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The goals are flowing as Gala Wilton Football Club are a club moving in the right direction

Gloucester > Sport > Football

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Thursday, 24th October 2019, 09:00

Ryan Dobbins Ryan Dobbins

Something appears to be stirring at Gala Wilton Football Club.

The go-ahead club started the new County League season in cracking form; winning games, scoring goals for fun and scorching to the top of the table.

It was all a far cry from the past two or three seasons when the club have been languishing at the wrong end of the table and have faced a battle to stay in the division.

Ian Merrick, who took over as manager at the start of the 2016/17 season, is obviously delighted with the turnaround although he is keen to stress that it has been a real team effort.

“Dan Gillespie came in as joint manager at the start of the season and he’s been massive for the club,” said Merrick, who turns 35 on Guy Fawkes night.

“We brought in seven or eight new players and it just seems to have clicked.”

Indeed it has and Merrick is certainly happy to be looking up towards the top of the table after their almost thrill-a-minute start to the campaign.

“It’s a three-year plan for Gilly (Dan Gillespie) and me,” continued Merrick. “The aim is to get into the Hellenic League, I think a club of our size should be playing at that level alongside the likes of Tuffley Rovers and Longlevens.

“Hopefully we can win promotion, it’s nice to have a bit of momentum.”

And that momentum is not just on the pitch, it’s off it too.

While the likes of Ryan Dobbins, Martin Smith and James Bowers have been star turns in the club’s blistering opening to the campaign, there are just as many unsung heroes who go about their work off the field who perform vital roles as well.

“Paul Bowers brings in a lot of the sponsorship for the club and Ian Avent, who was the treasurer up until recently, is one of the driving forces at the club,” said Merrick.

“Then there’s Roy Leese who is our kitman, he’s brilliant. Roy and his wife sort out all the kit for all our senior teams, they wash it and lay it out on matchdays.”

That’s no easy task because as well as running the County League side, the club also have two other adult Saturday teams competing in the Cheltenham League – one in Division Two and the other in Division Four.

The reserves play a good number of their home games at the impressive Gala Club in Fairmile Gardens, Longford, while the 3rds play at either nearby Plock Court or the 4G pitch at Oxstalls.

“We’ve got some fantastic facilities,” said Merrick, “and we’ve got a great clubhouse, you couldn’t ask for more. We train every Tuesday at Oxstalls so we’re very fortunate.”

Merrick is hoping that the reserves, in particular, will be able to make a bit of a promotion charge this season.

“The higher the level they can play the better because at the moment it is a big jump to the County League,” he said.

“Matt Woodcock took over as manager halfway through last season and he kept them up, he did a fantastic job.

“It’s very important to get promoted and I think they’ll surprise a few teams, they’ve added to their squad.”

Merrick knows what he is talking about because he has been involved in football pretty much all of his life.

He played youth team football for Windsor Drive in Gloucester before moving on to Ledbury Town where he played in the West Midlands Premier Division.

That was where he spent the bulk of his career – it was a decent standard – moving to Gala Wilton in his late 20s before he pretty much hung up his boots when he moved into management.

“I sort of fell into management,” he said. “The club needed someone so I said I’d do it.”

Merrick had had some previous coaching experience because he’d been in charge of Ledbury’s under-18s so he wasn’t a complete novice and he’d obviously been a decent player – he was a right back – back in the day.

So what sport of right back was he? Was he a Gary Neville up and down the pitch type of player or was he one of the more skilful Trent Alexander-Arnold types that we see today?

“Gary Neville, absolutely,” laughed Merrick. “That was definitely me, I made absolutely everything of what talent I had. I managed to play at the level I did because of my attitude.”

And it’s that hardworking, can-do attitude that is now helping to transform Gala Wilton Football Club.

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