The Pirates - from mates having a kick-around to champions

Nyetimber Pirates bosses show off the season's silverware
Nyetimber Pirates bosses show off the season's silverware

In 2008 a group of schoolfriends started an indoor football kick-around at The Arena in Bognor on a Friday night ... and it quickly turned into a local football revolution.

After a year, organisers Charlie Welling and Jamie Walter decided to form Nyetimber Pirates FC and enter the Chichester & West Sussex Sunday League. And the rest is history.

Welling said: “We started playing indoor football when the 2007-08 season had ended. Most of the boys were at different local clubs and at the time it was just for a laugh and something to do. Nyetimber Pirates were a kids’ team in the 1970s and we always used the name as a joke name and it just stuck.

“We never intended to have a Saturday team – we were all in our early 20s and most of our mates were playing in the county league or for Newtown Villa, and that wasn’t going to change any time soon so we decided to put a team into the CWSSFL.

“Mark Harnett at ND Autos had played for the Pirates in the 1970s and he bought us a home kit, Jack Pearce at Bognor lent us an old Rocks kit to use as our away kit and gave us a few old balls and we were on our way. Most people didn’t think we would last the first season, which spurred us on to prove them wrong.”

Welling was appointed manager, with Walter the goalkeeper in the impressive side made up of mainly schoolfriends, many playing on Saturdays in the county league.

Not many people actually leave us to go elsewhere and join other teams. Once they are a Pirate it usually stays that way.

Marc Gill

The Pirates started impressively ,winning a league and cup double in their first season, 2010/11, losing only two games all season.

Season two wasn’t as great for the Looters, with the highlights a county cup victory over rivals The Old Barn and reaching the third round of the Sunday FA Cup with an impressive win in front of more than 100 fans at Nyewood Lane, but after Christmas things started to fall apart.

Walter said: “We had too many players that weren’t supposed to be playing for us on a Sunday because their commitments on a Saturday, but we had sort of got away with it the first year. A lot of the bigger Saturday clubs caught on that year and started turning up to the games and putting pressure on the boys and that pretty much ended our local Sunday League dominance.”

After a disappointing second half to the 2011-12 season and a dwindling number of players the Pirates decided to fold the club and this was put in writing to CWSSFL secretary Dennis Leonard.

The shock decision to keep the team alive and switch to Saturdays came on May 5, 2012, on a train journey back from London when two of the original players, Phil Turner and Michael Frangou, persuaded the founding two to give it one more go, with all four committing to the cause.

By the time the four had pulled back into Bognor station they had set the club a target or winning the WSFL within five years, a feat which was impressively completed ten days within the target on April 25, 2017.

The Pirates were promoted to division two in their first Saturday season after finishing fourth in division three south. It was in division two where the club moved to Pirate Park and really started to kick on with a handful of strong signings such as Andy Cox, Tom Bann and Anders Wyatt, giving the Pirates the springboard to win the Sussex County Junior cup as well as the Chichester Charity Cup and promotion to division one.

“I thought that junior cup win was the pinnacle for us as a club the time but we kept improving year on year, bringing in one or two faces to the squad, and suddenly we found ourselves in a position where we were good enough to challenge with the big boys. It sort of just snuck up on us. We did this keeping a bulk of the original players on board.

“Obviously we wanted to win every league we were in but we were positioning ourselves for what we wanted which was to get into the Premier Division which we did in three seasons,” said Welling.

A third consecutive promotion in 2014-15 took the club into the West Sussex premier division and although the club had success in the cups it seemed another league title was always one step too far for the Looters, who always seemed to miss out at the final hurdle.

A new reserve side was introduced in 2015-16 to help support the first team with Walter leaving the first team to manage the side for the second half of the season.

The first season in the premier division was more difficult than the Pirates may have thought finding themselves mid-table for the first time ever going into the New Year.

It was all change with long serving boss Welling deciding to step down as manager to help the team move forward, stepping into a backroom role as director of football/joint chairman ending his five and half year run as manager with Ted Griffin stepping in as manager.

Griffin, the former Pirates captain, had the instant respect of the dressing room and got the side playing impressively straight away, finishing the season with a string of wins and an impressive five clean sheets in a row.

Some strong signings and winning mentality was instilled by Griffin into every one of the players and turned the under-achieving Pirates into a force this season.

The Looters managed what many would have said was impossible seven years earlier, winning the highest accolade possible for a team at intermediate level, losing only one league game all season on the final day.

It wasn’t just the first team who tasted success this season with Jamie Walter’s reserves winning a league/Bareham Trophy double in his first full season as manager.

Success this season won’t be left where it is, with both managers committing to another season at Pirate Park and a new third team in the pipeline, with the possibility of a kids’ team being introduced in 2018=19.

Impressively 11 of the original double-winning squad remain at the club in some capacity including Welling, Walter, Griffin, Frangou, Turner, Mike Hamm, Kieron Urqhuart, Andy Cox, Ross Ludlow, Michael Palmer and the ever-present Sean Williamson who has gone on to make nearly 200 appearances for the club in seven seasons.

Warren Pye, James Fallick, Sam Pasterfield and Marc Gill all remain from the first Saturday side, showing consistency is key to success.

Joint chairman Marc Gill said: “Not many people actually leave us to go elsewhere and join other teams. Once they are a Pirate it usually stays that way.

“I think since we have gone to Saturdays its fewer than ten that have actually gone to play elsewhere, which shows we are doing something right.”

Timeline

2010-11 - Club formed and claimed CWSSFL double in first season losing two games in all competitions

2011-12 - Reached third round of Sunday FA Cup and decided to move to Saturday football

2012-13 – Accepted into WSFL div three south and gained promotion to division two south after finishing fourth

2013-14 - Won the Sussex County FA Junior Cup and Chichester Charity Cup, gaining promotion to division one after finishing second

2014-15 Gained promotion to premier division after finishing second in division one – lost on penalties of Malcom Simmonds Cup after knocking out three higher-division teams en route to the final, lost in semis of Centerary Cup

2015-16 - Pirates reserves formed with founder Jamie Walter appointed manager. They finished fourth in division three south – long-serving first-team manager Welling steps down to allow club to progress, replaced by Ryan Pharo, who is then replaced by Ted Griffin, who finishes season with five straight wins and a fourth-place finish.

2016-17 - First team win WSFL at second attempt losing one league game all season, knocked out of Intermediate Cup in quarter-finals and lose in semis of Centenary Cup and Malcolm Simmonds. Reserves win league and Bareham Trophy double gaining promotion to division two (knocked out of Junior Cup at quarter-final stage).

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking sports news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.

1 Make this website your homepage

2 Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/pages/Sport-Sussex

3 Follow us on Twitter @SportSussex

4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.