History

t’s a little known fact that Morden Little League grew from a passion for Baseball!!

Frank Adey had travelled to the USA to experience his passion for the sport. He soon discovered Little League Baseball (LLB) where every child was free to participate and all teams were selected so each had an equal chance.

England’s recent World Cup success in mind(1966), a germ of an idea became lodged in Frank’s thoughts. On his return home, he decided to put this idea into action and set about founding Little League Football. the principles and format of the league have hardly changed since Frank’s passion for baseball ignited what we all witness and enjoy every Saturday morning on King George’s Field.

In his day, Frank played football at a high standard, as centre half for Epsom Town. Whilst spending some time in the States, Frank had become very impressed with the concept of Little League Baseball. A keen baseball player himself, Frank was an all-round sportsman and a regular in his works football team back in England. Frank was well aware of the shortcomings of youth football in the 1960’s. For a start, there wasn’t much of it, apart from school football. So if a boy wasn’t in the school team, he might get to play occasionally for the Cubs or Scouts, but only if he was pretty good would he get into a Sunday team. Otherwise, he could have a kick-around with his friends in the street or park.

So Frank got thinking hard about what was wrong with youth soccer and how could his ideas, together with some of the ways of Little League Baseball be adapted to suit England’s national game. After mulling it over, he came up with his concept of how youth football ought to be arranged. “Football for children,” Frank declared, “should be child-centred.” At the time, that was quite a revolutionary proposal. “No longer would kids have to fit the adult way of playing the game,” he decided, “the game would be changed to fit the children.” Some ideas were pretty obvious, like cutting down the size of pitches to suit the size of the players. No longer should small boys struggle on adult pitches, or goalies be beaten by lobbing the ball over their heads. Some ideas were very new, like limiting the numbers in a squad and making substitutions compulsory, or telling children that once they were in a team, they wouldn’t be dropped if a better player came along.

Frank also wanted every kid to have the chance of playing. So there wouldn’t be fees and subs each week that could exclude boys from poorer families from playing and playing all games at home meant that every Little League became a community organisation, with huge social advantages automatically built into every League. Having thought it through, Frank then started discussions with others in his company football team, notably George Burdett, F. Judd and Ron Sexton.His concept of Little League Football created much enthusiasm and Frank signed up several of his colleagues to be the first team managers. Amongst those keen to be press-ganged was a youngster by name of Ronald Hobbs, who was to prove a valuable addition to the cause.

Gradually the first Little League Football rulebook took shape and Frank was ready to take up the challenge of setting up the first League. He already had his first six team managers and persuading the local authority to provide a pitch of the right dimensions and a changing room was soon achieved.

Finances would be required, of course. The new rule book suggested each team should have a sponsor so Frank gave a talk at the Morden Rotary Club luncheon in November, 1967. Both the lunch and the talk went down well, and by the time coffee was served, Frank had sponsors for all six teams. In addition, Ron and Joyce Hales, the owners of a sports shop in South Wimbledon agreed to give hefty discounts on the kit, plus a lengthy period of free credit.

The original Sponsors were Tom Arnold, Len Smart who ran a photography business called Remco,Arthur Footman, an aptly named supplier of chiropody equipment, Leo Mays, of L.V. Mays Transport, Ernest C. Micklewright of Elm, Auto Sales and H John Locke of Switchgear Engineering

All this had taken place by the time of the inaugural meeting of Little League Football on 21st February, 1968 in the Watliff canteen. So all that was required were the boys and Frank now went on a recruiting drive. A thousand leaflets were distributed to advertise the trials and in addition, Frank started chatting up every likely lad in the area – until the local constabulary suggested that this might not be seen as such a good idea.
240 applications were received and Frank visited each one personally to outline his plans before the first trial on Saturday 24th August. That’s an awful lot of tea and biscuits! The Grand Opening Day of Morden Little League Football took place on Saturday 5th October 1968 at King George’s Field, Tudor Drive, Morden, Surrey.Such was the enthusiasm of boys and adults, that one lad, Richard Hornsby, got out of his sick bed to attend, although he was not allowed to play. But Match Official Brian Hall went to hospital to have a painkilling injection for a back injury before coming to the ground to officiate. The six teams paraded in front of 500 parents and supporters and in the absence of the Duke of Edinburgh, Alf Ramsey and Tommy Trinder, The Mayor of Merton, Alderman Norman S Clarke, J.P. gave a speech and formally opened the League. This was followed at 10.30 am by the first ever Little League Football match. The honour of scoring Little League Football’s first goal went to John O’Carroll of Watliff Dynamos The results of the very first morning’s play were: - 10.30 Watliff Dynamos 8 Elm Beetles 4 11.30 Footman Flyers 1 Remco Royals 2 12.30 Switchgear Flashes 2 Mays Lions 1
"For many years I thought there was school and local boys' teams but what about organised football for those youngsters who could not get in a team or there family could not afford the kit or weekly fees. With these thoughts I wrote down several rules and even designed a badge, the very badge that became the emblem of Little League Football. I was just dreaming.

Then in 1967 it happened. Working for Watliff Co. Ltd of Merton, a fellow colleague George Burdett, who at that time managed Merstham F.C. burst into my print room and said 'Merstham have sacked me, I am going to start a boy's team' and off he went, quickly followed by me saying 'George don't do anything until you hear from me' the seed had been sown.

I contacted several Watliff employees who might have been interested and then decided to approach the Chairman and managing Director, Mr. W. E. Arnold, about the possibility of forming a 6 team league, being sponsored by local companies. He not only offered to sponsor a team but made arrangements for me to give a talk at the Morden Rotary Club – five Rotarians agreed to sponsor teams. All the equipment, goal posts, benches etc., necessary to start the league were made and supplied by the company. The company's address could also be used as the National Headquarters. Without the generosity of Mr. Arnold, Little League Football would never have got off the ground.

The Inaugural Meeting was held on 21 February 1968. My wife and I distributed leaflets announcing target dates – result was 10 fingers and 25 gloves caught in letter boxes!! Try out sessions commenced on Saturday 24 August and some 200 boys attended, 84 were selected. Those who did not gain a team were notified by letter and informed they would be considered of a place became vacant. The official opening by the Mayor of Merton, Alderman N. S. Clarke J.P. was held on Saturday 5 October 1968 with an attendance of 500 parents, friends and guests.I sincerely thank all those in the past, all those in the present and those in the future, of this great organisation called - Little League Football - How that little seed has grown”. Frank Adey
I nostalgically took a trip down Memory Lane upon finding your website. This sent me rummaging through my old keepsakes and I surfaced with a League Photograph of all six founder teams and the organisers and staff from whence back! My name is Stephen Edmunds and I proudly represented May’s Lions in that season. After finally making it through the trails that summer of ‘71 (I’d failed to make it the years before), I was assigned to May’s and I should say that I have treasured the memory of that experience for some 38 years now.
MORDEN LITTLE LEAGUE 1971 – 1972 (CLICK PICTURE TO ENLARGE) Bottom to Top and left to right: REMCO ROYALS _____, Barry Vango, Mark Bairstow, _____, Mark King(5th), _____, Ian Sellers, Alan Sellers, _____, _____, _____, _____, WATLIFF DYNAMOES John Raddon(4th from right), MAYS LIONS _____, Billy Young, Tim George, _____, Me! Stephen Edmunds, Bryan Deeprose, Steve Sneiling, _____, _____, Paul Dietz (GK), Desmond Joseph, Mervyn Joseph, _____, _____. ELM BEETLES FOOTMAN FLYERS, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, Kevin Tomkins,_____, _____, _____, SWITCHGEAR FLASHES STAFF AND COACHES _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____,Alan Raddon, _____, _____, Frank George the May’s Lions coach, _____, _____, _____, _____, (Mac? St JOHNS?),
We were the ‘midtable’ team that year, but we did go on to win the Cup beating the favourites, Kevin Tomkins’ Footman Flyers, 2-0 in the final and, to this day, my winner’s shield is the only piece of ‘silverware’ I ever managed to achieve playing football! Oh what times we had. An unforgettable experience that made me a better person, albeit for just one year as ‘retirement’ came around all too soon for me. I turned 13 in the winter of 72 and the rules didn’t let you play on when you reached that ripe old age! I live in Monterrey, Mexico now, the World Cup 1986 having been the culprit in bringing me to this side of the big ‘pond’, and that little shield still takes pride of place in my trinkets cabinet in the living room. I attach a photo of it here too. It is incredible when you think that it is now 38 years and 7,000 distant miles since I was blessed with the opportunity to play for May’s Lions, but an experience I will never, ever forget, thanks to a lot of hard work by so many good people, faces in the picture that I warmly recognise but, sadly, many names that I can’t recall. It would be splendid if you could post this photo on your website and try to see how many names can be put the faces. I also attach a very partial list of names of some of the players, this just to get the ball rolling! For the life of me I can’t pick out Kevin Tomkins in the picture even though we were good friends at school. If any youngsters trying to get into the league, or are already in it, are reading this, I can assure you that when you reach 51 years of age, as I am now, you will treasure these memories as I do. You will learn an awful lot from some very dedicated people, as I did. And you will never forget what Morden Little League stands for, as I never will. You too will own your own treasures because of the experience a lot of good folk will provide you with. I like to wish good luck to all for the coming season. Who knows! I might even turn up to visit one of these Saturday mornings when I am back in UK! Pictures sent from Mark King(Remco Royals (1971-1974)
In 1968 Frank Adey and a few colleagues saw the lack of football for boys aged up to thirteen years, and so they founded Morden Little League Football. It began as simply as that. Carefully devised Rules thus enabled boys who did not obtain regular football elsewhere to enjoy free, supervised, sponsored soccer, with the emphasis placed on the correct attitudes and manner of play, ensuring a competitive but sportsmanlike environment. The SENIOR LEAGUE has six teams each with a squad of fourteen players (now aged twelve to thirteen years), selected following Trials, by volunteer Managers, to ensure equal ability. The boys thus participate in one of three games played on one pitch each Saturday morning. The pitch, goalposts and footballs are reduced in size to accommodate the physical capabilities of boys in this age group, and the playing time is twenty five minutes each way. The Council provide the pitches, qualified Referees volunteer their support to the League, and local businesses and individuals sponsor the teams. (90 boys in 2001-02). The RANGERS were founded in 1984, when a number of boys (now aged seven to eight years) who were too young for the Senior League, played informal games of “Fun Football”, with different teams selected each week. Whilst the games continue to be informal, there has been progressive adjustment between six, ten and now eight squads, who play Mini Soccer games. (96 boys in 2001-02). The massive attendance at the 1986 Trials enabled the formation of the four-team JUNIOR LEAGUE (boys now aged twelve to thirteen). (64 boys in 2001-02). In 1987 the BANTAMS were created (boys now aged ten), maintaining the Rangers principles of skill development and “practice-not-points”, with no scores recorded and no League table created. Progressive revisions now leave the Bantams playing Mini Soccer with ten squads of eleven boys (110 boys in 2001-02). 1993 saw a new four-team section known as the COLTS LEAGUE (boys now aged eleven) initiated, to accommodate the unselected older boys, and in 1994 the Colts were extended to six teams. (90 boys in 2001-02). A change in the national Little League Rules in 1994, enabled the creation of a six-team GIRLS LEAGUE (now aged eleven to thirteen years) to meet the increasing and proper demand for Equal Opportunities. (90 girls in 2001-02). In the same year, two teams were created for the younger girls (now aged eight to ten) and were called the TRINIANS, following the Mini Soccer principles of the Rangers, with two more teams created in 1995. (48 girls in 2001-02). And finally (well, for the time being at least), the 1999 FA Rule changing the requirement for small sided football from Under Nines to Under Tens, sparked the creation of the HORNETS (boys now aged nine years), with eight squads (96 boys in 2001-02) each of twelve in a new Mini Soccer section between the Bantams and Rangers, and following their principles - now mysteriously adopted by the FA.

Legends



Betty Ardley Betty ran the cafa for twenty years until her untimely death in 1988

Derrick Diggins In 1983, the quiet and yet determined Derrick Diggins took over the role of Treasurer, and has presided over a five-fold financial expansion, managing the investments so astutely that income from this source has now become a major contributor to League funds

Dave Drewett Assisting and then managing his beloved Footman from 1972 to 1986, with a spell as Social Secretary included, Rep Team Manager, and even a while as Referees Secretary.

Brian Fenwick Started as an assistant with Elm in 1971, but then assisted with Footman between 1997 and 1986, doubling as Treasurer between 1974 and 1983 - a great contribution to seeing the League throughout those early and difficult years

Lee Fenwick Ex-players began to emerge - Lee Fenwick assisted and then managed Mays for twelve years from 1974, leading them to several Cup successes, and then the ultimate and elusive League triumph

Some Morden Little Leaguers can be thought of only in pairs Brian Goodall (1969 -1983) and Peter Fordham (1972 - 1983) Brian and Peter managed Remco throughout that period, always with good organisation and a smile, and occasionally with a bit of success on the field, but little league doesn't judge on that basis, more on the criteria of the generous and genuine involvement of people like Brain and Peter

Jeff Gray International For those of you who may not be aware, Morden little league lost one of it’s most loved, larger than life characters in 2003. Jeff Gray, who along with his buddy, Bob Bush, were without doubt Mordens most successful managerial team in our 42 year history. Jeff first came to us when we formed the fledgling junior league back in 1986 when we took the step to enlarge the league to 10 teams. Like Len Smart, Jeff was a source of great amusement and never more so than at 3am in Apeldoorn town centre when Geoff Watson would try to remind us we had an important tournament to see to in ‘a few hours time’ In fact, Jeff even arranged for his other footballing love, Van Dyke vets, to play at Groen wit’s annual friendship tournament. After an initial approach from some of our senior managers and after consultation with his family, it was agreed that from 2003 onwards, the senior teams will now play for the ‘Jeff Gray International Trophy’ and Morden Little League would sponsors Jephs Fillies in the Girls Division in his memory which is currently managed by Jeff's brother Nigel Gray

There is no where near enough space to pay tribute to the legacy he will leave behind at little league, that was perhaps best highlighted at his memorial service at a packed Emmanuel church when people literally stood in the car park to pay their respects.

John Grice John Grice, Vice Chairman upto 2014, retired after 25 years with Morden Little League. John joined MLL in 1989 when he managed his son team in the Bantams section. He then went on to be a successful manager in the Juniors and Seniors section. The League Management Committee back then comprised the managers and assistants of the Seniors Section and the managers of the Juniors Section. This was his first of more than twenty years involvement on the Committee. In that time he saw the League grow and double in the amount of teams and players, with the introduction of the Colts Section, the milestone introduction of the Girls Section in which my daughter participated, the Rangers Section, Trinians and Soccer Sevens sections.

In 2003, John was asked to take on the Chairman role. The next few years were difficult with dwindling numbers of boys and girls staying with the League. At this time Morden Little League was in real danger of collapse but with John as Chairman the Committee worked very hard to turn things around and the League regained its strength as an organisation and has thrived ever since. Aside from being the Chairman, John also took on the organisation of the annual international tournaments in Morden and Holland. His calming influence and guiding hand will be missed both in the committee room and pitch-side.

Ron Hobbs

Derek Howell The nineteen years between 1972 and 1991 saw Derek Howell lead Watliff in his uniquely caring style, perhaps the real face of Little League, epitomised by his photo and his great company on the early trips to Holland

Paul Homer Paul had a varied career, Referees Secretary for two spells (1977 to1980, and 1987 to 1989), working with Elm (1980 - 82) and Mays (1983 -86), and left the League stronger than it was before

Dennis Jones Dennis Jones, Chairman last season, began his Morden Little League Football career in the 2003 - 2004 season when his grandson joined Fenwick’s Falcons and he was quickly appointed a team manager. Dennis was truly bitten by the Little League bug and continued to manage a team from the Rangers through to the Seniors Division - 7 years of football management in which time he saw the players not only develop their football skills but for Dennis, more importantly, their social skills. He was honoured to take on the role of League Secretary from the start of 2005-2006, Sheila Jones also took the role of League Administrator, and he acknowledges that he would not have been able to carry out his tasks without the back-up from Sheila.In their time at Morden they have documented the key points to provide an understanding of the carefully devised rules to ensure that changes are not made in the future that can unbalance the ethos that makes this unique organisation work.

Jean Morris Jean was everything you wanted from a little league parent. She was there as a supporter at the beginning, a sponsor in the middle and a café coordinator long after her boys had finished playing. Jean finally succumbed to her long battle against illness in early 2004 and we have subsequently named an award after her. Although, you would need to ask one of the English party at 2am on a Sunday morning what it is for. Suffice to say, it’s in line with Jean's love of partying

"Mac" The legendary St John's man of the seventies, who supported the League every week for many years, and is now sadly no longer with us.

Ron Nichols (Mays 1970 to 1979, and Lottery to 1982)  Tony Norbury(Elm 1970 to 1980, Rep Team Manager, Manager of the National Rep Team to the USA in 1980)

ALAN RADDON After leaving Morden Little League where he was Assistant Manager (Watliff Dynamos), a referee, Referee's Secretary and did other roles, Alan Raddon went on to set up Wimbledon Little League and then moved on to Sunday morning youth football with starting the Apollo Boys Football League(Text thanks to John Raddon)

LEN SMART League President, sponsor of a team in each section, and a major contributor to everything that the league has undertaken since it was founded Len Smart was involved in everything to do with Morden Little League Football. He was there at the beginning, helping Frank Adey and Ron Hobbs to get things going, he was there throughout the seventies and early eighties, when there was only one section, and he was there throughout the expansion in the late eighties and into the nineties. But most of all, Len loved these International Weekends - here in Morden, playing Host to our friends from Groen Wit, planning the days and evenings out, and entertaining in style; and of course in Apeldoorn, where he played the archetypal English Gentleman abroad - expansive, generous, smoking a cigar large enough to make Churchill envious. He was a good old stick, we miss him !

Steve Snelling Morden Little League also says “goodbye and thank you” to, Steve Snelling who retried after 13 years as a manger in the Soccer 7s section. Steve was one of the original players back when the league was formed and his dedication and experience will be truly missed

Brian Thornton Brian who started as a referee in 1969, was alternately Chair and Secretary in two year stints between 1971 and 1979 and then chair in the great expansion years between 1984 and 1993, whilst still officiating a three matches every week. He put up his boots end of 2008-2009 season for a very well deserved break. It is doubtful that any other league has been fortunate to have such a worthy character at the helm, always shunning the limelight, a strong and determined personality, who never let it all become too serious in those heated moments

Jack Tomkins Who led Watliff from 1972 to 1980, and then Mays from 1986 to 1991, managing the Rep Team in the latter years, also in the position as Chair always a strong supporter of expansion. We also lost our former chairman and vice president in 2004. Jack was also to be found propping up the bar at the Cantharel Motel in Apeldoorn on several occasions. But as with Len and Jeff, Jack will always be remembered by us old’uns for their contribution in expanding MLLF from it’s original 80 boys into what you see here every week. Indeed, Jack was very successful during his time as manager of Watliff and Mays Lions and was immensely proud to see son Kevin and grandson Stuart, continuing the family association with us at KGF.

Kevin Tomkins Ex-player Kevin Tomkins, who began as Assistant with Mays in 1979, transferred to Remco in 1983, and managed the Rep Team with outstanding success for a decade, besides organising the Lottery and being National Executive Rep - Quite a career with more to come. Kevin has also been chair and his latest role of League tresurer came to a end in 2007

David Taylor Having served his apprenticeship as third man with Switchgear, managed Elm between 1982 -92, helped with the Rep Team, and was Social Secretary in a decade of great commitment to the League.

  Geoff Watson Most people know this man after his many years(over 20years) at the helm of little league(secretary). Now soaking up the sun in the Spanish regions but always keeping interested in the charity he gave many years to.

Mick Williamson Anyone who knew Mick would agree that his approach within little league was a testament of what fair play is all about.  Mick once said that his only aim was to ensure that each boy he coached would be an improved player by the end of the season.  He believed that if he achieved this winning games would also happen but winning was never Mick’s priority, the players were. He is truly missed.

Tom Young 1978 saw the ever dependable Tom Young began his unfinished career with Switchgear, with some great successes, and always playing in the true spirit of Little League, probably the most successful ever manager on the field

The list above only tells half the story, with names such as Pat Adams, Alex Brown, Bob Bush, Steve Clementson, Chris Ellis, Geoff Everard, Brian Ford, Derek Hayes  , Keith Hicks, Alan Hook, Terry Kempton, Maddi and Ken Mason, Dennis O'Carroll, Ricky Poole, Alan Raddon, Bill Rothery, Lorraine Murton, Trevor Solomon, Kev Taylor, John Vernon, Mark Watson, Graham Whitlock, John Willis,Dave Wylie, Paul Baily and many more...