Gary Pleece, outgoing Montpelier Villa Community Football Club Chairman
"I'm sad to announce that I have decided to step down as chairman of Montpelier Villa Community Football Club (MVCFC) after over 20 years in the role.
I leave the position as chairman with the club in its strongest position since its inception in 1991, having just won the SCL Division 2 Supplementary Shield, gained promotion to SCL Div 1, as well as having just secured our status as a Community Benefit Society. Our youth teams are growing year on year and there are really encouraging signs of growth with the girls and women’s side of the club.
I am, however, not leaving the club; indeed, I will be working tirelessly behind the scenes on two key areas for Villa and its sister organisation, VYD CIC, (Villa Youth Development) as well as continuing to look after the club website, photography and some comms on a voluntary basis.
In my new position of Co-option, my main focus will be on securing a home for both the club and VYD as well as linking up the club’s community activity in its new CBS status with VYD’s projects.
A home for both organisations is crucial for their sustainability and in order for us to meet our goals of playing at the highest level possible as well as reaching as many people who need our help across the Brighton & Hove community. VYD has worked tirelessly with disenfranchised people across the city over the past three years to help individuals to access opportunities through high level football coaching and educational projects, including design, nutrition, health and wellbeing. We have several funded projects on the go at the moment working with older people, the unemployed, refugees and primary and secondary school children.
VYD project 'Team Talk' in action at Falmer Sports Complex
The two flagship Villa teams, the men’s and women’s first teams, have a very bright future ahead of them. For the men, the recent promotion to the SCL Division 1 is more than deserved and now we’re there, we want to build on the solid foundations that our fabulous first team manager, Kev Green, has put in place. It promises to be an exciting season coming up and I’ll be there as and when I can to cheers the boys on - as well as taking match day photos. For our women’s team who came so close to winning the WSL Premier Division last season, the future is looking equally rosy. Massive thanks and respect to Charlotte Smyrk, for her excellent efforts over the years running and growing the team. Long may it continue.
VYD is committed to helping to reduce the barriers for people from the Whitehawk, Moulsecoomb, Bevendean, Stanmer and the Hollingdean areas of Brighton to be able to enjoy happier and healthier lives with more access to relevant opportunities. We are working with local schools and community groups as well as Plus X so we can offer people from these communities free footballing and educational opportunities, as well as, in some cases, subsidised football with Villa. It’s my mission to level up the playing field and offer as many people as possible from the area around where Villa are based in Falmer, a route into the club.
Having founded Villa in 1991 in the Lion and Lobster pub along with Franklin Barrett, Miles Jefcoate and Mark Burletson and then set up the youth, women’s and now girls section, I have blue, white and black blood coursing through my veins and that will never leave me. I cannot describe the love I have for the Villa. That will never wane, indeed, it will only grow stronger as these projects evolve.
Championship winning Montpelier Villa FC in the late '90s, Gary centre with trophy
I have so much energy and motivation invested in my work with VYD and I want MVCFC to benefit from that work. Hence I need to focus on where I can be most effective for both the club and VYD.
It’s so important for me to give everyone access to our wonderful football club. Our values and vision when we set up back in ’91 were simple; ‘No Wankers’! And that still holds true today! Not only that, we played with a fee-flowing, football on the deck philosophy we named ‘The Villa Way', with all of our teams playing with a style and elan that aligns with our values. But most of all, we were - and are - a welcoming, inclusive club; a club who have given football opportunities to really gifted players but equally to the disenfranchised, the homeless and disabled - on which, thanks to our u15s manager, Chris Day, who has worked brilliantly with his side over the years as well as having players with Cerebral Palsy playing for his team, including Saul Evison, who has been identified by the FA’s Talent ID team as a future potential England Disability player. Incredible stuff. We are a club that’s truly ‘different’ - and that’s no mistake; it’s how we always intended it to be from day one.
I played in the Villa first team for over 15 years, winning many championships and cups for the club as well as representing the county league rep side on several occasions. I also played twos and threes for many years (as well as managing them both and the ones, for many seasons, too) and I now manage and play for one of the two vets sides. I set up the youth section nearly 10 years ago now and I co-managed our first youth side at u9 with Tony Dain, until they reached u16s. Indeed, this is the first year without being involved with a youth side since they were set up, which feels…odd! I’ll be back in the thick of it again soon though, supporting the new u19s and the girls u9s coaches. Once a Villan…
I also helped to set up our Wildcats centre recently and it was such a thrill to see the young Villa girls in action in their recent friendly with Southwick. The first ever Villa girls game and a young Pleece in the squad too! They’ve also got a great lead coach in And Mitchell, who used to coach at her beloved, Notts County. The next thing I’ve got my eye on is the Villa Walking Football side (so I can get a game, basically as the vets side I manage is just too good!) Watch this space.
The youth section also has some great people coaching and running our sides and, as ever, we are so fortunate to have such amazing facilities to play at. We’ve been playing at Falmer Sports Complex since I was in the first team, which is over 20 years ago now and the relationship with Sussex Sport is still very strong. The men's first team, 23s and 18s will continue to play at Culver Road in SCL Division One, which is a fantastic facility to support our teams’ ambitions. Sadly the second team will not be playing next season, which is a disappointment, but thanks to the two Dans for their fine work last season.
I’d also like to wish Adam Walter the very best as he takes up the reigns of interim chairman and he knows that I’ll always be there as a sounding board if he needs me. I have every faith that Adam will do really well in the job. Good luck sir!
We also have a wonderful football committee for both the youth and adult sections. Many people don’t know what’s involved in running a football club - it’s endless meetings, communication with leagues and other teams, dealing with occasional problems and generally being the engine that runs the club. It’s a thankless, unseen task in many ways, but I know more than anyone how essential it is to have the right people in place to ensure the operation runs smoothly - and that’s what we have at Villa. BUT, we can always do with more people coming forward to volunteer. So, if you want to know / do more, get in touch. We would welcome you with open arms.
Gary managing the Villa Vets Originals
It’s also vital for the club’s future sustainability that as many people as possible sign up to support Villa moving forwards by becoming a member of the new Community Benefit Society. By doing so, you’ll be helping to invest in our ambitions to play at the highest level possible, as well as supporting our push to give all players from all backgrounds opportunities.
With my son, Herbie, a Villan of 9 years (U19s next season) and my daughter, Gigi, in our new girls u9s, I’ll no doubt bump into you on a touchline somewhere soon. I’ll also continue to run the Villa Vets Originals, who finished second in our league this year - so I ain’t going nowhere!
Funnily enough I was known as El Presidente by some former Villans in past days when I was first made chairman and given a South American, military junta style dictator’s hat to go with the role (in jest, I hope!) Now it’s time to don that hat again and get to work. I can’t wait to get started.
Up The Vila