Stuart Pearce knows the value of volunteers at non-league level and the England legend has given his backing to a new initiative launched to inspire people to get involved at their local club.
Pitching In, title sponsor of steps three and four of the non-league pyramid, has set up a new Volunteer Hub where clubs can advertise vacancies to make it easier for people to go and make a difference.
Pearce began his storied career at non-league Wealdstone before going on to captain both Nottingham Forest and England and remains acutely aware of how the level which kickstarted his journey could not survive without those who give up their time for their clubs.
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“They’re the lifeblood, to be quite honest with you,” said Pearce, who made 78 appearances for the Three Lions.
“Certainly going back to my days as a non-league player – our club only survived on volunteers coming to give their time and effort.
“These clubs are the hub of the community, they bring people together and it [non-league] was the breeding ground to giving me the opportunity to be a professional eventually.”
Non-league clubs across the country rely on an army of volunteers to keep clubs going, from stewards to grounds staff and programme sellers to turnstile operators.
Pearce enjoyed getting stuck in to various roles during a recent trip to Thame United, of the Pitching In Southern League, and urged supporters to follow suit.
“There’s something in it for them, that’s the important thing, to be part of their local community,” added Pearce.
“Football clubs won’t survive unless they’re getting people to come through and help out and there’s a multitude of jobs, from working on the turnstiles, to working in the bar, to getting involved in coaching – right across the board.
“If anyone’s worried about turning up and volunteering their services, don’t worry about that – turn up and something that they didn’t even think about might crop up that they really enjoy.
“The important thing is to get new people and fresh people through the door at their local non-league teams.”
For many non-league clubs, what happens off the pitch is just as important as what happens on it as they sit at the centre of local communities, something Pearce highlighted from his days at Wealdstone.
“People were doing a multitude of jobs, they didn’t just turn up to do one jobs in those days,” reminisced Pearce, who left the Stones for Coventry City in 1983.
“They worked the bar, they helped out with the ground staff, they helped out in the seating, they did the kit and some of those people when I go back to do events now – those people are still there.
“We’re talking about 40-odd years ago and the same people and their families are still connected with the club.
“The community is the big one for me. I left school at the age of 16 and had nowhere to go and play my football, and if it wasn’t for Wealdstone I’m not sure what journey I would have ended up going on.
“I love football and always have done but they gave me the opportunity. The people that volunteered certainly set that criteria as well at a football club that gave me the opportunity to flourish in a career I really love.”
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