Aylesbury United Ladies & Girls FC have been shortlisted by Berks & Bucks FA for Coach of the Year and Project of the Year in this year's FA & McDonald's Grassroots Football Awards.
James Byrne, U12 Greens manager, has been shortlisted for Coach of the Year in recognition of his hard work in growing grassroots football in Aylesbury. James originally started coaching football 15 years ago when a friend asked him to help with a newly-formed U8s boys team, which he managed for a further eight seasons. James’s daughter wanted to try football so he started Mini Ducks for boys and girls aged three to six years; she was the only girl and quit after a few months but James continued running the sessions for three years. His disabled son was interested in playing football so James set up inclusive football; his son only went once but James continued coaching inclusive football for four years. When his daughter was older she wanted to play girls-only football so James started girls-only training. Some weeks it was just his daughter training alone but James persevered, recruited more players and encouraged parents to help with the coaching. The younger section of the club has grown each season and from that one girl there are now 95 girls playing U9s to U14s football. James is a lifelong Ducks fan, he played U11s to U16s football for the club and was a regular ball boy at home games. He is a Director of Aylesbury United and was Vice Chairman of Aylesbury United Juniors for four years.
“James is everything a grassroots coach should be,” said U12 Whites manager, Jon Bishop. “He is kind, understanding and always has the girls' best interest at heart. He is one in a million and I can honestly say that we, as a club, are very lucky to have him.” Paul Robinson, U11s manager, was equally complimentary about James: “The effort James puts in behind the scenes, not just managing his own team but also supporting the other managers, is a testament to the passion he has for grassroots football. He is always willing to go the extra mile for the club.”
The club has also been shortlisted for Project of the Year for the ‘Female Futures in Sport’ careers event which was organised by the club’s Treasurer, Jason Savage. Sub-titled ‘Kick-off your career and turn your passion for football into your job’, the event featured guest speakers from Berks & Bucks FA, Milton Keynes College, Bucks Sports Academy, GPS Oxford Academy and the University of Bedfordshire who shared their experiences and offered advice on the different pathways and options available to girls interested in pursuing a career in sport. This was the first time that such an event had been organised and everyone left feeling inspired about the opportunities available to the next generation of female footballers.
The annual FA & McDonald's Grassroots Football Awards recognise and reward the people, clubs and leagues delivering grassroots football in England. “We had a record number of nominations this year,” said a Berks & Bucks FA representative. “The shortlisted nominees in this year's Awards should be incredibly proud of their achievement.”
The Awards evening will be held at Stadium MK, the home of MK Dons, on Friday the 28th June. The local winners are automatically put forward for the national awards and will be invited to the National FA Award Ceremony to be held at Wembley on the 4th August to coincide with The FA Community Shield celebrations.