Future looks bright for Fry's AFC

December 07 2013

Determination and a unifying focus on building the club’s reputation earned promotion for Fry’s AFC’s first team at the end of last season.

Determination and a unifying focus on building the club’s reputation earned promotion  for Fry’s AFC’s first team at the end of last season.

This unwavering drive is also what’s keeping them near the top of the Premier Division in the Somerset County League this season – but alone it won’t be enough to achieve their ambition of entering the Toolstation Western League, level pegging with local rivals Keynsham Town.

With growing confidence in the squad’s abilities on the pitch, those leading the club say it’s the simple matter of floodlighting that could be the only obstacle to reaching their goal, as clubs in the higher league must have grounds that meet a certain standard. Fry's first team today

But the redevelopment of Somerdale, creating a new community on the site of the former factory where Fry’s AFC play, could prove perfect timing for the club. Plans by Taylor Wimpey include a brand new Fry Club, new changing rooms and new pitches – one equipped with the all-important floodlights.

Kev Saunders, Fry Club AFC chairman, said the club has drawn up a five-year plan to get where it wants to be. He said:   “The development is not just very positive for us, it's crucial. The first team can’t go any higher without floodlights, it’s quite clear how important they are to us. The sooner we get new facilities the better, as it will help us  retain the best under-18s.”

Training up and bringing on the club’s younger players in the adult teams is a big part of the plan, Kev explains, and he added: “When a club is quite successful at the top it impacts on the teams at junior level – they see the facilities and the recognition and want to be part of it.”

First team coach Rob Mallett is himself a player who has been involved with the club from an early age, as has club captain Liam Osbourne and many others. Loyalty plays an important part at the club, with players funding their own kit and paying subs at each game, ensuring the club is self-sufficent.

Rob said: “Around 50 per cent of the first team squad have worked their way up through the junior section, while the remainder are from the surrounding area, like Longwell Green and Kingswood. Without floodlights, we’ve lost players to other clubs like Paulton, Bitton and Keynsham – this should put us on a level playing field.”

So a local derby between Keynsham’s two teams might not be far off, then, with the teams in different leagues but just six places apart?

“The reserves have played Keynsham Town reserves in the past,” Liam said. “But to see the first teams play is really where we want to get to.”

But despite the focus on the future, the squad haven’t taken their eye off the ball for this season, which has seen them holding their own near the top of the table, even beating cup favourites Minehead 2-1, which Rob said was a real highlight for the players. And by playing quality football, the club is hoping this will bring more
supporters through the gates to help it grow. Fry's first team in 1921

“We didn’t really know what to expect from this season – we didn’t have too many expectations and were thinking ‘let’s just get to Christmas and see where we are’. But now we’re fourth having played 16 games, and if we win the next two games then we are in the mix for top of the table.”

Kev adds: “In five years’ time we are going to have a mature squad to take us through the next five years. The exciting thing is, if we are this good already where will we be in two or three years’ time  when everybody’s used to working together?”

News of the new facilities isn’t just well-timed for the club's push to move up the leagues – 2016 is also Fry’s AFC’s centenary year when there will hopefully be plenty to celebrate.

Kev said: “There used to be a real feel of Sunday afternoon park football – we’ve totally moved on from that, being as professional as we can be. Many of the players are fully involved behind the scenes, too – it’s all hands on deck, not just turning up to play a game.”