It’s game over for stalwart Gary Menzies
A Bridgnorth football coach is hanging up his boots after helping to develop 100 footballers over the last decade and a half.
Gary Menzies has overseen the complete cycle of two teams from under-9s to under-16s in his 16 years at Bridgnorth Town Juniors.
It started in 2002 when his son James, now 24, attended a trial and was taken on and, as a former player himself, dad was soon roped in to help.
After qualifying as a FA Level One coach, he became assistant coach from 2002 to 2005 with James’s team, then coach from 2005 to 2008 before also taking on the role of treasurer for three years from 2008 after joining the committee in 2004.
For the last seven years, he has also been club secretary, as well as coaching his team in twice weekly training sessions, plus matches on Sunday mornings, helped by Julian Smith and, latterly, James.
Menzies had a respectable playing career in non-league as a right-back with Northwood Town in north-west London, just missing Gary Waddock, the future Queens Park Rangers and the Republic of Ireland star, who came through the ranks there prior to him.
Menzies moved to the area with his job to the Land Registry Office in Telford in 1986.
During his time at Bridgnorth, six players have gone on to join the academies at West Bromwich Albion or Shrewsbury Town.
His teams have won various age group divisions in the Telford Junior League, as well as reaching cup finals, while several have progressed to play for AFC Bridgnorth or their reserve side.
But it’s not just about success on the field and Menzies has helped instilled qualities in players that will stand them in good stead in life, not just football.
“The ethos is to make it fun and make it enjoyable and it’s not about winning at all costs,” he said. “One of the highlights for me was the club earning FA Charter Standard status because we’ve been able to invest in coaches.
“The then chairman, Neil Hussey, and the secretary, Tim Wildman, were instrumental in laying the foundations of growing the club from two or three teams in the early 2000s to up to 10 teams in various age groups.
“I’ve tried to carry that ethos on in that we give opportunities to as many boys and girls as possible and the pleasing thing for me has been seeing their enjoyment, whether it playing in their first game or scoring their first goal.”
So why stand down? “Having taken two teams right through, it’s just time for fresh faces and new blood,” he said.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute but I’m coming up to retirement age and it’s quite demanding now.”
Menzies’ achievements were recognised at the club’s AGM at their Crown Meadow headquarters.
A member of Bridgnorth Golf Club, he was rewarded with a golf day and spa day at Telford Golf and Country Club, which he intends to share with long-suffering wife Jackie, son James and daughter Kate, 22.
He intends to spend his spare time catching up with jobs around the house and playing more golf.
The club are also looking to encourage the next generation and are inviting budding players to training sessions.
Trials for under-7s, under-8s, under-9s and under-10s take place every Friday from 6pm to 7pm at Crown Meadow.
Anyone interested should contact club secretary and coach Nick Cole on 07977 537636.