Unsung hero Eric Parker blows for full-time
It’s the end of an era for the Bridgnorth Five-A-Side League.
The league has been running for 42 years and, for three-and-a-half decades, Eric Parker has been the man at the helm.
But Parker, and a number of committee members who have proved loyal servants, have stepped down with competitor numbers dwindling.
It is not a full goodbye from Parker, who admits he will never fully step back from the passion that has been a large part of his life.
As often when stalwarts step down from their mantle, there are concerns over who will fill the void, but not with Parker, 77, who is optimistic of a bright future for the league with ‘young blood’.
“I just thought it was time,” said Parker on his retirement. “Old age and modern technology don’t really go together!
“It’s time for some new, young blood. You can get in a bit of a rut.
“I’ve been talking to one or two about changing a few things if enough clubs are interested.
“I think there will be enough clubs. It’s just whether we have two or one division.
“I shall not desert them completely. I’ll always be there in the background.
“I’ve worked up a friendly association with people and it’s nice to think you get along with everyone. You respect them and they respect you.
“Undoubtedly I’ll miss it after all these years but I won’t fully abandon it. I’ll be going down most Thursdays. I shall help them along.”
Other long-standing members, including secretary Graham Ilic and fixture secretary Steve Edwards – who have been responsible for issuing fixtures for 18 years – are also stepping down.
The league is holding an annual general meeting on Monday (7.30pm) at the Halo Leisure Centre, where it has hosted Thursday night action since its formation in 1976.
There is positivity surrounding the future and the retiring committee members hope that former players – of which there are hundreds or even thousands – may rally and show interest.
Parker does not believe the lack of interest in amateur football is a local or even regional issue, but one that spreads nationwide.
He added: “On a Sunday, the Telford and Shrewsbury leagues are down from five or six divisions to two or three. But it’s a national thing, not just here.
“In junior football, there’s quite a lot of interest. When you hit under-16s you seem to lose them.”
Shropshire FA president Parker was first introduced to the league by county football stalwart John Constable.
In recent years he has pitched in to help keep the league afloat by taking on numerous roles under his chairmanship.
On his longevity he continued: “It never crossed my mind, the years kept on rolling by and the seasons kept starting. I enjoyed doing it.
“What has not helped is the bar closed at the Social Club on Thursdays. It was good to go in after matches and have a talk about the events of the evening. Now most would say ‘see you in Wetherspoons’.”
The Bridgnorth Five-A-Side league action takes place on Thursdays (7:30-10pm) at the Leisure Centre, from late September to April.
Last season 17 teams figured – eight in Division One and nine in Division Two.
Any clubs keen to join should register interest at the earliest opportunity, ideally at Monday’s AGM.