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  • Writer's pictureLuke Johnston

Christmas Message from our Chairman, Luke Johnston

I have been racking my brain of how to start this short message, I will start off how I imagine many chairman will be doing and comment on the year we have had. Who would have thought this time last year that we would be in the position we are in today. Millions of deaths worldwide, locked down to our homes, businesses and leisure closed and distanced from our loved ones.

It has been a challenging year for everyone, one that will go down in history as one of the biggest disasters since WWII. We as a club unfortunately seen ourselves closed not once but twice, and the reason I am here writing a Christmas message is owed to the generosity and commitment of our parents, coaches, volunteers and children. Even when closed, continuing to pay their monthly direct debits which allowed us to keep afloat, without you we wouldn't be here.

I entered the club as a director and chairman at possibly one of the most difficult times in its history since Fatha Bill established the club in 1994. I have been made to feel very welcome by everyone and continue to enjoy my role. We have an amazing team of committed volunteers made up of coaches, welfare officers, facilities assistants, administrators, finance and more. I didn't appreciate all the functions the club had until I assumed the chairman role.

I am humbled to call the club part of my extended family. We have had some amazing initiatives this year which couldn't and wouldn't have been possible without everyones support.

We start off with the boot scheme lead by Craig Bristoe and Wammo our Vice Chairman. This ensures that nearly new and good condition boots are reused time and time again rather than spending hundreds a year every time the kids feet grow! It has been greatly received and I want to thank them for their hard work.

This was closely followed by our coaches arranging Zoom sessions with some amazing Sports stars to keep them engaged during the lockdown. We seen the likes of Dean Henderson, Paul Nicholson and Chris Kirkland.

Our Hot Food and Food parcel service has got to get a mention. Together with volunteers from the local area we have made and distributed over 500 Hot Meals and over 250 Food Parcels totalling thousands of pounds. These where delivered directly to families, the elderly, vulnerable and people isolating over the past few months. A huge thanks to Sharon and Steven from Morrisons, Alison from Tesco and everyone for their individual donations and time to make this project a reality and success.

Our Key Works tops showed our support for all the amazing key workers out there keeping our country moving whilst raising money for Mental Health Charities which are so important at the best of times but especially at the moment.

We have seen some big changes in our senior teams this year. Firstly with our Senior Mens team. Billy Redden took over late last year as the first team manager and shortly afterwards appointed Jamie Fitzwilliam as his Assistant manager. Under their Leadership I have noticed some huge improvements in not only the playing but also the morale of the players. This is further strengthened with the return of Captain Mal Holliday who is an asset both on and off the field. He is nothing short of a football legend and it is a pleasure to have him back at the club leading the lads.

Our senior ladies have also seen some large changes. Rob Campbell stepped to one side as manager and the team is now lead between Gary Wright and John Gibbons assisted by Paul Akred and Paul Morgan. They are doing an amazing job. A huge thanks to them for stepping up.

Now onto Rob, he has done an amazing job stepping up as our Lead Covid-19 Officer, ensuring that everything we do we do it safely, that we have the right guidance in place and ultimately that we keep everyone safe. He has done an amazing job and on behalf of the club would like to thank him for all his efforts.

We seen significant investment in the club over the past year. With improvements to the ground as a whole and more planned for 2021. We also spent around £4K on a VEO Camera system which I am sure many of you will hear more about in the new year. The camera enables the entire game to be filmed without an operator, it follows the ball (Or a bald head in Robs case) and even picks out highlights which enables the coaches to annotate and analyse their teams performance. An amazing piece of kit which I can't wait to see in action in 2021. A huge thanks to Billy for setting this up and Tony for his continued work on the videos and highlights.

Our Youth section are amazing in their own right. The achievements that every single one of them have made this year has been nothing short of amazing. Their commitment to the club, attitude towards playing and positive mindset has been fantastic. It has been really fun getting to know many of them on my visits and watch them succeed.

I am hoping and praying as I write this message that we have a much better 2021. Once again a huge thanks to everyone for their support in 2020 and I look forward to meeting more of you in 2021.

From my family to yours and on behalf of Whitehaven AFC a very Merry Christmas to all our coaches, parents, players and volunteers and wishing each and every one of you a Happy New Year.

And remember... if you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance, play inside, play for the world.

Luke x

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