Churchdown Panthers Youth Football Club
A Brief History
Unfortunately, records of the clubs earliest formative period are not to be found, but the little firm information that is available indicates that Churchdown Panthers FC was established by a group of keen parents, for their teenage sons in 1967.
Early matches were seemingly arranged on a friendly ad hoc basis, until things became formalised on joining the old Cheltenham Minor League and by the late 1970s the original “Under 16s” team had evolved to cover various age groups from 12 years upwards. Mini Soccer, as is now popular with the even younger Panther players, did not become established until some 10 years later.
League games initially were played at John Daniels Playing Field and as the club expanded, Parton Park. Later, the need to also use local school facilities and for a while at Innsworth Camp as the availability of pitches became critical to the club expansion, as a passion for the game grew. Facilities remain a key issue for the club even today.
The organisational discipline of League play brought with it the first, Club Constitution and management committee. At this time close ties were also formed with Churchdown Community Association. The Community Centre acted as the clubs base and HQ, including for a while, as many may remember, use as changing rooms for home games.
Routine seasons passed covering the ups and downs of running and playing organised football. This included involvement with all the local leagues and on the wider stage of County competition.
Elite Football Association
In 2002 a real landmark was reached when Panthers became only the third club in Gloucestershire, to be awarded the elite Football Association quality mark for all clubs nationally, --- “Charter Standard”. Springing from this, the FA invited Panthers to contribute players as part of a skills display group at the Liverpool v Arsenal Charity Shield match at The Millennium Stadium. Following much rehearsal of an exciting choreographed display, on Sunday 11th August, 20 Panthers joined up with 130 other young players from around the country, for a pre match demonstration in front of a 70000 strong crowd and millions of televiewers around the world.
Football for all abilities
Since the formative years the ethos at the club has been “football for all abilities”, but success both in league play and cup competition has been regularly achieved, plus regular sportsmanship awards as voted by league club members. The better players have developed to show exceptional ability, regularly joining the playing staff of professional clubs, both locally at Gloucester City and Cheltenham Town and even to The Premiership as did former Panther Guy Whittingham.
Club playing strip
There has been one constant thread across the nearly 45 years outlined above. It is of course the quickly recognised “Tangerine and Black” club playing strip. Legend has it that this combination was chosen as white or red or blue shirts were already taken by other clubs!! As today’s young players pull on this strip it is not lost that in some cases it is a second generation Panthers that are now active, ----- a situation that perhaps sums up a club at the heart of its community.