By Jane Foreman
Courtesy of Amberley Parish Magazine
From young player via referee, organiser of games and leagues, talent spotter, scout, Forest Green board member, general encourager of young players, to the highest honour in schoolboy football – Chairman of the English Schools’ Football Association, there is no aspect of the beautiful game which Adrian Riddiford has not experienced.
His football journey has been an extraordinary one. A true local lad, Adrian was born in the Chalford valley in 1936 and attended Chalford Primary and then Marling. After National Service, he did his Teacher Training at St Paul’s College, Cheltenham.
Football was a family affair – his father, Headmaster of Thrupp School, was Secretary of the Stroud and District Football League responsible for organising matches, and it was by helping him as a teenager that Adrian, already a player in a youth team, learned the basics of organisation which was to prove invaluable to him in years to come. His father was also a referee and encouraged Adrian to run refereeing courses while at college.
Adrian’s first teaching job was at Brimscombe Poly, which was later to become the Manor School at Eastcombe. His involvement in teaching sport led him in 1962 to a place on the Committee of Stroud Schools’ Football association, where he quickly made his mark by introducing trials as part of the selection process for matches. Between 1964 to 1972 he served as Secretary on the Gloucestershire Schools’ Football Association, where he established the Border Counties league, and increased the number of games for the Under 15 County squad. Despite the considerable workload, (he was still teaching and refereeing,) Adrian never forgot his roots and founded an old pupils’ association for the Manor School and Brimscombe Poly, which included a very successful football team.
In 1972 he was elected, in a landslide victory, to serve as Council Member for the area on the English Schools’ Football Association Council, where, over 19 years, he was a member of several committees, notably the Under 15 International Selection Committee where again, he changed and improved the selection process by instituting an inter-divisional match, thereby giving young talent the opportunity to shine.
In the late ‘70s, Adrian forged links with the four football league clubs in his division and introduced football coaching in schools delivered by professional football players. This initiative benefitted more than 80 schools in Gloucestershire, Avon and Wiltshire. As the years passed, he became more senior in the organisation, and was elected Chairman for the year 1983-4, effectively in charge of 500 Associations and nearly 15,000 schools.
He said: “Saturday, July 9th was the beginning of the busiest, most satisfying, and rewarding year of my football life.”
Adrian retired from teaching in 1991, when the Manor School and Highwood School merged to become Thomas Keble. However, he was not left idle for long. Within months, he had been approached with job offers by no less than three clubs. He was interviewed by Ossie Ardiles, then manager of Swindon, for the post of Youth Development Officer.
His appointment was delayed as Ardiles went off forthwith to manage Newcastle, and a new manager had to be found – who turned out to be Glenn Hoddle. All went smoothly, until Glenn left for Chelsea, to be replaced by John Gorman and shortly afterwards Steve McMahon, who did not see eye to eye with Adrian, and they parted company. An offer of part-time employment at Bristol City followed shortly thereafter, scouting at the weekend and occasionally mid-week matches, followed, in 1997, by a post in the Director of Youth’s department. Concurrently, Adrian had been persuaded to become a FGR board member, working for them for four or five seasons until 2000.
Adrian’s lifelong devotion and commitment to the sport he so clearly loves is plain to see. He has carried out each role with flair, insight and integrity. He has unfailingly upheld the ideals and traditions first instilled in him by his father in the way he has sought to develop and nurture the sporting talents of young people.
Mr Riddiford, your journey has been a remarkable one, and schoolboy football owes you a huge debt of gratitude.