FA chair Debbie Hewitt MBE has spoken of the ‘truly magical day’ she spent with Nantwich Town recently and how it reinforced ‘just how much football can do to unite a local community’.
See below for Hewitt’s thoughts about her recent trip to the Swansway Stadium.
It was a real privilege for me to attend the Isuzu FA Trophy third round proper match between Nantwich Town and York City on Saturday 9 December.
The exhilarating game saw Nantwich, who are in the Northern Premier League, overcome a 64-place deficit to knock out their National League competitor 3-2 and edge into the fourth round draw, with their celebrations reinforcing the magic of the FA trophy competition.
I also had the pleasure of giving the Nantwich Town Man of the Match award to Paddy Kay.
The Dabbers, as Nantwich are known, made a blistering start and were 3-0 up after 28 minutes against a side three divisions higher in the pyramid.
York pulled two back, the second in stoppage time. After a red card for Nantwich and a couple of close misses by the Minstermen, Nantwich held on to record an incredible win and become the last eighth-tier side standing in the FA Trophy.
It was a particularly special day for me as I also joined their president Frank Blunstone and chairman Jon Gold to officially open their new 3G pitch, presenting them with a plaque to commemorate the momentous occasion.
It proved its value that day, when torrential rain did its best to try to stop play. Thanks to the investment in the new pitch by the club owners and its supportive and committed local businesses and members of the community, the game went ahead.
I also had the opportunity to see the breadth and depth of the community football that Nantwich Town provide, including their men’s, women’s, disabled, youth, girls and under-6 programmes and met many of the volunteers who support those teams.
It was wonderful to meet a young female Ukrainian refugee who had been a shy and anxious young girl when she first joined the club but was now joining in with her football friends with confidence and an obvious joy for the game.
It was a truly magical day and one which reminded me just how much football can do to unite a local community.
Thank you to Frank, Jon, vice-chair John Dunning and the Nantwich team for hosting me and also to FA senior leagues and clubs services manager Mick Baikie who joined me on the day and to colleagues from Cheshire FA who came along to support one of their local teams.
Nantwich Town FC have been supported by The FA Club Programme to modernise their off-pitch business operations and structure, allowing them to further enhance their community programme and ambitions.
I look forward to seeing how Nantwich Town get on when they play away to Solihull Moors in the fourth round of the FA Trophy on Saturday 13 January.