David Fearnhead takes a look at the revival of Clitheroe Wolves’ facilities and the multi-thousand-pound refurbishment project that has breathed new life into the football club

“There weren’t any,” says Ross Hibbert, when I ask him about Clitheroe Wolves’ facilities before the huge refurbishment of the club’s home at Highmoor, Clitheroe.

“One Portaloo and that was it. All the kids rocked up to a car park that could hold about 30 cars before getting stuck in the mud. We had four or five pitches but could only feasibly use two or three at a time because of parking.”

The youth football club has been a family concern since 1992. When Ross took over from his father as Chairman it was struggling, their policy of never turning a child away was becoming an unmanageable and unsustainable problem.

“It had to be run like a proper business and that meant we needed to invest,” says Ross, who kickstarted a fundraising drive to match his ambitious plans.

The Lancaster Foundation and Simon Dawson helped out financially and the rest came from small grants and fundraising by the teams themselves – they raised from £100 to £1500 per team in order to get the refurbishment project up and running.

“As of last week we’d spent close to £110,000. The club has put around £30,000 into new mowers and pitch improvements. The environment for kids to play football is important but the pitch they play on and the facilities are even more important,” says Ross.

“Unfortunately, that’s pretty much emptied our coffers. There’s a lot still to do and we don’t know where we stand until we know where we are financially. We’ve no internal doors yet, we’ve no flooring in there, the showers are unfinished, so you’re not talking hundreds of pounds it’s thousands of pounds.”

Local companies have helped the club – Prefix Systems donated the windows which saved thousands.

“We had probably £15,000 worth of stone donated by Tarmac and Castle Cement with the help of Finch Aggreagtes,” adds Ross, who explains that scaffolding was donated by Hardy Services FOC, fitter Nigel Grant fitted the windows and Robert Dinsdale worked tirelessly on the club car park.

Pilot Plumbing, Eglin Construction and M2 Joinery also played a massive part: “It’s companies like these that have really helped us. The goodwill and the community spirit that this project has drummed up has been amazing.”
Ross also paid tribute to the club’s Vice-Chairman Neil Hitchen who has worked on the project alongside Martin Aspinwall – and not forgetting his own father.

“At 81 he is still pulling his weight for the kids of the town. True legends all of them.”

Whilst Ross is quick to heap well-earned praise on local businesses, none of it would have been possible without his own drive to make the project come to fruition – yet it very nearly didn’t. Following years of meetings and planning to develop a site at Roefield the council decided to take it for themselves.

“The area is getting a fantastic 3G all-weather facility so we can’t dwell on that. We feel we kind of achieved that in a roundabout sort of way. If it’s for the kids of Clitheroe then we’ve got what we wanted.”

The decision sent Wolves back to the drawing board, and it was here that the trustees of Clitheroe Grammar School stepped in to offer the club the option of redeveloping Highmoor Park.

“They have been fantastic and I can’t thank them enough for the support they’ve given us. We’ve had free rein. The only remit they gave us was please don’t knock it down, try to refurbish if you can.”

With a brand new car park and eight pitches, they are hoping to add to their list of talent who have made the leap into the professional game.

Current professionals Joe Garner, Adam Barton and Dom Telford have all represented Wolves at some level.

“The brightest prospect we’ve got now is Leighton Clarkson who has just signed his professional contract with Liverpool. We don’t tend to have players like them for long, Leighton was snapped up at 10, but it’s nice to have that connection. It’s great to say they played for Wolves, even though we might have only had a little bit of influence on them.”

“They all do their bit for us. Joe has helped us out over the years and Adam, the same. Dom’s always giving us boots and shirts to auction off. It’s great to think we might have a Premier League player one day and Leighton might breakthrough into the first team, let’s hope so!”

One big change for the club has been the introduction of girls’ teams. The success of England at the World Cup and the growing popularity of the women’s professional leagues has seen a sharp increase in young girls wanting to play. Cara Milne-Redhead is making huge progress in the female game having just made the switch from the red half to the blue half of Manchester to join City’s Under 21 set up. “Cara is an exceptional player and one that gives so much back. She is often down at our girls’ training doing some coaching with the younger girls.

“Girls’ football is massive. We’ve gone from no girls’ teams to seven in the last four years and then we’ve got a group of five and six-year-old girls that are waiting to be old enough to get into the squads and move on from there.”

“I’ve just lost one to Manchester City’s academy, but I wasn’t going to stand in the way of that opportunity – she went with our blessing and I hope she does well. I have a couple in mind who are edging towards academy level too.”

“We’ve also decided to do something at the top end and start a women’s football team. I’ve seen a lot other local clubs doing it like Ribchester and Chipping and I thought, we’ve no clear pathway for the girls. It’s more recreational but it’s proved popular.”

Family man Ross says his biggest motivation has been seeing the youngsters’ faces when they get out of the car and are looking at the new pitches.

If you would like to know more about the Clitheroe Wolves project or to support it go to:



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