A stone’s throw from the top hats and morning coats of the famed racecourse, Ascot United royalty and director of football Neil Richards is revelling in his beloved club’s recent success. 

Richards, 53, and wife Lisa, 57, have become the lifeblood of the club since Neil began coaching his daughter’s team in 2003. 

Two decades later, the long-standing Berkshire volunteers have seen the Ascot United reach new heights, including promotion to the Pitching In Isthmian League Division One South-Central and a winning Wembley trip that saw them lift the FA Vase in May. 

“The success on the pitch has gone hand in hand with what we’ve done off the pitch,” he said.

“My wife made me manage my daughter’s team, I had no choice! She’s been involved in many different roles. 

“She was core to the growth of the club and upped the standards off the pitch.

“Wembley was great, we were there when they handed the trophy over.

“Part of me wanted to be in with the fans but it was also nice for my wife and I to be in the Royal Box at the same time.”

Ealing Times:

Richards is one of countless volunteers who play integral roles at non-league clubs across the country, with opportunities to get involved now easier to find through the Pitching In Volunteer Hub. 

He even stepped in to manage the first team for the 2017/18 season when the club were in need, paving the way for current manager Jamie Tompkins. 

And despite the success of the first team in recent years, it is grassroots success that he remains proudest of, with 95 teams and 1,200 members across the club. 

“Although I’ve had various roles, my heart is still with offering the kids an opportunity to get involved," he added.

“There are not many clubs like us that have community-based football for all, but also has a relatively successful senior section that compete at high levels. 

“It’s a difficult but rewarding balance to keep both of those things going but it’s worth it.”

Find volunteering opportunities at your local club by visiting https://pitchinginvolunteers.co.uk/