A few children playing football with their parents on a local field quickly morphed into organised training sessions and word soon spread about something wonderful happening in the village of Lydford, a rural community on the far western edge of Dartmoor and a few miles north of Tavistock.
As club secretary Hannah Braithwaite-Smith explains, the ethos of enjoyment has provided the perfect platform for the Foxes, who have maintained their enthusiasm and passion for football, despite some harsh early results.
“It all started with a few lads and dads from the village going for a kickabout on a Saturday morning at the sports field we have in Lydford,” said Hannah. “There was an old metal goal on the field and probably around six kids at the time.
“One of the children said it would be great to play a match and the first group involved kids aged six, eight, ten and thirteen. They were all kids from the village and our first game was between youngsters from within the village.
“As the sessions became regular, word spread among the surrounding villages and more and more children began attending. It got to the point where a few of the dads decided to train for FA coaching badges.
“We obviously needed a name and that stemmed from a cuddly toy fox that had been left in the field by a child, presumably a holidaymaker, so that’s how we became the Lydford Foxes.
“We joined the Devon Junior & Minor League in 2017-18 and we’re now heading into our third season. In that first season, we had kids of different ages, so a few had to play up a year and we had an Under-11 and Under-13 team.
“The first season was really tough. We lost every single game and the first match ended as a cricket score, but our kids came off the pitch and said they absolutely loved it. The coaches couldn’t believe the reaction and that was the motivation to build a football club.”
It is the positive attitude of the players and their love of football that has made the Lydford Foxes such an attractive proposition for aspiring footballers in surrounding communities.
The Foxes head into the 2019-20 season with four sides competing in the DJM and the Cubs section developing for younger players to take their first steps in the beautiful game.
“We’re now at the stage of having a number of teams across the age groups,” said Hannah. “Our Cubs have players aged 5-8, who train on a Saturday morning with two qualified coaches and any parents who want to help out.
“The Cubs don’t play any competitive matches yet, just enjoy a kickabout. We also have teams at Under-10, Under-12, Under-14 and a newly-formed Under-15 side.
“In Lydford, we have around 400 residents and the majority of our players come from the village, but word has continued to spread. The furthest away come from Hatherleigh, which is about 15 miles from Lydford, and there are players coming from surrounding farming villages, stretching down towards Tavistock.
“They have heard about who we are and the club ethos. We provide football for anyone who wants to give it a go. It’s not about ability, they are here to have fun and play with a smile.
“As a consequence, results have actually started to improve and our Under-10s had a great cup run to the semi-finals last season. They won more games than they lost. Our Under-12s had a very difficult start and lost their first game 21-0, but they kept on going and started to win some matches in the second half of the season. By the end of last season, our Under-11's were drawing games, which shows huge progress.
“The Foxes have a genuine spirit and the kids generally come from very small communities, and schools with just a handful of children. They learn from a very young age to get on with everybody and give everything a go.
“Grassroots football should be about having fun and playing with a smile. We’re instilling an attitude of enjoyment and a lot of our games involve travelling long distances to play teams in and around Plymouth.
“We often seem to play against kids who are bigger and stronger, but we always look to give them a competitive game. You can be tenacious and fair at the same time, which is why we’ve won six Respect awards in our short time as a football club.
“Our hope for the new season is to keep enjoying football, win games where we can and get our Under-15s established in the league.
“One final thing that would be a massive help to the Lydford Foxes would be to find a sponsor. At the moment, everything is funded by the parents and sponsorship would obviously be a major bonus in terms of helping us to acquire new kit and equipment for the players.”
This season, Lydford Foxes have five teams, U-10's, U-12's, U-13's, U-14's & U-15's.
The Lydford Foxes are a fantastic example of grassroots football at its finest and all of us at Devon FA would like to congratulate the players, parents and volunteers in creating a wonderful football club. If you can help them out with any sponsorship, please contact Hannah on firstname.lastname@example.org