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Tuffley Rovers are a club with plenty of ambition

Gloucester > Sport > Football

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Wednesday, 24th July 2019, 09:00

Neil Spiller Neil Spiller

Neil Spiller is a huge football fan.

He’s passionate about the sport and one of his driving forces is to make the great game accessible to anyone and everyone who wants to play it.

Fortunately, his position as both football chairman and football secretary of Tuffley Rovers Football Club gives him the chance to make that happen, certainly in and around Tuffley where he has lived pretty much all his life.

Spiller, who works in information management, reckons he spends 20 to 30 hours on Tuffley Rovers business every week “and that’s not including all the games I attend,” he adds.

He didn’t miss a first-team game last season – watching 45 games, home or away – and including the club’s other teams he says he watched 75 games in total.

And there are quite a few teams at Tuffley, a club that are celebrating their 90th year this year.

They run five adult Saturday teams – the flagship team play in the Premier Division of the Hellenic League – and two veterans’ teams on a Sunday.

They also have an under-18s’ team and this year for the first time they will run a ladies’ team who will compete in Division Three of the Gloucestershire County Women’s League.

They will be managed by Billy Walker and Spiller said: “I’m really pleased about it, It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

“We try to offer football for anyone who wants to play it, we want as many people to participate as possible.

“We want to run as many as teams as we can subject to affordability.”

Tuffley’s reserves play in Division One of the Northern Senior League and their other three Saturday teams play in the Stroud League so there’s quality as well as quantity.

And there’s unlikely to be a shortage of players moving into Tuffley’s adult teams over the next few years because the club have established much closer links with Tuffley Rovers Youth.

“We’re separately affiliated but we’ve been working much more closely over the past two or three years,” explained Spiller. “We’ve bridged the gap, or at least begun to make real strides.”

This has included two years of jointly running a large scale six-a-side competition that helps bring in much needed revenue to the club.

That’s very good news, of course, because Tuffley Rovers are an ambitious club.

“Long-term we want to play at as high a level as we can,” said Spiller.

“We’re at Step 5 of the National League system at the moment and in an ideal world we’d love to get to Step 4. That would be in the Southern League where teams like Slimbridge, Cinderford Town and Cirencester Town play but we’ve got to put quite a lot of things in place before that can even begin to happen.”

Guiding the first team is manager Mark Pritchett, who is looking forward to his fourth season in charge.

The club finished 15th in the Premier Division of the Hellenic League last season and Spiller said: “We had a good 2019, we had some excellent results and pulled away from the relegation zone after a very poor start to the season.

“Last season was tough because we lost a number of experienced players and brought in some youngsters.

“A couple of years ago we finished 10th and our best finish in this millennium is eighth.

“That’s my first target, to finish higher than that but that’s in the medium term. Our best ever finish is fourth and one day I’d like to match that, but we can’t run before we can walk.”

More immediately, Spiller would love a good run in one of the knockout competitions.

“The FA Cup and the FA Vase are very important to us,” Spiller said. “Four years ago we reached the first qualifying round of the FA Cup. We started in the extra preliminary round and had to win three games to reach the first qualifying round, where we eventually lost to Taunton Town.

“Our best ever FA Cup performance was in 1999/2000, when we made the second qualifying round and lost after a replay.

“You get about £2,000 to £3,000 for winning a game in the early stages – the prize fund increases in every round - and that money is very important to a club like Tuffley.

“We had a similar run in the FA Vase the previous season, which attracts less prize money but is still a really great competition that can help put the club on the map.”

It’s clear that Spiller loves everything about Tuffley, who play in the iconic colours of claret and blue, even though he only joined the club in 2006.

“I played for Athletico Seven and I was also the club’s secretary,” he said.

“When they folded I came across to Tuffley, initially as a player. Quite a few players did. Tuffley had gone from having two teams to one team and I played for them from my mid-30s.

“That’s when I got involved off the field and for the past 10 years I have been involved on the club’s committees.”

He still finds time to turn out for the veterans on a Sunday, playing nine times last season as a centre-back or a left-back.

But it is the admin side that takes up the majority of his time these days and he’s extremely grateful for all the help and support he receives from his wife Sonia.

“She’s a big part of Tuffley Rovers,” he said. “She’s on the club committee and does all the matchday food. She assists me on the business side and has the title of general secretary.

“I think she decided that unless she got involved she’d see even less of me!”

Tuffley Rovers is clearly full-on for the Spiller family but all the hard work is certainly worthwhile.

“The joy of it is when you see people running around kicking a ball and just enjoying the game, whether playing or spectating,” said Spiller.

Anyone interested in finding out more about Tuffley Rovers can contact the club via admin@tuffleyroversfc.co.uk or visit the club website www.tuffleyroversfc.co.uk

Other Images

Mark Pritchett
Tuffley Rovers finished 15th in the Premier Division of the Hellenic League last season
Tuffley celebrate a goal against Fairford Town
Tuffley’s home at Glevum Park

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