‘Grassroots football was almost destroyed – now it’s starting to pick up again’
A City of Portsmouth Sunday League club who already run three sides are planning to field two more next season.
Fratton Trades, formed back in 2016, currently have teams in Divisions 4, 5 and 6 of the CoPSL. No other club has as many teams in the six-division competition.
But secretary Lee Emmerson is determined to grow the club he was a founder member of.
There could be a fourth Fratton Trades side in the Sunday League in 2021/22 while they have also applied to the Mid-Solent League to field the club’s first ever Saturday side.
The Saturday squad will be primarily made up of players from across the three Trades teams - plus a sprinkling of players from sister club AFC Trades.
AFC are managed by Alfie Norman, who along with Jack Van Der Lugt has agreed to manage the Trades XI in the Mid-Solent League.
Norman contacted Emmerson last summer, after seeing an advert seeking new Fratton Trades players.
‘Alfie said he had 15 players. I said ‘that’s a new team!’ recalled Emmerson. ‘I said I’d be their secretary and it’s worked well - they’ve got better players than we have!’
The close relationship between Fratton Trades and AFC will be further cemented when they take part in the first grassroots game in Portsmouth tonight since lockdown restrictions were eased.
On the first day that outdoor team sports are allowed under the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, they will face each other at the Langstone Harbour sports ground, on the Eastern Road, at 6pm.
‘It’s always been one of the long-term goals to have a Saturday team,’ said Emmerson.
‘There’s also a goal of having a ladies team, and some kids teams as well.
‘I want Fratton Trades to be a big organisation.
‘I know how important grassroots football is, and it’s starting to pick up again after a few years when it was almost destroyed.
‘I just thought, with coming out of lockdown, that the time was right to start to build and build and allow more people to play football.
‘Saturday football should be more important than Sunday football.
‘When I lived in Woking most of the Sunday League players played on a Saturday as well.
‘Here, a lot of players just want to play for fun on a Sunday.’
Emmerson is confident he will have enough bodies to fill a fourth team next term.
‘I’ve never had a problem finding players,’ he said.
‘I’m always advertising for new players, and we pick up a few from the university.
‘Every year I end up with tons of players.
‘One year, there were over 100 players standing in front of me in pre-season!”