One of Leighton’s last two men’s Saturday sides have been saved from having to fold, 25 years after their first match.
Southcott Village Residents Association FC recently completed a quarter-century, but were expected to pack up their kits after long-serving manager Luke Del-Greco decided to step down from his role, leaving the club’s future in doubt.
But now the club’s first-ever goalkeeper and original manager Nick Wall is set to replace him.
And he will run the team with Ben Barker, who is not only a former player too but used to watch them as a schoolboy.
The club formed around Southcott Village Club in Grasmere Way, Linslade, and Luke was involved from the first season.
He told the LBO: “A few of the lads at the club brought it together - lads like John Griffin and Nick Wall.
“We had nothing going on on a Saturday, and thought ‘Why not get a team together?’.”
Luke’s brother Liberato was involved in the team from the first season too, as well players from Liberato’s work such as Craig Kench who quickly became a fixture in the team.
And although Luke did not start out as manager he took up the reigns at the end of the club’s first season - with his first game the North Bucks and District Football League Cup Final.
“We won that, and from then on I was manager,” said Luke.
From the very beginning Southcott have always had a team filled with players from Leighton Buzzard.
Key players from those early seasons include the likes of Ian Mortimer, Colin Knight, Nick Scott, Peter Raza, Manny Barker, Jamie Hayden, Chris Mason and Wayne Kench.
“That original group played together for four or five years and went through the leagues together,” said Luke.
“I think we reached the Prem just seven or eight years after starting at the bottom of the league.
“One of my biggest disappointments was in 1996-97 when we should have done the treble.”
Luke, who is a father of three and has lived in town all his life, said that he loved the sense of community at the team most of all.
He said: “I must have re-built the team three or four times as players got older or moved on to other sides.
“I’d go to Sunday matches and watch players, and if I walked through town I’d always see people I knew from football.
“We must have had 150-200 people play for the club, and that’s what it’s all about.
“But there are a lot of changes now. When we started we were one of six or seven Saturday teams, now it’s only us and Leighton Town.”
Luke, who works as a senior support worker in children’s homes, added: “When I was young people didn’t work Saturdays.
Now teenagers have to have Saturday jobs, and even if they don’t then the young lads who play for us will go off to university or start working shifts when they leave school.
“We’ve had some good lads who joined us as teenagers and stayed with the team, like Sean Sinnott and Paolo Aquilla, but there has been this real shift over the last 10-15 years.
“Then you have a rise in the number of people who’d rather watch football than play it,too.
“But teams like Southcott are the real grassroots of the game.”
>> If you would be interested in playing for Southcott Village RAFC visit the club and leave a message for Nick or Ben, or visit the team’s Facebook page.