Bamber Bridge duo recognised for their efforts behind the scenes
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Club secretary Ward, 31, and 21-year-old kitman Knell are embracing a hands-on approach to make a difference across various departments at the Sir Tom Finney Stadium, with both sharing January’s Pitching In Northern Premier League Volunteer of the Month accolade.
Originally from Nottinghamshire, Ward started volunteering at Bamber Bridge as a thank you to the local community after the pandemic.
“I went down to meet the then club-secretary and chairman and had a bit of a chat, and got asked if I wanted to be the assistant club secretary,” he said.
“The idea was that the gentleman who had been in the role for quite some time would train me up and hand over the baton at some point.
“Circumstances transpired to mean that turned out not to be the case and within a month of making first contact, I was quickly promoted to club secretary and I’ve been there for around two years now.
“Everyone interacts with each other and it feels like one big unique family. As a failed footballer myself, this for me was a way of giving something back as part of a football club.”
Having first attended games with his grandad, Knell has provided an invaluable service in a variety of roles across the years.
“I sold programmes for a few years, and when I was about 12 or 13 I started to help with the car park and the stewards,” he said.
“One day, the old kitman asked me if I could help pre-game and during the game. I did that for years, and later another kitman asked me to go on some away games with him.
“Last season, Tony, the old kitman, retired and I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve done the odd stadium announcements as well and the other role I do is the club mascot.
“We had a game away from home and the person who normally did it was away, I ended up enjoying it a lot and I’ve done it for a lot of games since.
“It’s like a second home - I probably spend more time there than I do some weekends at home, because I love it that much.”
Volunteers like Ward and Knell are the heartbeat of non-league clubs up and down the country and Northern Premier League partners Pitching In have recently launched a Volunteer Hub to showcase opportunities across the country.
Both are hoping to see a steady stream of new faces joining them in giving up their time to help out, an endeavour that has brought mutual benefits for the pair and their club.
"I am massively humbled and grateful to jointly win the volunteer of the month award. I’ve loved being at Bamber Bridge since I joined the club two years ago and everyone has made me feel welcome and part of the Brig family from day one even though I’m not originally a local,” said Ward.
"I couldn’t do the job I do without the help and support of the players, the management team, all the committee members and our media lead. It’s genuinely a team effort and we’ve seen that in the performance on the pitch and the success off it in the last couple of years.
“I’ve made a lot of new friends and have developed some of my own personal skills when representing the club, so it has helped me develop as a person and in my day job.
"There is also a slightly more serious message in the real need for more volunteers to get involved in all non league clubs. These are the heartbeat of some communities and need people getting involved where they can even if it’s just an hour a week.
“It needs that new breed and blood of volunteers getting involved, developing fresh ideas and looking at how things can improve with technology. They’ll get a lot out of it.”
Knell added: “You get a different outlook on life and a different experience in football.
“You get to go behind the scenes and I would definitely recommend it. I’ve met some incredible people.”
PLEASE LEAVE IN FINAL PAR: Find volunteering opportunities at your local club by visiting https://pitchinginvolunteers.co.uk/