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19th March 2015

Sands’ double silverware assault

STEVE Sands’ Wickwar Wanderers Under-14s are at the double in a determined bid to secure two trophies this term.

The talented team, who are based at King George V Playing Fields in the South Gloucestershire village, are currently fourth in on the Bristol Saturday Youth League ladder with three games in hand over leaders Bishopston and a ten-point deficit to claw back.

This Saturday (March 21, 10.30am) they travel to St Bede’s Catholic College in Bristol for a League Cup semi-final meeting with Westbury Park Foxes, who they overcame 7-4 at home in September’s exciting league encounter but lost out to in last year’s League Cup final, 4-1, on Keynsham Town’s plush 3G pitch.

Whatever the outcome of their assault on silverware this time around, their 46-year-old manager and FA level 1-licensed coach insists he is delighted at the way his young charges have set about the two-pronged trophy task with such relish.

Sands said: “It helps that they’re a really good group to work with; there’s very little bickering or unpleasantness, they all get on well with each other and they enjoy it. It makes for good camaraderie and they’re a versatile lot when it comes to their playing positions.

“Most of the boys are KLB School (Wotton-under-Edge) pupils but there’s a few who go to Castle School (Thornbury) and Yate International Academy. Many of the lads play for two clubs, so they’re involved in games Saturdays and Sundays, and my own son Matthew, who plays in central midfield, has been instrumental in persuading some good players from outside the village to join us.

“Matty also plays for Thornbury Town, Lucas Van Os is with St Nicholas and James Cooke plays for Coalpit Heath. We also have a rugby player in our ranks, Sam Paton, who plays for Bristol Academy!”

Under Sands’ watch, Wickwar Under-14s have already enjoyed title success, as aspiring under-12s, but last season’s runners-up finish was admittedly tough to take.

He recalled: “We lost out on the title to Bishopston on the final day. We’d already beaten them 7-4 away the month beforehand and maybe we went into it thinking it was already in the bag, job done. Whatever the reason, we ended up losing 6-0 to them and they pipped us to the championship by a point.

“So we’re out to try and make up for it, although we’re really going to have to win all our games now and hope Bishopston slip up. Unfortunately one of our most influential midfielders, Marcus Miller, is injured at the moment with a fractured shoulder, but we’ve got enough in us still to give it a good go.

“It would be nice to win the League Cup, especially after losing to Westbury Park in last season’s final, but they have some good players and we’ll not be taking this weekend’s semi-final with them lightly.”

Coventry-born Sands, who admits to having successfully converted his Bristol-born sons to fellow Sky Blues fanatics, revealed he never played football as a youngster. However he is clearly making up for lost time now he is a key figure on the sidelines.

“Like many dads I’d go along to support my sons (Sands’ older son Joe plays for Wickwar Under-15s in the Stroud Youth League) and help put the cones out and the goals up,” he said.

“I really enjoy it; it’s a relief from work and it keeps you motivated, having to turn up in all winds and weathers for training (at Chipping Sodbury School on Monday evenings) and games.”

It’s been a good time all round for Wickwar Wanderers as a whole, as their senior side, going well near the top of Stroud League Division Six, have booked a place in the final of the GFA Minor Cup (North) against Cheltenham League fourth division pacesetters Northway.

The match takes place at Bishops Cleeve FC on Tuesday, April 7 at 7pm.