Martin Ling and Charlie George

Club in Focus: Colebrook Royals FC

40 Teams and 450+ Members Celebrating 25th Anniversary

Essex-affiliated club Colebrook Royals FC are celebrating their 25th anniversary by recalling their numerous success stories from well over two decades.

Royals, based in Chigwell at the Grange Farm Trust facility, have worked tirelessly to ensure there is a pathway for youngsters at the club, with a number of initiatives in place to guide the players of tomorrow through their youth age groups. The club have seen huge growth during a quarter of a century, alongside support from the Essex County FA.

Colebrook have benefitted from Football Foundation grants, giving them access to high-quality grass pitches, and this backing has provided them with solid foundations for further growth. Since moving to Grange Farm, they’ve expanded from twelve teams to the 40 they have lining-up for 2023/24.

One of the club’s many coaching initiatives is the ‘Royals Futures’ Programme, which aims to put young players through their coach and refereeing qualifications, to eventually help out at the club. They have already boasted success from this programme, with referee Alfie Cheal winning the Nationwide Community Award for refereeing.

Royals also benefit from strong Links with Leyton Orient FC, through mutual connections. They are in partnership with The O’s to run their development programme for players aged 7-12, and they’ve seen several prospects sign-up to the academy. In the last five years, the club have also provided support to children the year before they are eligible to play more structured football, through their ‘Soccer Sixes’ Programme, which helps the players to prepare in the Under 7s age group.

The club have found themselves linked to a variety of former professional footballers, who assist in numerous ways. These include Joe Cole, Jay Bothroyd and Alan McCormack, who played as Colebrook Royals triumphed in the 2022/23 Essex Sunday Junior Trophy Final. Former Premier League footballer David Kerslake has also lent his knowledge to coaches and players alike.

“I work alongside teams each week, to give them some advice and support, and chat to the players about their weekend games,” David explained. “But, most importantly, I offer the coaches ideas from my experience so they can develop themselves. The coach and manager development days I’ve delivered have been a real inspiration for me. To give something back into grassroots football is definitely worth it. Here’s to the next 25 years!”

Chairman John Eagleton has reflected fondly on the club’s first quarter-centenary, whilst also looking forward to the future. “My own journey started in 1997 as a coach when Colebrook had just two teams playing at Willingale Playing Fields in Loughton,” he recalled. “My progression to Secretary, then Chairman, has been a great experience. There have been many challenges along the way, but I can reflect on my own personal path in grassroots football as a very enjoyable one.”

The club's growth and development has been a real highlight, with a few milestones to note. These include travelling to parts of Europe for young teams to play football overseas, and gaining Football Foundation funding to enable the club to move to their own home ground at Grange Farm in 2012. “We have an excellent small army of volunteers who make football happen for the 40 teams at Colebrook, from Under 7s to Men's Veterans,” John continued.

“We have a thriving Saturday Soccer School and a 'Royals Futures' Programme we are very proud of. Giving young people the opportunity and the chance to follow a pathway in the sport they love is something very special. We look forward to the next 25 years and the next generation of young players enjoying grassroots football in Essex.”

If you’d like to take part in Essex grassroots football as a player, coach, referee or volunteer, please browse the menu at the top of this page to find out about the available opportunities. You can also interact with @EssexCountyFA on Twitter/X and search for ‘EssexFootball’ on Facebook.

colebrook royals fc

Profiling key club members and a key project...

Profiling… Martin Ling and Charlie George

The club has links to a host of former professional footballers. Martin Ling, current Director of Football at Leyton Orient FC, claims the club helped him through a difficult time in his life.

“Colebrook was a great support to me and they helped me regain my confidence after suffering with mental health issues,” explained the former Cambridge United and Swindon Town boss. “It was great to be back working in such a positive environment. Working with the young players and young coaches brought me great joy. I got back involved because the club was well-organised and wanted to improve, and I felt I could help with this by passing on my experience.”

One of the club’s many success stories has been Charlie George, who started on the Royals Futures Programme and was put through his coaching qualifications. With support from the club, he headed off to the University Campus of Football Business (UCFB) where, due to his links with Royals, he was recommended for a player analysis internship at Leyton Orient FC.

Since then, he’s been promoted to Head of Player Analysis at Orient, and he’s also grateful for the support of Royals. Charlie still comes back to help out when he can, and he recommends getting involved in a grassroots club if you’re interested in a career in football: “The Royals Futures Programme enabled me to learn the key fundamentals of working within football through work experience opportunities in admin, coaching and grounds maintenance.”

“I was supported and funded by the club with coaching badges from the age of 16 and was given the opportunity to learn and coach regularly at the Soccer School. Get involved in any way you can with a good grassroots club. That may be supporting the organisation and management of sessions, to assisting club officials. Learning how different areas of clubs operate taught me coaching and analysis was the perfect path for me. This led me to my choice of university degree.”

Martin and Charlie are pictured above.

Profiling… The Limes Farm Project

Colebrook have also involved themselves in the Limes Farm Project in partnership with Limes Farm Community and Epping Forest Council. The project aims to combat anti-social behaviour by placing coaches to mentor local residents so they can run two one-hour indoor football sessions, as well as supporting them to gain qualifications.

Club Chairman John Eagleton was instrumental in setting up the free football sessions and, when they were experiencing some issues, the club immediately stepped in with support. Wendy Cockbill, Senior Community Engagement Officer at Epping Forest Council, is delighted with the success of the project. She said: “John and Colebrook Royals FC initially helped the Limes Farm Community Group and our Epping Forest Community Champions to set up the Limes Farm Colts.”

“This is a free football club for the local community. In the summer of 2023, there were some issues with the running of the club, so I contacted John again. He immediately stepped back in to support us and make it a success once again. They now have over 30 young people who attend the weekly sessions. His staff are amazing with the young people and the parents have commented on how happy they are with the running of the club. I cannot thank Colebrook and John enough.”

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