Welcome to St Martins
Tue 17th July 2018 | St Martins | By Ian Templeman
The village of St Martin's, the spiritual home of St Martins FC, is in the North West of Shropshire, about six miles north of Oswestry, with the Welsh border just a few hundred yards down the road.
Unfortunately, the village won't be hosting any Hallmark Security League action this season, as the club has played home games for a number of years at the Venue in Oswestry, the home ground of League of Wales champions New Saints, and of course, existing league members FC Oswestry Town.
However, although their link with their Oswestry home base ground has only been in place for a few years, the history of St Martins FC goes back much further.
Before the 1914‐18 war specific details about the club are vague but is known that as early as 1897 the village had a team competing in the Oswestry & District League and local competitions. After playing in local leagues for many years, they then joined the Shropshire County League and won promotion into the West Midland League Second Division in 2010/11.
The club's General Manager and committee member Craig Rogers has over ten years of association with the club in various roles, and says there has been a loyal band of volunteers who have been committed to improving the status of the club during that period.
"The target of making St. Martins a better club started around 2005, when the then manager and former player Mike Hughes took the Club back into the Shropshire County League", said Craig.
"He and Benji Evans had two seasons in the County League before I was appointed in 2007, and this was the start of the club's climb, winning two leagues in three years and entering the West Midlands Regional League.
"During this period, due to ground issues, the decision was made to take up an offer to move to the Venue, which is about 2.5 miles outside St. Martins, to ground share with The New Saints.
"Fast forward to 2016, the club had been at step 7 for a few years, Derek Stokes, who had been with the club since he was 14 years old, was now 77 and very poorly, having to slowly step away.
Derek Stokes was the ultimate club stalwart, who played for the Saints from the tender age of 14, and won over 100 trophies while maintaining a healthy appetite for football, playing his final game for the Saints as a 60 year old.
"Derek’s dedication to the club included every possible role, from player, manager, treasurer, secretary to marking the pitch out and washing the kit. Derek played a significant role in negotiating the transfer of accommodation for the club to The Venue that enabled the club to function within the expectations of the West Midland League.
"Sadly, Derek passed away on Sunday 22nd January 2017 but has set a firm foundation for the Club and he will be sadly missed by the football fraternity of the West Midlands, and his beloved St. Martins".
The loss of such a figurehead would be a blow to any club, but as Craig explained, others came forward to help fill the void.
"New faces arrived to help the older guard out, Ex players Terry Ellis and Les Williams remained as Chairman and Vice Chairman, Nick Durman, father of a current player, stepped up to Secretary, and Andrew Joseph took on the role as treasurer.
"In October 2016, manager Ryan Butcher left for FC Oswestry Town and I returned as manager, lasting 6 games, losing every one of them by a large margin. This turned out to be a massive moment for me, as it prompted me to resign to become General Manager of the club.
"I felt the club needed fresh ideas and faces on and off the pitch, and in December 2016, just before Derek passed away, we appointed Dan Stevens as manager.
"The club at this point was bottom of the league, with a new manager and committee settling in and wondering if it was going to work. Luckily they say it is darkest before the dawn.
"Since then, we have gone from strength to strength, on the pitch has seen us collect plenty of points and a Divisional Cup to boot".
As the club began to stabilise, the committee then became aware in autumn last year that a new Division One South was being established in our League, and Craig says at that stage, there were a number of reasons that prompted them to submit an application.
"We had been having fixture issues with sharing with FC Oswestry Town and The New Saints, and we felt it would be much better if we was in the same league as Oswestry to help manage that", said Craig.
"We also thought the travelling would be much better, given the southern divide and also the professional package surrounding the NWCFL really attracted us to applying for the league.
"So as a committee, and with management and player input, we decided to apply and here we are!"
Looking ahead, Craig says everyone at the club is hopeful of making an impression as they prepare for their new challenge.
"We are a young side with talent and ambition, and we focus on the collective and not individuals", he said.
"Where we fit in terms of position in the league I could not say, as we don’t know the standard of teams really, but we will compete well on the pitch and make people welcome off the pitch.
"We are really looking forward to meeting new people and visiting new grounds, and we cannot wait to get going".