Way back in March a group of about 40 teenagers and young men from Mixenden, Ovenden and Illingworth began playing informal football games between themselves.
It started as a bit of fun but 5 months later things have really progressed, inspiring partnership working in North Halifax and capturing the hearts and minds of the community along the way.
Ovenden and Mixenden Initiative approached the youths initially because they had been using pitches in North Halifax without permission, and were starting to find themselves in trouble. The lads said that they really wanted to start an open-age team but they didn’t know how to go about it.
“It was clear from the beginning that this was a serious group of young men” said Karen Scanlon, Ovenden and Mixenden Initiative.
“They’d already organised regular Ovenden v Mixenden matches, and nominated Ozzy as their coach. I told them honestly, I know nothing about football, so don’t ask me! But if you’re serious about setting up a team, I can put you in touch with the right people”
So, Karen set up meetings with Joe Collins from Ovenden Sports and Community Arena (OSCA) and Steve Smith from Ovenden West Riding and over 20 of the lads turned up, keen to make a good impression, and prove that they were committed.
Karen’s husband Ade Scanlon initially volunteered to mentor and support 22 year old Michael Ozwin as team coach.
“We really didn’t expect this support, we never thought anyone would really take us seriously as a group of lads but we’ve have chance to work with a load of people and services we’d never normally meet.
It’s been challenging at times but worth all the hard work because now it’s all coming together and we can’t wait to start the season!” Adam Raynor, aged 19
Some of the boys have had a difficult past, and to signify a positive change they decided to call themselves ‘Ovenden Phoenix’ as the team is now affiliated under the Ovenden West Riding umbrella, and like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the name demonstrated the lads commitment to turning their lives around.
OSCA have helped the lads apply for funding from Ovenden Community First to pay for registration fees and use of the facilities at OSCArena, Four Fields, Ovenden.
Dom Furby, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has been really supportive of the lads, meeting with them to talk through fundraising ideas and publicity, arranging for a visit from Huddersfield Town players, and setting up a pre season match against the Fire Service in August.
The Fire Service has also helped to pay for the team kit and equipment, and had the logo designed by the lads, made into an official badge for the team.
PCs Ian Harris, Gary Watson and Dave Illingworth have all dropped in on training at Beechwood Park.
PC Illingworth even drove the minibus, lent to them by Halifax Police Boxing Club so the lads could attend the Emergency Services Open Day at Birkenshaw earlier this month.
You might have seen some of the lads out and about at other community events in the area too, including Illingworth Fire Station Open Day and Car Wash and Ash Green School Fun Day. Some of them have started volunteering with the Pennine Housing fencing programme and with the Happy Days charity at Threeways.
10 of the players attended the last Ovenden Ward Forum meeting in June looking for support. They spoke to local residents about their plans for the future, and what they’ve achieved so far.
“It was really refreshing to hear a nice group of young lads talking with so much enthusiasm and pride. They deserve a chance. You can hear that they are genuinely grateful for all the support they’ve received so far” Val Kelly, local resident.
Throughout August, Ovenden Phoenix are taking part in a number of pre season matches:
- Friday 8 August friendly match against Pennine Housing at Grove Avenue, Ovenden 1pm, part of Pennine Housing Fun Day
- Sunday 10 August playing in OSCA’s 6-aside football tournament at Four Fields, Ovenden, from 10am.
- Sunday 24 August pre season match with officers from the Fire Service and Police at Trinity Academy, 1pm kick-off.
Please come along to these events and support the team!