 17:00 GPA3 : GPB4
12/08/22 19:00 GPA4 : GPB3


SEMI-FINALS

12/08/22 21:00 GPA1 : GPB2
12/08/22 23:00 GPA2 : GPA1


7TH-PLACE PLAY-OFF

13/08/22 15:30


5TH-PLACE PLAY-OFF

13/08/22 17:00


3RD-PLACE PLAY-OFF

13:08/22 19:30


FINAL

13/08/22 23:00

NOTE: It was revealed in the hours after this article was published that ATA scratched from the finals of the national championship due to their being unable to raise the money needed to travel to Ilulissat, meaning that, once again, there would be no representative from East Greenland taking part. Their place has been taken by Aasiaat' T-41. 

Meanwhile, B-67 were stranded at Kangerlussuaq Airport due to fog, so their game against B-67, due to be played on 08/08/22, has been moved to 11/08/22. These changes shall be reflected in an article covering this year's championship, to be published in the days after the tournament's conclusion.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: As mentioned in the article, the draw was made public by the KAK on 30 July. As ever, any errors/omissions will be rectified upon notification. Many thanks to Lorenzo Bigo for additional information.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

BONDI NEAL AND QUILP - ABORIGINAL TRAILBLAZERS

Life hasn't dealt Australia's indigenous population a fair hand over the past couple of hundred of years or so, and they still find themselves on the bottom rungs of the nation's ladder, facing discrimination, poverty and a lack of opportunity in many areas. Indigenous athletes have found success in a number of sports down the years, but they remain less prevalent than they perhaps should be.

Since the end of the Second World War, and particularly since the 1960s, indigenous (in other words, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders) athletes have been coming increasingly to the fore in Aussie Rules, both Rugby codes, boxing, track and field and, belatedly, in football, though the road has been a long one for the country's indigenous sports men and women. At the end of the nineteenth century, a majority of the Aboriginal population lived in segregated areas of Australia, having been driven from their ancestral lands, from where their lands had been taken over by waves of immigrants from 1788 onwards, to more isolated swathes of the country. Because of their isolation, Aborigines were often ignorant of developments elsewhere in Australia, not least on the sporting front.

They and the Torres Strait Islanders, who, unlike many Aboriginal peoples, were not singularly dispossessed of their land, had their own sports, though, and many of them. Ball sports were very popular, though very few resembled modern-day football. Tjapu-tjapu, which was played by the Djinghali people (though the word 'tjapu-tjapu' - 'game of football' - comes from the Pitjantjatjara-Yankunytjatjara language) of central Australia was what we would classify today as a group game of keepie-uppie.

Millim baeyeetch was played in what is now modern-day Victoria, and, players were divided into opposing teams. At the end of the game, the beiin (player) who kicked the ball the highest was considered to be their equivalent of the man of the match, and was given the ball to keep until the next game by burying it in the ground.

There are other ball games, but the best-known of them all is probably marn-grook, which is considered by many to be the ancestor of Aussie Rules, or at least was a factor in the sport's development. That remains unproven, but one can see how the connotation was made: Marn-grook ('game of ball') was played all over south-eastern Australia and was extremely popular in Victoria, and (like Aussie Rules) involved a ball - often made of possum-hair twine - being kicked high into the air in order to be athletically caught. 

 Drawing by Gustav Mützel (in Berlin 1862) based on Blandowski's 1857 observations of a scene near present day in Victoria.

 An illustration of an Aboriginal football game - perhaps marn-grook - being played as part of a larger illustration, "Aborigines of Australia - Domestic occupations in 'summer season' on the Lower [??] Murray River" (1862), drawn by Gustav Mützel and based on the studies of William Blandowski, which were carried out in 1857

But, there was generally little or no room for either Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders in the growing sporting world of the colonies which would combine in 1901 to form the Commonwealth of Australia. They remained isolated from mainstream colonial society as a whole, but a few cases of indigenous athletes taking part in colonial competition did crop up. Charles Samuels was one: the Kamilaroi man ran the irregular-sounding distance of 134 yards in 12.5 seconds at an event in Botany in 1888, and has been acclaimed as Australian champion on more than one occasion, the first after having won 100 and 300-yard races in 1886. He has also often been described as the best runner ever to have come out of Australia.

Just four men of Aboriginal background have ever won the famous 120-yard Stawell Easter Gift foot-race (held in the Victorian village of Stawell, the first being Dimboola native Bobby Kinnear in 1883, also with a time of 12.5 seconds. Kinnear (born in 1851) had an interesting early life, to put it mildly: a member of the Yarra-Yarra tribe, he was apparently taken from his parents after his father threatened to kill him and thereafter spent much of his life living at the Ebenezer Mission Station at Antwerp, a tiny village in north-western Victoria. Not much is known of his life until his death in 1935, apart from he and his wife raising three sons. 

The second, Tom Dancey, was born in Queensland sometime around 1888 and spent most of his early life working alongside his brothers at various sheep stations in the area. He won the race in 1910 after hitting the front in the final 50 yards, right when it mattered most, and was handed a trophy and the then not inconsiderable sum of 1000 pounds. However, there is a story that Dancey was relieved of his prize money by his trainers and assorted hangers-on and returned home to the Queensland village of Dirranbandi with little more than the Stawell Gift trophy and the clothes on his back. He died in Dirranbandi in 1957 and was laid to rest in an unmarked grave; thanks in no small part to the efforts of his niece, an appeal to rectify this quickly gathered pace, and a headstone was finally erected over Dancey's grave in 2011.

There were a number of others, of course: Johnny Murtagh, one of Australian cricket's earliest stars during the 1860s and 1870s, who fought tirelessly for Aboriginal rights and died in 1891; Jack Marsh, the first Aboriginal cricketer to play first-class cricket, representing New South Wales on six occasions; and early Aussie Rules star Joe Johnson, who was the first Aborigine to play in the Victoria Football League during the early 1900s.

But football? There were at least two Aboriginal footballers who managed to escape from the segregation propagated by the colonies and prolonged by the new Commonwealth of Australia, which came into being in 1901. The first was a chap called Quilp, who played in Queensland for Dinmore Bush Rats. According to The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe (John Maynard, 2011), information on him was scant. He seemingly came and went in the blink of an eye and remained a man of mystery. However, in recent years, more has been discovered about him and his playing career.

Quilp first appears in articles in the Queensland Times in May 1904, when he was playing for another Dinmore side, Reliance, in a cup tie against Markets FC. He had apparently been sent off, presumably for dissent, but later returned to the field of play where he scored the winning goal, much to the bemusement of the spectators, who were seemingly of the mind that the ball didn't cross the line. A protest was made at the final whistle, which was dismissed by the then Queensland British Football Association a few days later. However, it appears that two Reliance players who had "misconducted themselves" against Markets received bans from the the QBFA: a V. Bognuda (?) received a month-long ban, whilst "Quilp, aboriginal, being disqualified for the season."

He later joined Dinmore Bush Rats, a team which were founded in 1888, and Quilp appears in a squad-photo dating from 1910 under the name Jackie (Quilp) Lynch. The Bush Rats had a very successful year in 1910, winning the Brisbane Senior Challenge Cup and the Junior Challenge Cup - Quilp was a member of the winning Junior side, which also lost in the final of the West Moreton Junior Challenge Cup. (It was the only match the Junior side lost all season.)

According to an article which appeared in the Queensland Times in January 1929, Quilp was originally from somewhere west of the region of Brisbane and Ipswich, between which the tiny village of Dinmore is situated, and was brought to the area by a Mr. Asburn, a well-known local butcher, when he was a little boy. The Asburns lived in Riverview, another small village next to Dinmore, and Quilp "lived for many years" with them until Mr. Asburn died and the family left Riverview. Quilp then moved the short distance to Dinmore, and it was noted by the author of the article that "Quilp was at one time a keen footballer, and I think he played in some of the minor football matches with the Dinmore Bush Rats' Club." 

He was certainly part of a makeshift Bush Rats team which took on a Combined Brisbane XI in August 1908 at the Pineapple Ground on South Brisbane's Kangaroo Point. The match finished all-square at 1:1, with several juniors and the 'ebony' Quilp replenishing a depleted squad for a match which the Queensland Times described as "a friendly one, engaged in with the view of giving a stimulus to the 'soccer' game in the metropolitan area."

Quilp stayed in Dinmore for a number of years, working for different local firms, even becoming a referee of some renown (and is referred to as "the ebony umpire of 'soccer' rules at Dunmore" in a 1911 article in the Queensland Times), until "the police, acting under instructions from the Home Secretary's Department, removed Quilp to the aboriginal settlement at Barambah [now modern-day Cherbourg]." 

Quilp's was one of almost 2100 forced removals of Aboriginal people carried out in the name of the Australian government between 1905-39 to what was the Barambah Aboriginal Settlement; the name of the settlement itself changed to Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement in 1932 before it was changed to plain old Cherbourg in 1986. It seems that Quilp spent some time hunting buffalo in the Northern Territory in 1919 before moving to Tweed Heads, in the extreme north-east corner of New South Wales, and, apart from some tales being told of his wit and repartee - and the odd brush with the law - there his footballing story seems to peter out. 

He appears to have died in Murwillumbah on 22 January 1930, aged 63. In direct comparison to the eulogies which appeared in the local press following his death (though the language used would not be tolerated now; it is difficult to know how to react to newspaper articles which described Quilp as a "darkie"and "Abo"), only three or four people turned out to witness his funeral and internment. 

Dinmore Bush Rats FC team-photo, 1910. Quillp (Jacky Lynch) is seated in the middle of the second row. (Photographer unknown, but the photo is held in the collection of Ipswich Libraries, Ipswich City Council, Queensland)

The second Aboriginal footballer was better-known; at least, more records of his footballing exploits exist than do those for Quilp, whilst comparatively little is known of his life off the pitch. His name was Bondi Neal (died in July/August 1953?), and he somehow managed to escape the segregation of the Aboriginal reserves and found work in the Hunter Valley minefields, situated to the west of the New South Wales city of Newcastle. Neal was described by the former Ausralian Football Federation historian Sid Grant as "part Aboriginal [and a] keen, versatile sportsman..He once threw a cricket ball 66 yards with both hands."

He arrived in the Hunter Valley, somehow, in 1904, and from whence he came is unrecorded, though it is mentioned here and there that he came from the South Coast region of New South Wales. He found work almost immediately in the mines, and a football club in the mining settlement of Pelaw Main. He and the newly-founded Pelaw Main club reached the final of the Newcastle competition later in 1904, losing 1:0 to Broadmeadow. He and his team-mates gained a reputation as formidable opponents, and won the Newcastle competition in 1907, eventually defeating Wallsend Royals 4:2 after extra time in an absorbing final which had finished 2:2 after 90 minutes.

A year later, in 1908, Neal moved a mile or so up the road to the neighbouring town of Kurri Kurri , where he not only played football, but cricket, and both codes of Rugby. It was while he was at Kurri Kurri that his form, consistently good over the years but especially so in 1908-09, ensured that he was selected to play for a Coalfields select against a visiting West Australia side at Maitland's Albion Ground in early May 1909. The visitors won by two goals to nil, but Neal excelled himself in his first representative match, saving at least five goal-bound shots. 

It was also almost certainly the first time that a member of the indigenous population had played in a representative football match. He stayed at Kurri Kurri until 1910, when he moved to Weston, another small town a mile or two to the west of Kurri Kurri, and played for a club there. But, which one? At least three teams were founded in the village in 1907: Weston Advance, Weston United and Weston Albions. Weston Bears, who exist today, also claim their foundation to have taken place in 1907.

The story goes that he left Weston in 1912 and moved to his native South Coast region, but it seems that he only made it as far as the town of Balgownie, just to the west of Wollongong, some miles to the south of Sydney, and was actually playing for the Balgownie Rangers club as early as 1911. (Another contradiction presents itself..) He also appears in a Balgownie Rangers first-team photo from 1913 under the name B. O'Neill.

Playing for Woonona, Neal represented the South Coast FA in a match on 23 April 1921 against what the Illawarra Mercury described as "a metropolitan team from Sydney"; the Sydney publication Arrow named the opposition as Metropolis. Whatever the opposition were called, the South Coast lost the match, played at Woonona, by 2 goals to 1, the correspondent writing for the South Coast Times and Wollongong Argus mentioned merely that "Neal, in goal, is easily our best goalie."

He was called up again by the South Coast FA for their game against Queensland on June 8, also at Woonona, but only as one of the reserves. (The South Coast won by 4 goals to 2.)

He was due to play for the new Wollongong United club at the beginning of 1923. It would be his fourth club in as many years, so claimed an article in the Illawarra Mercury; he had played for Balgownie, Corrimal and Woonona, and evidence seems to point to him playing for Balgownie in 1922.

In September 1923, according to an article in the Bundaberg Mail which was reproduced from an unnamed 'Sydney journal', Neal was apparently still playing football at the age of 42, and keeping goal for Woonona. (Perhaps the move to Wollongong United fell through.) 

The article tells a little of his early life and of his ancestry: his father was a Scotsman, his mother 'a half-caste'. He was born in the back country of New South Wales, probably in 1881, and he was apparently blessed with an ability to jump higher and farther than most; his friends christened him "Banda", which was the Aboriginal word for kangaroo, so the article claimed, and his nickname was then later anglicised to "Bondi."

Neal had been a promising runner, and had taken up rugby in around 1903, playing "first-grade" standard in the Newcastle district. He then began to play football, "and he achieved a like success", as we have seen. The contributor of the article was of the opinion that at "42 years of age, he [Neal] is still a fine footballer, and one of the most popular footballers in the district."

This would seem to contradict a little of what had previously been known about Bondi Neal; according to John Maynard, he had played four sports when living in Kurri Kurri, but the implication was that he had taken up football when he arrived in Pelaw Main in 1904 and the other three only after he moved to Kurri Kurri in 1908.

Neal was living in Wollongong and seemed to have retired from playing football by Christmas 1926, when he had apparently suffered "painful injury to his head and back" due to flying coal whilst working down Scarborough mine; he had also suffered an injury to his hand earlier the same day. He also appeared to do a little refereeing from time to time. The trail then goes pretty much cold after this regarding Bondi's sporting exploits, though one of his former clubs, Balgowlie Rangers, were planning to organise a benefit match for him in 1949. 

Bondi Neal, or, to give him his full name, Walter Ernest "Bondi" Neal, died in Wollongong District Hospital on 31 July 1953. He was survived by his wife and five of his six children. His obituary in the Illawarra Mercury (which spelled his surname as "Neil") mentioned that "In his younger days Mr. Neil was very interested in the sporting activities of the district including soccer, cricket, Rugby union and boxing."

That which appeared in the South Coast Times & Wollongong Argus was rather more expansive, saying that he was active in five sports (cricket, football, boxing, Rugby Union and Aussie Rules) and that he had played football until he was 69 years old, describing him as possessing "one of the most colourful sporting identities of the South Coast." He had amassed almost a hundred medals and awards through the years, and appeared in representative teams in at least three sports. He had also spent a large part of his working life at Scarborough mine.

Both obituaries stated that Bondi Neal was 89 years old when he died. This stands in sharp contrast with what was published by the Bundaberg Mail back in 1923, which would have made him around 73 when he died. This confusion over Bondi Neal's age when he died is a perfect example of the type of problem faced by football historians everywhere, especially when trying to fill in the white areas still prevalent on the map of early football.

On the other hand, we can be reasonably confident that there was only one Bondi Neal, and, indeed, only one Quilp. Most of the information mentioned in this article has only come to light in the last ten years or so, and some of it only in the last couple of years, not all of it flattering in Quilp's case, at least. Although this article is extremely imperfect and will leave behind just as many questions as answers, it is just the latest stage in a work in progress on the lives of both gentlemen, and someone else will come along and take up the story from here (I hope). 

Although there is surely much, much more to discover about both men, every new morsel of information helps give a slightly more complete picture of both of their lives, as well as, for better or worse, providing another tiny window into the intolerance faced by the indigenous peoples in early twentieth century Australia. Neither man was among the first Aboriginal sports men and women to take part in modern-day sport, but they did help blaze a trail, however short, however thin, for indigenous Australian involvement in football.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Most of the information included in the above article comes from a limited range of sources, some of which provided the inspiration, if not a lot of material, for the article:

"Football Barriers - Aboriginal under-representation and disconnection from the 'world game' (John Maynard, 2009; p. 39-56, "Soccer & Society", Routledge)

"The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe: A history of aboriginal involvement with the world game" (John Maynard, 2011; Magabala Books)

"The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe" - book review by Chris Hallinan (2014; "Soccer & Society", Routledge)

"The Containment of Soccer in Australia: Fencing Off The World Game" - Chris Hallinan, John Hughson (2010, Routledge)

Much of the information was also found using the Trove newspaper archive resource:

https://trove.nla.gov.au/

Information was gleaned from archive material available on Trove from the following publications, amongst others: Queensland Times; South Coast Times & Wollongong Argus; Illawarra Mercury; Bundaberg Mail

Essential to the story of Quilp and Bondi Neal is the below article, written by Ian Syson:

http://neososmos.blogspot.com/2017/03/needles-in-haystacks-bondi-and-quilp.html



 

 


 



Sunday, April 4, 2021

CORONA VIRUS TIMES: REAL ALE, HOOLEY AND DODGY JUMPERS

 

A large number of football clubs, large, small and miniscule alike, took to Twitter, Facebook and so on to increase their visibility - and following - during the sport's global hiatus in the early days of the Corona virus pandemic, and have continued to do so. Some have been more successful than others, but most clubs' social media acccounts have seen increases in on-line traffic.

One of them is Dee Rangers, one of the oldest Sunday League sides in the north-west English city of Chester. They are also one of the longest-running Sunday League clubs in the region, having been formed sometime around 1970, and have seen their follower count on Twitter double over the past twelve months to more than a thousand. However, how many of those following Dee Rangers know anything of the club's history?


The current Dee Rangers club crest; it gives a nod to elements of the club's earlier crests

Well, if you are one of the throng following the Hoops, as they are otherwise known, fear not. Let us embark on an interesting trip down memory lane - one with which any number of Sunday League clubs will no doubt identify - with none other than current first-team player-manager Ryan Williams. Williams has been manager for the last eight years, having joined the club as a player back in 2002, but the club itself first saw the light of day as Stonebridge FC in 1970 (although Williams concedes as it may have been earlier, but club records only date from 1970) before they changed their name to The New Inn in 1976. Six years later, another name change saw the birth of Dee Rangers as we know it.

There was a good reason behind the name change to Dee Rangers, as Williams explains.

"In early 1982, the 'four fathers' of Dee Rangers met in a Handbridge [local suburb of Chester] pub for a chat about setting up a new team. Pete Chaloner, and perhaps another two out of the group, was playing for The New Inn, but was aware that the club was on its last legs and was in debt to the tune of £80 - a fair amount in the early 80s and which is roughly £240 in today's money. 

Dee Rangers in the late 1980s

"Back then, there were 4 divisions of 12 teams and a waiting list for any potential new teams. The easiest way to get into the Chester & District Sunday League was to join an existing team, or, as in this case, take one over! Pete, Kerry Driver, Paul Spruce, Bev Tilling & Phil Thacker decided to come together and clear the debt, thus assuming control of The New Inn FC. They completed the season under that name wearing their yellow kit.

"When the 1982-83 season started, they had appealed to Cheshire FA and the league to change the club's name and had purchased a brand new - this is questionable given they paid virtually nothing for it - all sky-blue kit. Dee Rangers was born."

A few years later, the club adopted a blue and white hooped kit in the style of QPR, and these have been the club colours ever since, and the shirt, naturally enough, became the source of the team's nickname - the Hoops.


 Dee Rangers' Jon Wainwright, creator of the club's "The Onion Bag" fanzine, which saw the light of day in the early 1990s

In the early 1990s, one of the Dee Rangers players, Jon Wainright, who had joined the club when he was fifteen years old and went on to score more than 130 goals for the Hoops, produced a fanzine on a regular basis called The Onion Bag, and wrote about the club, the local area and real ale, which was rather popular amongst the playing staff at the time, a fine tradition which continues to this day. Wainwright, who was the first player inducted into the Dee Rangers Hall of Fame, sold copies of the fanzine at Chester City games, and the venture proved so successful that the club were able to buy a new set of kit from the proceeds. (Wainwright was the youngest player to appear for the Hoops until forward Norbert Lepucki made his debut, also aged 15, some while back.)

The club spent many years playing at Chester's Coronation Fields in the city's Hoole Park, but are currently elsewhere. Williams: "We currently play at Limewood fields in Hoole, Chester while we await or 3rd return to our spiritual home on Hoole Park otherwise known as Coronation Fields (Hoop Park we like to call it). The changing rooms are currently being renovated and our absence is now in its 5th season after some....attacks on the copper piping declared the locally famous William Brown Building [unusable]. It is council owned; we have never owned our own pitch."


 Dee Rangers' mid-90s issue team photo 

The club celebrated its thirty-fifth anniversary as Dee Rangers back in 2017, and did so in typical Hoops fashion, bringing out its own real ale in time for the anniversary bash, which was held at Chester's Deva Stadium - where else? After all, the team is named after the river which runs through Cheshire's county town, and the stadium is named in honour of Deva Victrix, the original Roman fort which later became the town, and then the city, of Chester.

Rangers currently runs two teams; their first, or open-age, team currently plays in Section B of the Chester & District Sunday League, whilst their Veterans team, founded in 2013, competes in the Chester & Wirral Saturday League Veterans Division. Bev Tilling, one of the club's founders and its first goalkeeper, still makes the occasional cameo appearance in goal for the Veterans, and lines up alongside first-team striker Andrew Fowlie's father.

Not that the first team have been seeing much action over the past year or so, unfortunately; the manager said that "last season was null and void; we only managed to complete 4 league games due to the weather and COVID. But, amazingly, we qualified for two cup semi-finals and a quarter-final, all of which were voided.


 Dee Rangers in 2006

"This season, we currently sit in mid-table, but again have only played a handful of games. We're once again in a semi-final and a quarter-final, and we are drawn in both games against higher-division opposition. The last cup game we played was a classic. We went through on penalties after a fantastic 3:3 game against Tarvin - real headline stuff, full of drama."

Perhaps Rangers will soon get the chance to take to the field and add to what is a pretty meagre collection of trophies: two, to be exact. They won Section C of the Chester & District Sunday League back in 1989, and had to wait thirty years for their next honour, the 2018-19 Chester Mini League, a competition which came about because the league found itself with an odd number of teams and decided to split it in two. They have finished as runners-up in various league competitions down the years - "Always the bridesmaid, I'm afraid", says Williams.

Continuity plays a large part of the club's ethos, as the manager explains. "We have had five first team managers since Pete [Chaloner] started the team in 1982 - of which I am the current one and the third longest serving, creeping up on second place as I approach a decade in the job. I still play now but generally only get a handful of appearances. I've had an injury over the past couple of years that I've never recovered from.

  
Dee Rangers before - or after (??) - a game against CDS in early 2018

"I'm entering my ninth year as a players and eighth as player-manager. And, of course, I get to turn out for the Vets now - if my wife lets me have two days at the weekend", he laughs.

And now, the club are planning to take their ethos a stage further with the set up of another team, as Williams explains: "With so many of our current first team now having children under 6, I have recently stopped coaching a Under-16 team and have been talked into setting up a Mini-Kickers' style Mini-Dee to coach the foundations of movement and football - of course my son will win MOTM every week.."

Williams and everybody else connected with the club still keep in touch with their former players, including the club's 'four fathers', as he explains. "Each year we hold an annual Legends Day where the veterans and players from yesteryear take on the current crop - all in memory of a fallen friend taken well too soon: we raise money for Clatterbridge Cancer Charity in memory of Tom Arnold. Chal [Pete Chaloner] and the gang are still in touch with me; they came to Legends Day two years ago and we got them into the squad pictures (see below photo). We aim to somehow complete the 2021 Legends Day between the two squads - dates of course will be very touch and go [because of the effects of the Corona virus]."

 Just some of the team who lined up for Dee Rangers back in 1982 (L-R): Paul Spruce, Kerry Driver, Phil Thacker, Anthony Hart, Jon Wainwright, Gary Palin, Bev Tilling and Pete Chaloner

The Hoops and their manager have plans for the near future, which do not start and finish with Legends Day - "Both squads are set to continue, and hopefully the Mini-Dee will get off the ground when it is safe to do so" - but they haven't sat still over the past year or so. Far from it, as WIlliams told PFB.

"During lockdown, we have tried to be as active as possible - we've had keepie-uppie competitions, video challenges, and plenty of Zoom quizzes. We created a Christmas jumper and sold it to raise money for the homeless." Featured on the Christmas jumper was none other than Hooley, a cartoon mascot which, Williams said, "appeared in random places during the '90s and made a return this gone year for the limited-edition jumper."  


The one and only Hooley, Dee Rangers' cartoon mascot, who recently came out of retirement

"The virus and lockdowns have taught me and the club committee (mostly me and my miserable brother, who is club captain) that people do want to stay involved and want to be a part of something, we are planning on some new and interesting ways of keeping players and past players involved as life returns to normal. 

"Hosting pub quizzes, bringing back the annual golf tournament that hasn't been seen since before I took over, a WAGs night - because, truth be told, they are putting up with a lot of moody lads not playing football right now - and a few more things including the development of our social media use. We have even started a YouTube Channel, so content will hopefully become more engaging for those not with us every week for whatever reason."


 Dee Rangers before an away game last season against Upton YC

Right now, the club has also been taking part here and there in Twitter polls and recently undertook a virtual pub crawl of their old (and new) haunts in Chester. (Whether Hooley made an appearance during said pub crawl has not been documented.) The last twelve months or so have formed one of the most interesting periods in modern-day football history, if not always for the right reasons, and one of the most innovative for a great many clubs, not least Dee Rangers, a club which has seen two name changes and two new set-ups since its original creation as Stonebridge FC back in 1970, if not earlier. The Hoops will celebrate the club's fortieth anniversary under the name of Dee Rangers next year, and will, one hopes, continue to develop and innovate well into the future. What they will do to commemorate their forthcoming milestone remains to be seen, but you can be fairly sure that there will not be a dry glass left in the house. Just as it should be.

SQUAD-LIST

GOALKEEPERS: 1 Joe YORK; Hayden BAINS

DEFENDERS: 2 Dr. Andy ROWNTREE; 17 Nathan HICKSON; Sam RUSSELL; Jason LUCAS; Alex BELL; Andrew GRAVES; James ELLAMS; Oli LEADBETTER; Jake SHAW

MIDFIELDERS: 6 Dewi ADAMSON; 8 Jordan WILLIAMS (CAPT.); 10 Craig DAVIES: 11 Liam JONES; 20 Gary WILSON; Dan TATE; Craig ROGERS; Kev GARDNER

FORWARDS: 7 Nik HORABIN; 9 Andy HARRISON; 21 Adam WILSON; 23 Ryan WILLIAMS; Andrew FOWLIE; Norbert LEPUCKI; Alex WEBSTER; Ben SACHE

13 MAN OF THE MATCH - Reserved for the MOTM to wear to the pub

MANAGER: Ryan Williams

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to Dee Rangers' Ryan Williams for his immense assistance with the above article. All photos/images were supplied by Dee Rangers.