Northfield Little League History

 

 

              Phil Summerill

 

Northfield Little League was one of many Little Leagues which was set up in the Birmingham area following the Handsworth riots in 1985.

Following the riots, meetings were held between the Social Services, West Midlands Police and other bodies to see what could be done to improve social conditions. Amongst the attendees was Kevin McCarthy, who worked for the Social Services but before moving  to the West Midlands, Kevin had been a St John Ambulance volunteer, regularly attending to the Morden players’ injuries. He had seen Little League in action and knew what a force it was for social cohesion. So one of the ideas taken up by the authorities was to set up a Little League in each of the thirty two districts of Birmingham.

It was ex Birmingham City player Phil Summerill who was sent up from Morden to expand the Little Leagues Nationally. At the time Phil worked with Birmingham City Council in the Football / Sport Development Department.  He went on to set up several Little Leagues starting with Ladywood in 1986.

Northfield was established in 1989 with Phil Summerill taking the helm. With the right connections and agreements with Birmingham Parks and Recreational department, Northfield Little League were homed at Victoria Common, Northfield.

The first season  began on Saturday 9th September 1989 and consisted of six teams: Pavelodge Players, Stratten United, Bali Rangers, Bearwood Gunners, Whatmech and Rover F.C. 

Northfield Little League was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Frederick John Chapman with Players being marched onto the pitch in front of a packed crowed who spectated from all sides of the pitch.

One of the first team sponsorships was Rover, with the team manager at the time working at the Longbridge car manufacturers.  In 1989 the YMCA also let Northfield Little League use their facilities for changing rooms, Café and 5-a-side Tournament, with thanks to Northfield Little League’s first Chairman, Brian Adams who worked there. This was a generous feature which lasted to the late 90’s.

In the background Volunteers / Parents helped out giving up their time to ensure the League ran successfully. Parents of players assisted in putting up the goals and helped in other showing great community spirit. Most notably there were two volunteers Marlene and Frank O’Brien who are still Little League Officials.

Marlene and Frank took their sons every week to participate in the League. Marlene was known for helping out on Café duty, which ran from the YMCA just adjacent from the pitch. Both then became qualified Referees and have devoted their life to football.

After seeing their sons moving on after the Little League retirement age, Marlene inadvertently became League Secretary in 1991 following John Mortimer stepping down. She was a Little League Football NEC member representing the Birmingham Little Leagues from the West Midlands Division.  Frank was elected Chairman of Northfield Little League and both are well respected and recognised not just within Little League Football, but the Birmingham County F.A

 In 1992 the Bournville Village Trust sponsored the League, Bournville Colts and Village Rangers were the two teams to have name changes.

 At the start of the 2000/01 season, Derek Lill brought his son along to play on Saturday mornings. Derek at the time managed a Cadbury Athletic junior team and has sponsored the league for many years by providing high quality trophies and mementoes for the competitions which are held annually. He too is also a qualified referee and has helped out with the National Rep Team over the years.

In 2005 Pavelodge started their season in dark blue with a new kit which was purchased pre -season, this inevitably left Rangers to switch to a yellow jersey!

In 2008 Northfield Little League provided kits for a Uganda Appeal, in which members of the local Northfield Community, Chris and Alex Lubin went to deliver the kits to a local in Kotomor, Uganda.

In 2013 the old Northfield pavilion was knocked down, which made way for the current porter cabins which opened in 2014/15 season and is used by Northfield Little League which has both storage and changing rooms. The League also had to make changes on the pitch as the teams switched from 11 v 11 to 9 v 9 following changes in the "laws of the game". At the Presentation Evening following the end of the season, Phil Summerill returned to present an award to both Marlene and Frank for their exceptional service. A great occasion which without local football presenter, Tom Ross wouldn't have been possible.
 
The Mini League restarted after a few years absence at the start of 2016/17 season with thirty children (u9’s / u10’s) and the teams were Tigers, Leopards, Lions, Lynx, Panthers and Jaguars. Sponsorship from Howdens Joinery helped fund the leagues trophies at the end of season disco.

Ex Rover Manager, Kevin help secure a sponsor from the Provisional Grand Lodge of Worcestershire, St Laurence Lodge, Freemasonry with their generous donation helping towards this 2017/18 season. On the pitch saw Rover had a kit colour change, wearing a maroon kit despite playing in light blue for years. The pitch itself saw a slight renovation with it being moved 90 degrees following renovation work on the waste pipe underground. This saw relations between Birmingham Parks and Recreation rebuild and permanent goals being erected by the council.