GRASSROOTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE #2: REBECCA BARR
TEAM: AYLESFORD FC
LEAGUE: LONDON AND SOUTH EAST REGIONAL
There aren’t many players at grassroots that can claim to be a one club player, but Becks, as she’s affectionately known by her teammates, can claim just that, with fifteen seasons of consecutive service for Aylesford FC, the grassroots club in the heart of Kent. After a junior career having to play boys’ football, Becks was fifteen when she joined the club where she has experienced back-to-back promotions, reached two County Cup finals, been team captain for nearly ten years, and even caretaker manager for a couple of months back in 2015.
Unsurprisingly, Becks’ manager, her Chairman and her teammates have wonderful things to say about her:
“It’s hard to overestimate the influence and stature Becks has within the club. First and foremost she’s an excellent player, and certainly one of the best players I’ve coached in either men’s or women’s. We currently play at tier 5 in the women’s pyramid and she definitely has the ability to play in a higher division. Clubs as prestigious as Fulham have attempted to sign her in the past, which shows how she’s thought of in the game.
“Becks is an attacking midfielder with a range of passing and ball mastery most players aspire to, can glide past players easily, pick out defence-splitting passes and has a great set piece delivery. Aside from that, she’s an excellent leader and a driving force for the team. All her teammates look up to her and there are countless times that she’s been the match winner. She’s twice been named league player of the year in 2014-15 and 2017-18 and come very close in a couple of other seasons.
“She very much embodies everything about the team and club with our values and principles. Never misses a game or a training session, always has a great attitude and gives her all on the pitch, and helps other players; particularly the younger players.”
Dwayne Ellis (Manager, Aylesford FC)
“Becks has been an exceptional player for us for such a long time. She could definitely play at a higher level for higher-profile clubs but has shown great loyalty to us. As a club, we’re very proud to be at the heart of our community with everything we do and Becks is an integral part of that with our women’s teams. The team particularly in the last few years have been excellent representatives for the club and Becks is very much at the heart of everything that is good about our club.”
James Fuller (Chairman, Aylesford FC)
“I’ve played with Becks for ten years and she’s a really, really great player. It’s so hard getting the ball off her in training with her skill and strength. I’m pretty sure most of my goals have come from Becks giving me the ball! She’s a great captain for the team, she’s a leader, everyone respects her and always steps up for the team when we need her. It’s hard to imagine the team without her.”
Bethany Hulme (Player, Aylesford FC)
Tell us about when you fell in love with football?
Football has always been a passion of mine since a young age. My dad is a huge football fan and we were always out in the garden, down the park and if we weren’t playing football we were watching football on TV. I was nervous about playing football at a young age as there were very few girls playing at the time and I was always worried if I was good enough to play alongside boys and if I would fit in.
My idol at the time was David Beckham and I used to watch him specifically; I read his books and watched his DVDs and then went down the park with my dad to recreate his technique, especially his set pieces.
While down the park one Saturday, my dad was approached by a coach of a boys’ team. He said he’s never seen anybody cross a ball like myself at such a young age and invited me to a training session with his team. From the first session I really enjoyed it, the boys accepted me into the team and I never looked back.
Tell us about your grassroots career, any highlights?
There are too many to highlight! One would be winning back-to-back promotions in 2012-13 and 2013-14 to reach the fifth tier of women’s football, the division we are currently in now and the highest we have been in the pyramid. We had a great team and battled against bigger clubs to get there.
We have played a lot of big teams in our league and had some great games. In October 2016 we played Fulham away at their training ground, they had a full squad, several coaches and a physio and we only had eleven players. We won 3-0 and I scored a penalty and a free kick.
In September 2016, we drew Carshalton Athletic away in the Women’s FA Cup and after going behind we came back to win 3-1, our first ever win in the FA Cup. The same season we beat Herne Bay away in the semi-final of the Kent Women’s Cup to reach our first ever final against Gillingham.
Another FA Cup game was the 2019-20 season where we had Dulwich Hamlet in the first round and after going 1-0 down I managed to get the equaliser and in the last minute of extra time we scored to win 2-1.
What do you love about grassroots football?
I love the impact grassroots football can have on players and the local community. Aylesford is a community club and while not all the players come from there, we have always had a good group of people that gave everything for the team and worked hard for each other.
I work locally as a PE teacher and whether it’s children or teammates I enjoy helping players understand the game, improve their skills and watch players improve. I also enjoy the other side of the grassroots game in the social skills gained like confidence, communication, leadership, teamwork, amongst others, and the creation of friendships along the way.
I also run my local school district association, Medway, which runs teams at multiple age groups of boys and girls from Under 10 right up to Under 16 and I love being a part of providing opportunities for other players to experience all the joys of grassroots football that I’ve enjoyed.
What does it mean to be inducted into The Grassroots Post Hall of Fame?
It’s really nice to be recognised at any point but particularly at this time with everything happening at the top of the game with the proposed European Super League. Thank you to The Grassroots Post for everything you do in putting a spotlight on grassroots football and hopefully the sport will continue to grow.