Eye on the ball

Janice Watts has been running the local Rugby Portobello Trust (RPT) Football Team for nearly eight years and has recently been presented with the Mayors Award, which she was nominated for by the boys on the football team. When her youngest son Charlie was five and wanted to play football, she was frustrated by the lack of places for him to play, so when she was asked if  she and her husband Chris would like to take over the then struggling RPT team she jumped at the chance. Watts was supported by other parents who wanted their children to play, some gave footballs others gave money for shirts, one local even saw there was a shortage of boots and arrived with a boxful in a selection of sizes. First, Watts had to find out how the football leagues ran and she and her husband relied on an old minibus to take the team to play away matches. Now the 20-strong team is really up and running and trains on Wednesdays at Avondale and plays league matches either at Wormwood Scrubs or away on Sundays.  Watts says she couldn’t do it without the RPT team behind her. “We couldn’t do it without the volunteers and the support we get, that’s what make all the difference.”

Watts’ family came to Notting Hill two generations ago.  Her great grandmother was was a Romany Gypsey, one of the Hearn family who were among the first to settle in the area, in Avondale Park. Her great grandfather Joe collected canes at Notting Hill Gate to cane chairs.  Her grandfather and father were both totters, a rag and bone men and kept his horses in stables off Latimer Road, while her mother was such a loved school cook a tree was planted in her honour in Avondale (Watts is standing next to her mother’s tree in pic). Watts was born in Hesketh Place opposite RPT, and used to play in Avondale when she was a child. Some boys who played football on the old Avondale football pitch went on to big things, like Denis Wise and Allen Mullery, both former England players and managers. and then moved to Mary Place.

“I’ve got some children who turn up for football and you know what they have left behind at home,” says Watts. “We are like a family, that gang they want to join, but we are the good gang. they are in a safe environment.”

The cost of running the RPT football club is over £300/month and RPT pays for this with donations from local supporters, including donations of football boots, balls and kits. This week’s RPT Christmas Market is a great time to buy Christmas presents and support RPT at the same time, Tuesday 18th from 2pm and all day Wednesday 19th at the 20th Century Theatre. Watts is the one on the café.  Also, if your children have outgrown their football boots, you could drop them into RPT, they would be well used. rugbyportobello

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