FA Cup: Why Jude Bellingham’s hometown club fear for their future

Jude Bellingham playing at the War Memorial Ground at Stourbridge
A young Jude Bellingham with the ball at his feet playing at Stourbridge’s War Memorial Ground. The video clip was shown at his Real Madrid unveiling

They are getting ready for a busy weekend at the Glassboys Sports Bar at Stourbridge Football Club.

The West Midlands non-league club host Gateshead from two leagues higher on Saturday for a place in the FA Cup first round. It has also not escaped local attention that Jude Bellingham is on England duty.

Ever since Stourbridge-born Bellingham became huge news, fans turn out to cheer the local hero on the big screen inside the clubhouse whenever the Three Lions – who play a friendly with Australia on Friday followed by a Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy next Tuesday – are in action.

“It was standing room only in here when he played for England at last year’s World Cup,” Andy Pountney, chairman of Stourbridge, tells BBC Sport.

“To see a kid come from junior football in Stourbridge go on and play for England and Real Madrid is phenomenal. And he’s still only 20. We’re extremely proud of Jude.”

Stourbridge FC is a community hub with hundreds of boys and girls playing for its junior teams. They also have a team in the third tier of women’s football – competing against the likes of Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest – together with two disability sides.

Behind the scenes, however, there is concern about the long-term future of Bellingham’s hometown club, who play at the 2,600-capacity War Memorial Ground which also serves as the town’s cricket club.

The Southern League Premier Division Central club’s pitch borders the outfield used by Stourbridge Cricket Club during the summer, an unusual set-up.

Pountney says sharing the land is hindering the football club’s attempts to grow and bring in further investment.

“It’s a nightmare,” adds the chairman, who is lobbying landlords Dudley Council to help find a solution.

“It’s not the way forward. Whilst we get by, it’s not sustainable. I worry for the football club’s long-term future.”

  • Stourbridge mural created of England footballer Jude Bellingham
  • Jude Bellingham’s success inspires Stourbridge people
  • Jude Bellingham – the player and ‘wonderful human being’
Stourbridge chairman Andy Pountney pictured at the non-league club's War Memorial Ground
Stourbridge have reached the FA Cup second round on two occasions – and third round once – since Andy Pountney was appointed chairman in 2012

‘From War Memorial Ground to Bernabeu’

When Bellingham was presented as a Real Madrid player in June after completing a move from Borussia Dortmund worth up to £115m, Stourbridge featured prominently in a video played at his signing ceremony in Spain’s capital.

The clip included Bellingham scoring as a youngster at the War Memorial Ground when playing for Stourbridge Juniors, the club his dad, Mark, helped set up.

“From the War Memorial Ground to the Bernabeu. Good luck @BellinghamJude,” Stourbridge posted on X,external-link formerly Twitter, after Real announced his signing.

Stourbridge Juniors is where it all started for Bellingham while Mark, a former police sergeant who hit the 700-goal mark in non-league, played for Stourbridge’s first team between 2004 and 2008 against teams such as King’s Lynn, Tamworth and Stafford Rangers.

“My first memories of football are going to watch my dad when he played non-league football,” wrote Bellingham in an article about his footballing journeyexternal-link last December when he was at Dortmund.

“I started playing for my Sunday league team Stourbridge Juniors around the age of seven and my dad was the coach.

“I played with a lot of my mates from school, so it was quite competitive and I think that’s probably where my competitiveness now comes from. But it was also a good laugh because I was just with all my mates.”

Despite his rapid rise, Bellingham has not forgotten his home town, one which is famous for its glass industry.

Mark Bellingham - Jude's dad - in action for Stourbridge
Mark Bellingham – Jude’s dad – in action for Stourbridge where he played between 2004 and 2008

“Last month he was at one of the schools in Stourbridge talking to children,” says Bek Howell, 20, a Stourbridge FC supporter.

“It’s those gestures that mean a lot to kids around here because they look up to Jude. We couldn’t believe he was running the show at the World Cup because he was only 19 at the time – and it all started at Stourbridge.

“He’s a massive inspiration for people in the town.”

England’s best young footballer for a generation is strongly tipped to be a future Three Lions captain – but he has not allowed fame and adulation go to his head.

Locals are proud of his rise and his face stares down from a town centre wall on Market Street next to the Ryemarket Shopping Centre.

Birmingham artist Gent 48 created the mural before Bellingham joined Real Madrid. It features the home-grown talent in an England shirt, while there are references to his time at Birmingham City – the club where he made his senior debut aged 16 years and 38 days.

When he left for Dortmund in July 2020, Birmingham announced they would retire the then 17-year-old’s number 22 shirt “to remember one of our own and to inspire others”.

Stourbridge Football Club responded on social media:external-link “Stourbridge will retire the number 22 shirt following Birmingham City’s decision to retire Jude Bellingham’s shirt. This is due to the fact we play non-league and we think shirt numbers over 20 are pretty ridiculous.”

Jude Bellingham's mural in Stourbridge where locals are proud of the former Hagley Primary School pupil's rise to Real Madrid and England footballer
Jude Bellingham’s mural in Stourbridge where locals are proud of the former Hagley Primary School pupil’s rise to Real Madrid and England star

Tackling knife crime

The walls inside the football club’s boardroom at the War Memorial Ground are adorned with pictures from Stourbridge’s greatest games. There are photographs of the FA Cup second-round win over Northampton Town in December 2016 along with Dan Scarr’s celebration after scoring in the third round at Wycombe the following month.

It is in here where Pountney will be meeting Stourbridge MP Suzanne Webb to discuss tackling knife crime immediately after this interview.

Ryan Passey, a former Stourbridge youth player, was fatally stabbed at a nightclub in Stourbridge in 2017, while Cody Fisher, who joined Stourbridge in 2019, was fatally stabbed in a Birmingham nightclub last December.

“I went to Cody’s funeral,” says Pountney, a father to two teenage daughters.

“Any parent who has to say ‘I’ve lost my child’, it’s harrowing. I’ve cried. You don’t realise how close to home it can be.”

The entrance to Stourbridge's War Memorial Ground which serves the town's football and cricket clubs
The entrance to Stourbridge’s War Memorial Ground which serves the town’s football and cricket clubs

‘Real concerns’

Excitement is building at Stourbridge as the team from the seventh tier of English football get ready to host National League Gateshead.

A win for Leon Broadhurst’s part-timers would propel them into the first round and a chance to draw a club such as Portsmouth, Derby County or even nearby Walsall.

As usual, Howell will be there on Saturday to cheer her team.

“From the moment you walk in the ground you feel part of something,” she explains. “It’s so welcoming. Andy, the chairman, is on first-name terms with everyone.”

The subject of Stourbridge’s long-term future, however, is never too far away from Pountney’s mind.

He believes full control of the War Memorial Ground – or a move to another site nearby – is the only way forward to develop the club.

“We’ve had loads of dialogue with the council on this issue over the years, but we’re no further forward,” he says.

“I’ll be here on Saturday with a smile on my face, but in the back of my head I’ve got real concerns about the future.

“I want to see the cricket club have their own facility and the football club to have its own facility. Until that happens we’re restricted with what we can do to really push forward. It needs resolving.”

Dudley Council has been contacted for comment.

Darts player Michael Smith poses with locals behind a giant Stourbridge FC flag
Darts player Michael Smith (fourth from right), who won the PDC World Championship in January, with Stourbridge fans during a meet and greet at the Glassboys Sports Bar

Listen on Sounds banner

  • Essential listening from George the Poet: This award-winning podcast offers a fresh take on inner city life through storytelling, music and fiction
  • Cillian Murphy’s perfect late-night mixtape: With music from Four Tet, Aphex Twin, The Supremes and Sinead O’Connor

Listen on Sounds footer

Read More


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search this website