Why we love Sunday League football

Football, at the top-level, has evolved a lot in recent years. Elite coaches now expect their players to keep to strict diets, develop their tactical knowledge through video analysis and avoid the temptation of nightclubs. In return for their dedication, their playing staff become some of the highest-paid employees in the country.

Literally none of the above translates to the world of Sunday League. Across the country, managers are picking their team based on who is the least hungover from the night before. Those unlucky enough to miss out have to run the line for the referee, with nothing actually painted on the grass to help them out. In fact, you’d be lucky if there is any grass at all on the swamp that you call your home pitch.

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How to become a successful grassroots coach

If the above sounds like a sweeping generalisation of the nation’s favourite pastime, that’s because it is. We’ve recently seen it first-hand, though, and our hilarious yet captivating experience on the touchline at a game in South Yorkshire proved to be extremely stereotypical of the environment we all know and love.

We documented the events of a massive cup semi-final in the Invitation Cup in the Sheffield Imperial League. Staffordshire Arms FC kindly invited us down so we could get an insight into the mind of a successful Sunday League coach.


Manager Paul Reed has been extremely successful since forming the club four years ago. In that time, Staff have won the cup and the league once before. Promotion is also on the cards this season, too. Reed’s self-acclaimed Steve Evans-like style might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you cannot deny that it works.

Given his evaluation of himself, Reed’s pre-match interview failed to disappoint. “All I want from the lads is 100% every week,” he told us, as if straight from the handbook of Footballing Clichés. “We don’t play a style of play; we try to match our opponent and whatever they bring to the table.”

Using a 3-5-2 formation is about as exotic as it gets for Reed. He centres his footballing philosophy on hard-work and graft, with set-pieces fundamental to Staff’s game plan. His colourful use of language sets the tone for his players and the team in the black and white adidas kit are the blood-and-thunder side you would expect from Sunday League.

The recipe for success as a grassroots manager? Well, if Reedy is anything to go by, then it is to keep it simple. On pitches such as Staffordshire Arms’, it is impossible to play tikki-takka football – so just don’t!

Penalty drama

Did Staffordshire Arms secure a place in the final? You bet they did.

After drawing 2-2, Paul and his side eventually won the tie 4-3 on penalties. Despite dominating their match with Shire FC, bottom of the league below, the side could not find enough to seal victory in normal time. Hitting the woodwork twice along the way, Staff also had numerous efforts cleared off the line. Fortunately, Reedy’s spot-kick takers kept calm when it mattered to secure a third final in three years.

Humble in victory, Reed showed his class immediately after the final whistle by consoling the losing visitors. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about his players, who sprinted straight past the opposition and to their goalkeeper, Jose. That’s what managers are for though, ey lads?

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Reflecting on the game, Reed had mixed emotions. “We haven’t performed as we should have, but at the end of the day we’ve got through. I thought it was a really good cup tie, and you’ve got to give credit to Shire FC,” he told us.

“We pay to play football and we have to work hard off the pitch to get the funds to do it. We do it for moments like that and I’m sure we’ll go back to the Staffordshire Arms, have about two gallons and get bladdered!”

If ever you could ask for a couple of sentences to sum up the difference between Premier League and grassroots football, that was it. Great stuff.

Good luck, Staffordshire Arms!

Kitlocker will be present at the final of the Sheffield Invitation Cup for the match at Parkgate, Sheffield, and we’re looking forward to cheering on Staffordshire Arms FC once again. With Reed at the helm, a second cup win in three years seems to be on the cards. Bring it home, lads!

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