Words: John Edwards
Just 24 hours after the United Nations set aside a day to honour those who offer their services free of charge, Altrincham are delighted to announce that Noel Shield is the latest winner of our very own Volunteer of the Month award.
It is entirely fitting that Noel should be the board’s choice to receive a Blanchflower voucher so soon after the UN held their International Volunteer Day to recognise the contribution made by more than 800 million volunteers worldwide.
A Robins fan all his life, Noel is certainly one in a million, quietly-spoken and unassuming but integral to the efficient day-to-day running of Altrincham FC after working his way up to the position of commercial manager.
Reflecting on an involvement at The J.Davidson Stadium that spans no fewer than seven decades, he said: ‘I started going to games as a seven-year-old, way back in 1964-65, and I was hooked on watching Alty from then on.
‘It was just going to games to begin with, but that gradually changed when I was about 13 or 14. I went to school with David Thorpe, and his dad Jack was the groundsman, so we started hanging around the club to see if we could help in any way.
‘The players trained at Moss Lane in those days, and we’d stand behind the goal and retrieve the ball if it went on to the terraces. I remember one session where they shouted to us that they needed two goalkeepers, and David and I ended up going in nets, him at one end and me the other - I’ll never forget that.
‘If Jack ever went away to his holiday caravan, we’d make sure everything was as it should be - keeping the pitch looking trim, cleaning the baths, that sort of thing.
‘It just went on from there, really. I got involved with the Supporters’ Association, and was chairman for a while, helped on the turnstiles, gave Keith Davey a hand with his snack bar and took charge of the advertising boards.
‘It was a case of whatever needed doing, really, and then I became commercial manager probably six or seven years ago.'
In the latest in a long list of Alty roles, Noel has found himself working closely with club director Sam Mackenzie, helping, amongst many other things, to ensure the continued smooth running of the hugely-successful business club.
‘It involves a lot of graft, going round shops and so on, handing out cards to try and promote the business club and get people to come along,’ he said. ‘It’s well worth the effort, though, when you see how it has taken off and how well attended the meetings are.
‘I do spend a lot of hours at the club in the course of each week, but no-one is forcing me. I do it because the club means so much to me and I want to do it.
‘It’s nice to get a bit of recognition for your efforts, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I do think there are more deserving cases out there. There are a lot of people who give so much time and effort - often outdoors in all weathers, too, whereas I’m inside much of the time.
‘I suppose it says something about the club that so many want to do their bit to help keep us on the right track.’
Sam Mackenzie said: ‘Noel is a real unsung hero of this club and a joy to work with. He is always ready to turn his hand to anything and has really embraced the dramatic changes we’ve seen here as we continue to move forward and make our mark as a fully professional club.’
Thanks, as ever, to Blanchflower for their support in continuing to sponsor our monthly award with a £30 voucher, and well done Noel - be assured you will enjoy the fare on offer at Blanchflower Bakery & Kitchen’s renowned town centre restaurant.