Two football clubs have joined together to bring an exciting new era for the sport in Ripley.
Ripley Town, a senior men’s side, and Ripley Rangers, a successful youth set-up featuring many teams, have merged to form one club for the town.
It will be called Ripley Town and aims to provide young footballers in the area with a pathway from youth football into the senior game.
Chairman Mark Brown, who was chairman of Ripley Rangers, said: “This is a massive step towards building strong foundations and keeping football for children and seniors alike in the town for years to come.
“Our ambition is to have our own homegrown talent moving through the age groups and, if not talent-spotted first, to be able to offer these youngsters a pathway into senior football.”
The merger has followed close talks between the two clubs over recent months and “tireless work” by the respective committees.
The new club aims to provide a platform for footballers of all ages to develop their skills under one banner.
It currently has 14 junior sides and a senior team, based at the Greenwich playing fields on Nottingham Road (near the Sainsbury’s roundabout) and The Ripley Academy.
The name of the club was chosen to reflect Ripley’s heritage as a small town. The club colours will be red and blue stripes for home matches with the traditional green of the former Ripley Town as the away kit.
Brown said: “The club is now in a strong position where we have children involved from the age of four to adult, with teams represented from under-7s through to reserves and the first team.
“I am excited about what the future holds for football in the town.
“We will continue to work towards our goals of a sustainable approach so that Ripley Town is firmly on the map.
“This merger is long overdue. We must now embrace and build to become a great club.”
The new Ripley Town wants to establish a team at all age groups, have an active academy for four to seven-year-olds and create an under-21 side.
Long-term, it aims to have its own home, but Brown admitted that would be a huge task even though it was something the club was “actively working on”.
He added Ripley Town also wanted to build links with professional clubs — and ensure a pathway for footballers in Ripley from the academy to the first team.
The new Ripley Town runs 14 junior sides as well as the senior team, who play in Division One of the Midlands Amateur Alliance.
The junior sides start with the academy, which the club says allows players from around the age of five to learn the game before being able to progress to the under-sevens.
Manager Abbie Barlow said: “Here they will develop skills, increase confidence and make new friends through fun games.”
Ripley Town Under-7s play under Lee Stuart in the Young Elizabethan League, while the club’s under-eight All Stars are in their first season in the Derby Junior League with manager Jamie Lodge.
There are two under-nines sides, the Reds and the Royals, who have been together for three years.
A large influx of players led to the decision to field two teams in the Derby Junior League.
Ripley Town Under-10s also play in the Derby Junior League, under Brendan Gaughan, while the club has two under-11 sides — one on a Saturday and one on a Sunday.
The two under-11 teams play in the Young Elizabethan League and are managed by Paul Gutteridge and Steve Strange respectively.
Under-7s boss Lee Stuart also leads the under-12 team in the Young Elizabethan League and Dale Wells heads the under-13s in the KickStart Youth League,
Club chairman Mark Brown is manager of the under-14s in the Young Elizabethan League.
The club fields two teams at under-15 level — one for boys and one for girls.
Some of the boys’ side have been together for eight seasons. They play in the Derby City League, led by manager Gary Hounslow, and last season won a cup in the Rowsley League after defeating Darley Dale 1-0 in the final.
This is the second season for the under-15s girls, who play in the Derby Girls and Ladies League, managed by Gareth Martin. They have already tasted success this season after winning the Under-15s Charity Shield.
Ripley defeated Pride Park 2-1 after extra-time with the winner coming five minutes from the end of the 100 minutes in non-stop rain.
Martin also leads the under-18s in Division Two of the Notts Youth League on Sundays.
New players, at all age levels, volunteers and sponsors are always welcomed by Ripley Town, which draws support from across Amber Valley.
Chairman Mark Brown said: “Our volunteers do an amazing job in keeping the club running.
“We offer football to both boys and girls from the age of four, so if you are interested in playing or another role, such as coaching, officiating, team management or even making the tea, please let us know.”
Further details for joining the club are at www.ripleytownfc.co.uk/join