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Cheltenham North chairman Paul Carter confident about a brighter future

All Areas > Sport > Rugby Union

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Thursday, 21st July 2022, 10:50

Cheltenham North’s under-15s played in the National Cup final at Sixways last season. Picture, Shaun Lafferty Cheltenham North’s under-15s played in the National Cup final at Sixways last season. Picture, Shaun Lafferty

Cheltenham North are looking forward to a brighter future – quite literally.

That’s because the rugby club, which were founded in 1905, are putting up six new floodlights on their ground at Stoke Orchard Road in Bishop’s Cleeve,

And on Friday 26th August the club will play an evening game against Coney Hill to celebrate the installation.

“That will be an historic occasion,” said North chairman Paul Carter. “It’s the first time the club will host a match under floodlights, the floodlights are state of the art.”

That game will start at 7.30pm and Carter, who has been chairman for 12 months, says the plan is to play a number of matches under the lights on Friday nights next season.

Carter is understandably very excited by that prospect and after the difficulties of last season he is certainly in upbeat mood as he looks ahead to the new campaign.

The North will be playing in a different division, of course, after the RFU’s nationwide re-structure of the leagues, and Carter is happy for the club to be playing in the 12-strong Counties 1 Western North which is Level 7.

“The RFU have done their best to make the divisions more localised and to reduce the number of games,” he said. “Teams at our level don’t need to be travelling hundreds of miles to play games, they want to play local rugby that is competitive.”

The North make the short trip to Longlevens for their opening league game in September and many of the teams in their division are well known to them.

“A couple of them will be new to us – Nailsea and Burnham-on-Sea – but the rest we have all played recently,” said Carter.

“We had a difficult season last season. It was always going to be difficult after Covid, the numbers returning to rugby were dreadful, but it will be much better this season.”

Carter has good reason for that optimism because he has been encouraged by the numbers turning up to pre-season training under the watchful eye of head coach and Gloucester legend Terry Fanolua.

He’s also been encouraged by the club’s recruitment.

“We’ve signed a young South African lad, Jake Latola, he’s 21,” Carter continued. “He’s a 10 or 15, he kicks like a mule. “We’ve also signed Aidan Giblett, an ex-pat who has been living in Cyprus. He’s also a 10 or 15 but can play in the centre.”

Carter said the club were hoping to sign more players in the coming weeks and is confident that Fanolua will have a squad of 40-plus to work with by the time the season gets under way.

So what are the aims for Fanolua’s men this season?

“Firstly, we want to be competitive in the league,” said Carter. “Realistically, I don’t think we’re looking at the top three but we want to be mid-table and above.

“Secondly, we want to consistently field a 2nd team, Cheltenham North United, who will play league rugby, and thirdly, we want to massively improve the club’s infrastructure.”

The new floodlights are obviously a key part of that improvement but the club are working hard in other areas too.

Plans for a new clubhouse extension will see 200sq metres added to the back which will provide two new changing rooms, making six in total, a players’ lounge and sponsors’ area, disabled toilets and a new bar.

The club are also planning to extend their second pitch to full size with a new pitch constructed beyond that by the start of next year to accommodate their minis and youth.

The junior section has been one of the success stories at the club in recent times, but there are other success stories too, most notably the women’s and girls’ section.

“It’s really exciting, we’ve already got 24 players signed up for the women’s team,” said Carter. “They finished third in their inner warrior series last season and our captain Lauren Twinning has been signed by Leicester Ladies.”

And the under-15 girls’ team had a great season too.

“They were finalists in the National Cup, drawing 10-10 with Old Reigatian,” said Carter. “They lost due to a technicality - first try scored - but were by far the better team and we are hugely proud of their achievement last season.

"More than 300 North fans travelled to Worcester Warriors to watch the game and the girls travelled in style on Gloucester Rugby’s official coach.”

And while that represented success on the field, 60-year-old Carter, who runs his own creative marketing business in Tewkesbury, is just as keen that the club have a good reputation off the pitch.

“Last season we became ambassadors for rugby,” he said. “We made some very good friends when we were travelling to support the men’s team at places like Matson, Cleve, Clevedon, Midsomer Norton and Avonmouth Old Boys, I think that’s very important.”

And Carter would love more people to come and join Cheltenham North.

"If you’re looking for a great club to play and enjoy rugby, the doors are open at the North and we welcome players of all levels and age groups – under-7s through to Colts, men, women, boys and girls," he said.

Other Images

An artist’s impression of the new floodlights at Cheltenham North
Paul Carter, front row, centre, played in a vets’ game for The North last season. Picture, Shaun Lafferty
Women’s rugby is flourishing at Cheltenham North. Picture, Shaun Lafferty

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