FEATURE: A century of service ... football stalwarts' 101 years at Parkgate FC

FEATURE: A century of service ... football stalwarts' 101 years at Parkgate FC

By David Beddows | 14/10/2021

FEATURE: A century of service ... football stalwarts' 101 years at Parkgate FC
Albert Dudill (left) and Bruce Bickerdike. Picture by DAVE POUCHER

 

LOCAL football would not survive without its band of unsung heroes, the people who wash the kits, put the corner flags out, do the paperwork and other menial jobs and don't ask for a penny back.

 

The game is full of these selfless “foot soldiers” and without them clubs and teams perish.
While Rotherham has more than its fair share of them, two in particular stand out for their dedication to duty going back many decades.


Chairman Albert Dudill and secretary Bruce Bickerdike have put in a combined total of 101 years at Parkgate FC and continue to do so to this day.


Albert created the club back in 1967 and Bruce came on board seven years later.
It's been a labour of love ever since. 


“We are just volunteers. We do it for the love of the game and the club,” says Bruce, a retired policeman who keeps the administrative wheels of the club running smoothly.


“Do we still get as much enjoyment out of it as we have always done? Yes, you've got to or you wouldn't be doing it.”


Bruce was still concentrating on his day job back in the late 1960s when Albert, fresh from the army, took a job at British Steel at Parkgate and set up a works football team.


They played at Thrybergh in the Works League on Thursday afternoons and if they were short of players, Albert would pull on his boots to make up the numbers.


After the team moved to their current home at Roundwood, more Parkgate teams started up.


By the 1980s, Albert was so important to the activities at Roundwood that he was paid full time by the steelworks to run and expand the entire complex, answerable to BSC's personnel director and chief executive.


“Historically it has been my baby and not just football, the whole lot,” says Albert.


“I helped to develop the pavilion, the bowling green and the golf course. We did nine holes initially and then cleared the stockyard next door to make the 18-hole course you see today. 
“I was also involved in helping Rotherham United set up a training base here.


“Even today, it is not fair to say all my time is spent on football. As much of my time is spent seeing that things are running right around the place.”


Throughout his 54 years at Parkgate, it is still football that has been Albert's main passion, in tandem with Bruce.


“We compliment each other well,” says Bruce. “I have been friends with Albert for years. 


“I do all the admin and player registrations, he is a very good organiser. We do the accounts between us. We work together well, we have to.”


The two are speaking to me on a mild, early autumn day at Roundwood football ground.


Neat and tidy, it is in glorious shape, one of the best set-ups in the Northern Counties East League, of which Parkgate around founder members.


“Whereas we spend our money on improving the pitch and the club, some clubs prefer to spend it on players,” says Albert.


“In a way, we are competing with an arm behind our backs because we don't spend big money but I think our approach is right. We have a nice balance.”


His thoughts are echoed by Bruce.


“I enjoy football and especially football at this level,” he says. “We've a good set of lads who play for us and a good committee. You could say it's our hobby.”


The two have had to be resilient over the years. The game has changed and, with it, the demands on those running local clubs. 


“There are times when you look at it and think 'is it worth it?'” admits Albert.


“Occasionally, though not often, you get frustrated, especially when you can't control things, such as what the FA do and don't do.


“Then again, when you sit down and think about it, what would I do now to fill my time if I didn't do the things I do?


“I'd struggle. It has become part of what I do.”


Since coming close to promotion to the next level of the domestic football pyramid a few years ago, beaten to top spot by Farsley Celtic, Parkgate have dropped down a division.


“Relegation was one of the low points of our time here,” says Bruce.


“It's getting harder to get spectators in because our home matches often clash with Maltby's and Swallownest's. Sponsorship is also harder to get.


“It has become more costly to play at this level. Everything has gone up.


“Also, player registrations are all done online now. Sometimes it doesn't work and it can take a long time to get on it. 


“That's all frustrating but as for the job, it is certainly no less enjoyable than it used to be.” 

Bruce is 77 now and Albert a very sprightly 83.


Though hardly in the first flush of youth, neither has any intention of taking it easier just yet.


“I always have to be doing something,” adds Albert. “At home I have five acres of land and horses which keep me busy. 


“My wife, Margaret, is also involved at the club working in the tea room and other things.


“Parkgate is part of my daily life and I don't see that changing.”


Bruce nods.


“We just get on with the job, we can't be doing nothing. We have to help keep this great little club going.”

 

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ROTHERHAM United and Sheffield United both feature in the highlights of Albert Dudill and Bruce Bickerdike's time at Parkgate.  


“When we erected our new floodlights in the 1980s, we marked it with a match against Sheffield United,” explained Albert.


“Dave Bassett was the manager at the time and he brought his first team down. It was a great night and  the place was packed.


“The other highlight of the last few years is our annual pre-season game against Rotherham. We have to thank the Rotherham chairman, Tony Stewart, and manager, Paul Warne, for that. It's a saviour for us.”

 

 

 

 

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ALBERT and Bruce have seen many managers come and go at Parkgate.


“We choose the managers between us,” explained Bruce. “We have a discussion and interview them and see who we want.”


Albert added: “I have never got involved with team selection. l speak quite plainly to the manager, tell him his duties and if they don't do them, at the end of the day they get the sack. They know that.


“The men in charge now, Andy Dawson, is an ex-player and Lee Whitehead, they are both brilliant.


“Of course, we all like to win but you have to be realistic. You can't win every game.”



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