GREAT FUN: Barnard Castle Youth FC runs six teams – and is looking for more players of all ages
GREAT FUN: Barnard Castle Youth FC runs six teams – and is looking for more players of all ages

BARNARD Castle’s junior football teams are ready to kick-off again after the coronavirus pandemic ended last season prematurely.
Barnard Castle Youth FC, which runs six teams of different age groups, is appealing for more players to bolster its under-15s and under-13s squads (school years ten and eight respectively).
The club, which is based at the sports field next to Green Lane Primary School, is also keen to attract potential coaches who could run teams in the under 11s, under 9s and under 7s – sections which the club doesn’t have at present.
The club says it will offer extensive support and help train the coaches, as well as put them on official FA courses in the future. Chairman Darren Harrison said: “It’s a great little club with good facilities. We’re inclusive of all players and we make sure the children have fun – we’re not as competitive as some other clubs and like to make sure everyone gets a game.”
But that’s not to say the teams don’t enjoy their fair share of success on the field. For example, the under-9s reached the semi-final of the Challenge Cup before the pandemic caused the season to be abandoned in March.
Barnard Castle Youth FC is also seeking FA funding to improve pitches at Green Lane.
Parent volunteer Gareth Leonard, who is co-ordinating funding bids, said: “The best thing about the club is its friendly atmosphere. It’s a great environment to get children to play football safely and have fun. There’s a good social aspect for parents too.”
The club says it has a strong ethos of giving every child a chance on the pitch, with youngsters able to play fo0r the school year above.
Any child struggling to get game-time at a club elsewhere in the under-15s and under-13s teams would be welcome to play at Barnard Castle, said Mr Harrison, who added that they don't have to live in the town.
He added: “We’ll make sure they get a fair run-out at Barney. Some teams don’t do that and it can be disheartening just sat on the touchline.
“For £15 a month, children at Barney get two strips and training kit all paid for by the club.”
At present, FA rules allow grassroots sport to take place, provided certain measures are in place, such as social distancing on the sidelines for parents. However, clubs across the region are watching Covid-19 developments closely. The club, which plays in the Teesside Junior Football Alliance league, has its own facilities at Green Lane, including changing rooms. Weekly training sessions are held with matches played on Sunday mornings.
At present it runs under-8s, under-10s, under-12s, under-13s, under-14s and under-15s teams.
Mr Harrison said: “About five or six years ago, we were down to two or three teams, but we’re built it back up and now hope to go further.”
Barnard Castle juniors is keen to attract more referees, who can officiate from the age of 14.
“We can help them with courses and we pay them well to referee matches. It can be a nice little job,” said club secretary Catherine Spence.
Last month, Barnard Castle’s junior footballers entered into an agreement with the Bowes FC senior side, which aims to conclude with the amalgamation of the two clubs.
They have agreed to work together during the next two years which will initially enable both clubs to share resources, equipment and facilities when needed, while also providing a pathway for the oldest juniors into adult football when they are of age.
This move is already paying dividends with two players moving up to play for the senior team. Anyone interested in playing or helping at the junior team, can contact the club through its Facebook page, “Barnard Castle Youth FC”.