After a successful season that saw Stansted FC win the Errington Challenge Cup and narrowly missed out on winning the Essex Senior League, our local team struggled to find their mojo early in the season – but recent matches have seen a vast turnaround in fortunes.

Although many robust players stayed loyal to Stansted, the losses of some of the team’s star players from last season cast a pall over the team with a mundane performance putting them in the bottom half of the league standings.

Yet, a few weeks into the season, things just gelled and new players such as midfielder Dan Cheema gained momentum, bolstered by the return of the high energy right winger Connor Hammond. The signing of Ash Siddik, one of the League’s most talented midfielders, from Sporting Bengal FC in November proved to be a masterstroke by the management when he scored in his debut match.

All the cogs seemed to slot into place and the attack machine that put the Airportmen within a couple of points of winning the league last season was back. The team climbed its way back up through the League, gaining confidence with each three points added to the tally.

The beginning of 2020 started strongly with a 5-1 win in the local derby match against Sawbridgeworth on 4th January – the local side’s eighth successive win. In a superb first half, Hammond scored a brace, team stalwart Jack Mitchell powered in a penalty and Cheema tidily slotted in a goal, giving the home side an unassailable lead. While the second half was more finely balanced between the teams as Sawbo finally woke up, an unflappable defence and sharp-minded keeper George Marsh saw off all but one attempt by Sawbridgeworth to turn the game around. In reply to Sawbridgeworth’s lone goal of the game, the relentless workhorse Ryan “Rambo” Ramsey, assisted by Siddik, broke the opponent’s defence to bring the goal tally to five.

While Stansted may be unable to top the soaring performance of YouTube media sensations Hashtag United this season, it is still a team that is a pleasure to watch and follow.

Stansted FC’s success along with the growth of youth football at Elsenham YFC – where more than 400 children play in 18 teams at Elsenham Recreation Ground – proves that our community deserves better pitch facilities. Football brings the community together, promotes a healthy lifestyle, gives many young people a sense of purpose and self-belief, and provides opportunities to tackle pressing issues like mental health and racism.

Uttlesford District Council’s own pitch survey states that Stansted should have a 3G adult pitch and youth pitches, potentially at Forest Hall School. Having spoken out at UDC’s full council for better sports provision and writing to sports portfolio-holder Cllr Alex Armstrong, I hope UDC will hold round-table meetings with local football clubs and schools to help address the community’s needs.