Fit Football was only founded last October, but already there are plans to launch a second division in the new Preston league and start a juniors section. Fiona Finch caught up with its founder Paul Mountford at a recent match night
It was a modest ambition.
Father of three Paul Mountford he wanted to be able to kick a football around again and get fit.
He believed many more men would relish the same opportunity to get back into the beautiful game, but could not because there was not a place for them on an existing team or they had not played for years.
That ambition and insight has resulted in the creation of a new Preston based Fit Football league for adult players of all abilities and ages.
Like all good ideas it needed not just inspiration but perspiration to drive it forward.
Paul, who is self employed and is proprietor of Lostock Hall’s New York Deli, worked hard to turn his dream into a reality.
Now , Fit Football, based at the PlayFootball pitches at Tulketh Community Sports College on Tag Lane at Ingol,near Preston, is expanding, and has already made a significant difference to members’ lives.
Membership has risen to 51 and there is a waiting list to join. Since league started last October players aged 16 -55 have joined. If enough players come forward it is hoped to have a second division up and running within a month.
Players join individually and are then placed in a five aside team so each team has a balanced mix of age and ability levels.
At its launch Football Association trained coach Paul said: “We will bring back everyone who used to kick a ball about with their friends, out of retirement and back on to the pitch.”
The 34 year old was already a coach for Penwortham Town Juniors where his two sons play. Two other FA trained coaches, Craig Latham and Jon Atkinson,joined him to run the new league on Wednesday evenings and training sessions on Saturday mornings.
Paul believes Fit Football isn’t just about being physically fit, but maintains it encourages good mental health too: “They come from all across the Preston area but there’s quite a few who catch one or two buses to get here as well.
“It’s really, really very good. When they are on the pitch they can be competitive ... but it’s very sociable.”
Team captains went out for a Christmas get together as, for example, did individual team the Yellow Submarines.Teams choose their own names and rejoice in such varied titles as Tanterton Hotspur and The Green Machine.
He continued: “We have a group WhatsApp for all the members. Everyone who comes here goes in that group. We can inform about the time of kick off and if anybody is going to be late. Every team has their own WhatsApp group as well with their own banter.”
Paul reports many of the players previously played at a local amateur level, but for some there’s been a 20 year gap.
There is already a waiting list to join and it’s planned that 2019 will see the creation of junior teams. In the longer term Paul hopes to set up a women’s league.
Fit Football’s early success has proved the wisdom of his hunch people were feeling barred from playing because they had not got a team to join, but would be delighted to come along and play.
Even so Paul admits the popularity of the match night and training session has taken him by surprise: “I’m shocked if I’m to be honest. I didn’t think it would go as well as it has. It’s really good to see people coming together."
Being self employed has given him flexibility: “It gives me time to look after Fit Football and organise a little bit as well.”
How has he benefited? The father of three said: “I think I’ve lost about six pounds. It might be a little bit more.”
For media sales worker Luke Maher ,34, of Chorley it’s been a chance to get back into football: “I think the vast majority of us have all played at a decent standard when younger. For whatever reason - work commitments, injuries or just weight issues we’ve kind of found our way back into playing that isn’t really competitive. The idea is we all fill in for each other. If there’s a team short of a player we will swop (places) to make sure everyone plays.”
He continued: “For me personally I broke my leg. I was out for nine month and got a little bit fat around the waist... I used it as a way back in. I enjoy it. I feel a lot better.”
He recalled when he first started his endurance was not as good, but that has built up and he has lost weight. Luke added :”A lot (of players) have said it’s helped with their mental strength as well. Men being men they don’t easily open up. It’s becoming a really good social activity. There’s a massive gap in the market for this kind of football.”
Self employed software engineer Mike Kelly, 38, travels from Newton, near Kirkham and said: “It’s a way to get back in to football. I’ve not played in about five years since the birth of our second daughter. I used to play for a team on Sunday nights but it proved harder and harder to get people together to get a match. My wife saw an advert for Fit Football. I’ve been doing it now about 12 weeks. When I first started I could play for five minutes then had to come off. I was getting out of breath. Now I can play three games in a row.”
Even Paul’s brothers John,37 and Morgan, 19, have joined. Morgan said: “I want to get back into football. I think he has done a really good job.”
Michael Barnes,16, of Ribbleton agreed. He said: “I just really wanted to get back into football and find a football activity. I wanted to come and do something every Wednesday instead of sitting inside. I just wanted to get out and do something.”
* Expansion plans for 2019 include not just creating a new men’s division, but a Fit Football Juniors youth team.
* Charges for the not for profit Fit Football are £14.99 a month, with a match night sub of £4.00 each Wednesday.
* Paul hopes to start a new division within the next month if a minumum of 24 players come forward. See www.fitfootballfc.com for more information