How Burley’s Warriors can help Hucknall Town return to glory days

Players from Hucknall Warriors' U14s' team at Hucknall Town's Watnall Road ground.
Players from Hucknall Warriors' U14s' team at Hucknall Town's Watnall Road ground.

Amid the high-octane title celebrations at Hucknall Town last month, the first fruits were borne of a partnership that could guarantee the club a rosy future.

The sizeable crowd at Watnall Road that greeted the Yellows clinching the Central Midlands League champions’ crown was Paul Burley, chairman of Hucknall Warriors, one of the town’s youth football clubs.

Managers at Hucknall Warriors.

Managers at Hucknall Warriors.

Town and Warriors had forged a tentative link at the start of the season, and one of Burley’s jobs as a new committee man was to enliven the club’s website and boost its presence on social media.

A video of the match highlights and celebrations was right up Burley’s street, and its success underlined how the relationship between the clubs had blossomed during such a momentous campaign.

“It was a 17-minute video that took me seven hours to put together,” said Burley. “But it was so well received and actually went viral. It had 1,200 views over the next few days.

“Since I became involved, the number of Town’s followers on Facebook and Twitter has risen by 20 per cent.

Warriors' chairman Paul Burley with his Town counterpart, Bob Scotney.

Warriors' chairman Paul Burley with his Town counterpart, Bob Scotney.

“It has increased awareness of the club and created a bit of a buzz and excitement. You can’t drag people to the ground. You have to create awareness and then capitalise on that.”

Refreshing, forward-thinking talk from Burley, 57, who has established himself as one of the most respected guardians of youth football in Hucknall since he established Warriors back in 2006.

“We started it from nothing, with just one team,” he said. “But we became one of the quickest clubs to gain the Notts FA Charter Standard, demonstrating that we wanted to run it properly, in terms of structure, finances and child welfare.

“Four years ago, we were named the Young Elizabethan League club of the year, from hundreds of others, which was a very big milestone.

“Now, we run four teams, at U7s, U9s, U11s and U14s, plus a senior side, and we operate soccer schools. We have 75 players on our books, nearly all from the Hucknall area.

“It is all a massive responsibility. We teach basic football skills and make it fun. But we also change lives, instilling life skills such as teamwork, communication and discipline.”

Burley admits he has had his eye on a link-up with Town for a long time and spent many months holding talks with first-team boss Andy Graves and chairman Bob Scotney, who were also keen.

The ultimate dream would be for Warriors to provide players for the Yellows’ first team. But Burley is sure both clubs can benefit in many ways.

“The idea behind it was for Town to have a youth set-up again, in partnership with a Charter Standard club that has been fairly successful and is well respected. From our point of view, it would give us kudos to be part of a Hucknall Town club that is making massive strides again, moving in the right direction, having cleared all its debt.

“It has worked well. We have had a few mascot days at Town, held penalty shootouts at half-time of matches and young players have attended Town games for free.

“It has seemed like a good fit and during the summer, I am sure will sit down and rubberstamp the relationship.

“We have already come up with our motto -- two clubs, one purpose, building a better football community.”

As an ardent Notts County fan, Burley, whose wife Sue is Warriors’ secretary, is well used to setbacks.

But as a drummer in a band in his spare time, he is also keen to bang the drum of Town, whom he firmly believes are capable of restoring their glory days, particularly when the move to their new ground is completed.

And as an experienced managing director of a company in the energy efficiency industry, he possesses the kind of business acumen that Town would be wise to embrace.

“There is so much good goes on at Hucknall Town, and no-one there makes a ha’penny,” he said. “The club exists purely and simply because of people doing stuff voluntarily, and all for absolutely nothing. Compare that to Manchester City!”