Thirty Year Celebrations:
The strip photograph at the head of this page was taken at Rowdown playing field in our first season, now please read on:
The suggestion to form a Little League in New Addington was first mooted early in 1976 when two members of the Little League National Executive - Malcolm Ash & Ron Hobbs - put the idea to leaders of local youth clubs. After some preliminary discussions an open meeting was held at the Community Centre in June 1977 when more than 250 people attended and about 200 trial forms for players were handed out.
At this meeting volunteers were sought to form a Little League committee and Cllr. Brenda Kirby and Jim Browne were among those who took up the challenge. Although not now formally connected with the league Brenda Kirby has throughout the last 30 years always given the league her wholehearted support while Jim Browne has continued as a league member from the day it was formed.
With co-operation from Croydon Council the first league game was kicked-off by Ronnie Corbett in 1977 at Northdowns playing field where three pitches were provided. Unfortunately a few years later the wooden changing rooms were destroyed in an arson attack and the league was forced to move to the site occupied by Warbank Social Club where it remained until a 6’ metal fence was erected between the club site and Warbank Crescent thus denying the league any vehicular access. So the league moved again, this time to it’s current site in the playing field at Rowdown Primary School.
From those early days when the league consisted of only six teams with a total 84 players the league has grown and now provides training and matches on a regular basis for about 200 children as detailed elsewhere on this site.
In June this year the league held a social evening at the Community Centre to which all current and former members were invited, also invited were Malcolm Ash and Ron Hobbs - the two National Executive members mentioned above who were responsible for helping to set up the league way back in 1977. Regrettably Brenda Kirby was out of the country and therefore could not attend but Jim Browne, along with some other founder members enjoyed the evening. A memento in the form of a leaflet was given out on the evening and the messages and some of the pictures contained in the leaflet are reproduced below.
Also shown below are some photographs taken during the evening with apologies to those who attended but whose pictures don’t appear - we did try but apparently failed to include everybody who attended.
Message from Ron Hobbs (National Executive):
30 years? It can’t possibly be so!
OK, so you’re right, it is now 30 years since the grand opening of the New Addington Little League. I remember it well as it finally arrived following months of preparation that started following a visit to the home of Brenda Kirby by Malcolm Ash and I to discuss the possibility of Little League Football in New Addington.
We were just two of a team that were dedicated to assisting in the national development of this unique concept of youth football. It was, and still is, the best youth football organisation in the country. Where else is there free football for children? Where else can children remain a member of a team and not be replaced at the whim of a team manager? What other League is managed by parents, have matches refereed by qualified match officials who, like everyone connected with a Little League, give freely of their time? Where else is football dedicated to providing highly organised, sponsored, free football for those who might lack ability, but have an abundance of enthusiasm. Where else is the emphasis on taking part for the sheer enjoyment of it, rather than with a win at all costs mentality?
Brenda and her colleagues recognised the value and benefits for the youth of New Addington and at a public meeting in a community hall near/in Featherbed Lane set about recruiting voluntary parental help to act on the committee that would govern the League, organise the trials and selection for the initial 6 teams, and gathering together a pool of qualified referees.
This culminated in a grand opening ceremony at North Downs Crescent at which the Mayor arrived to officially declare the League open following a parade of the 6 teams decked out in their new kit. He was assisted by Ronnie Corbett whose aside that if there was a spare kit he would be delighted to play, raised a smile. As always on these occasions Founder of L.L.F. Frank Adey and President of the day Tom Arnold were also pleased to attend.
I remember well assisting as an advisor and referee for the first season, and recall that the winter months were more than a bit nippy. As so many told me “It’s five overcoats colder up here than at Morden mate” and they were right.
On a personal note I became involved as a team manager in the first Little League at Morden way back in 1968 and along with others rapidly became obsessed with promoting L.L.F. nationally. The reception we received and the method we employed at New Addington was identical to that in the Boroughs of Merton, Sutton, Kingston, Wandsworth, Croydon, and in the West Midlands too where we assisted with the formation of Leagues in Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
I was proud to be a part of the success of Little League Football, as you all are justifiably so at New Addington. Just look at you now - a different and better venue, a 6 team League, Mini Soccer and a Bantams Division, excellent facilities, a superb, interesting and informative website, and an active and progressive Committee under the guidance of stalwart Jim Browne.
Congratulations, well done, and here’s to the next 30 years.
Ron Hobbs, Former National Secretary Little League Football
Message from Malcolm Ash (National Executive):
I have played Robin to Ron Hobbs’ Batman a couple of times over the years, setting up new Little Leagues. Some have been hard work, others almost set themselves up. New Addington LLF fell into the latter group – for the simple reason that in the community centre there were a group of enthusiastic workers all raring to go. People like Brenda Kirby, Ann Rayner, John Ware and of course Jim Browne.
It seemed no time at all before the small army of volunteers had arranged the pitches and begged, borrowed or otherwise acquired the kit and equipment. The first trials for the boys were organised for early September and ‘Kit Issue and Team Photo Day’ was fixed for the Saturday before the Grand Opening.
And on the big day there were assorted dignitaries including Frank Adey, the ‘inventor’ of Little League Football, in his 80’s now and still going strong, and Tom Arnold, the President in those days, now sadly no longer with us. The programme mentions Terry Venables, but I don’t remember him being there. But we did have one local celebrity in particular. Quite why it was my task on the opening day to ‘meet and greet’ Ronnie Corbett I don’t know, but he’s a lovely guy and the sort of chap I see eye to eye with. Ronnie was great with the kids and had us all laughing at his speech before the Mayor kicked off the League to a flying start.
Over the 30 years since that day, New Addington Little League has flourished, through the continued hard work and enthusiasm of generations of volunteers. And if anyone would care to pass me a glass of champagne, I’ll be delighted to drink to the health of the volunteers over the next 30 years.
Malcolm Ash, Formerly at West Sutton L.L. and Ex-National Executive
Message from Cllr. Brenda Kirby:
Thirty Years? Impossible, I’ve not been around that long! Hold on though, my son, Clifford is 39 and joined Martin’s Marvels (now Colts), aged 9, at the beginning so I guess that it must be so.
I wonder if anyone has done the calculation to see just how many young people have benefited from Little League in New Addington. Maths has never been my strong point but if we started with six teams of fourteen, progressed to another six teams of juniors, and now have a junior, junior league I guess it must be quite a few! It’s amazing to think that what started with a public meeting in a crowded hall so long ago has continued so successfully.
Maybe though, it’s not so amazing after all – Little League gives children an opportunity to achieve something, to be part of a team and to learn in a safe, supportive environment. Parents too become involved either working with the teams, washing the strip, running the canteen or just cheering their teams from the touchline. Little League is a family affair. We may be thirty years old but the basics remain the same. Little League has always been about sportsmanship, training and inclusivity, everyone can achieve something.
One of the things that I love about Little League today is seeing adult ex members returning, either with their own children or offering their services to the League. A number of ‘old’ members have also gone on to train as referees or coaches and to contribute to sport in other areas of the country. The managers obviously sparked something which has lasted in the team members.
Little League is not about any one person, it is about everyone who has contributed, children, parents, managers, committee members and those members of the National Committee who came to New Addington to help us get started. It is great to see the enthusiasm from 30 years ago is still there today even though some of those early enthusiasts are no longer with us.
Happy Birthday New Addington Little League! Thanks to everyone involved for working so hard and good luck for a long future – there’s a lot more children growing up and needing you!
Brenda Kirby – past parent – past manager – past secretary – past sponsor – PRESENT ENTHUSIAST!
Message from Jim Browne:
Little did I realise back in 1977, when being appointed as a slightly reluctant team manager, that I would still be greatly involved some 30 years later – and thoroughly enjoying that involvement.
In 1976 I was a member of the local Youth Workers Council along with leaders from other clubs and our aim was to generally improve youth oriented facilities on the estate and in that year we were approached by the Little League National Executive with a view to setting up a league in New Addington. The YWC members were all very keen on this project and in June 1977, with the help of Ron Hobbs, Malcolm Ash & Harry Lewis, a public meeting was arranged which over 250 people attended and about 200 trial forms were handed out; so the league was effectively set up and we played our opening matches in October.
In setting up the league we were very fortunate in that officials in various departments of Croydon Council were also very enthusiastic and provided us with pitches and the use of changing rooms and storage facilities at North Downs playing field at an extremely low cost. Unfortunately the changing rooms, which were constructed in timber, were burned to the ground in an arson attack and we not only lost the use of the facilities but all our equipment went up in the flames.
However Doug Shulver, one of our managers, was at that time trying to set up a football and social club on land behind the houses in Warbank Crescent and with his help we were able to continue as a league. We remained at this site until Croydon Council decided to erect a 6’ metal fence across the vehicle access point and our committee, in turn, decided that a new home had to be found and with more help from a very supportive Council official, Bernard Doswell, we negotiated a move to our present playing venue at Rowdown Primary School.
At Rowdown School we lease a pair of obsolete classrooms that had to be converted for our own use. I must mention that our work on the changing rooms was aided by a £5000.00 grant of materials from B&Q and by two substantial financial grants from the Metropolitan Police. But here again we have had our problems with a number of break-ins and as a result have been forced to have metal roller shutters installed at a cost of several thousand pounds to secure the two entrances.
It is very pleasing that over the 30 years we have always had a nucleus of members who were prepared to put their backs into carrying out the work necessary for the league to continue, especially with the major jobs such as completely replacing the roof of the changing rooms, re-cladding the walls internally and externally, installing new doors and completely rewiring the electrical system including replacing the lighting.
And with the blessing of the Head Teacher we have been able to set up two 11-a-side and two 7-a-side pitches on the understanding that we keep the grounds on and around the pitches in good repair and mark out a running track each summer.
With regard to the teams, in 1977 we had six who played 11-a-side matches and in 1988 another six teams of younger players who played 7-a-side games were formed. Then in 2005 training sessions for 6 & 7 year olds were started with a view to them joining the league when they were old enough and these sessions became very popular; there are now about 50 ‘Bantams’ who in addition to training also play matches on Saturdays after the 7-a-side games have finished. Finally, this year our Chairman started training sessions for girls only and here again these ‘Wildcat’ sessions are proving to be very popular.
This being our 30th anniversary year we will in June be having a ‘Party in the Park’ on the school playing field hopefully with some small competitive inter-team events culminating with the presentation of the annual awards.
There is so much more that I could write about these 30 very enjoyable years and I’ve not even mentioned the teams or the players and their managers.
Jim Browne, Founder member
The following photographs are of some of the guests who attended the social evening with apologies to those whose pictures do not appear.