This feature sees us catch up with former Bromsgrove Rovers and Sporting midfielder Keenan Meakin-Richards. He talked about his great memories with Sporting, the battles he faced which included competition for places and difference of opinions, and how he is now firmly focused to bringing through future footballing stars.
A reliable, no nonsense central midfielder for Bromsgrove Rovers and, then, Sporting, Keenan talked about his return to the Victoria Ground, with the Rouslers.
“Bromsgrove is a place that is very close to my heart. Playing for both Bromsgrove Rovers and Sporting, I have many fantastic memories with the clubs! When I heard that Smudge (Paul Smith) was interested in me at Sporting, I jumped at the chance to return and help guide the town’s club back to where it belonged.
“The start of the season was frustrating for me due to a five-game ban, when all you want to do as a player is help the team to get results. I was buzzing when the ban was up and I could get going.”
The squad in Sporting’s 2016/17 ‘Invincibles’ was undoubtedly a strong one, but Keenan was candid in explaining why it didn’t always create harmony.
“For me as a player, it was the first time in non-league that I was with a manager who used the rotation policy; at first I found it difficult occasionally, causing Smudge and I to have a difference of opinions, as I wanted to play every game week in week out. But the team spirit and the togetherness made you see past that – all we wanted was one another to do well.
“The quality in the squad for that level was frightening. Competition for places was fierce; you had the likes of Sam Wills, Ahmed Ali, Robbie Bunn, Nathan Walker and myself all competing to play, week in week out. That’s why we went undefeated that year and got to the semis of the FA Vase.
“The lads were class and the team spirit was unreal, so hats off to the players and especially the management, as they created an environment for us to thrive and perform in.”
In his 33 Sporting appearances, there were many good memories, as he looked back on.
“My finest moments in a Sporting shirt included my free kick against Hinckley on a Tuesday night that was special to me, the game against Sun Sports in the Vase, which was a brilliant day out as the following of fans that came to support us made it seem like a home game and lifting the league trophy against Studley, which topped off an amazing, unbeaten league season.
“Getting knocked out the FA Vase was my worst memory and I think the most sickening I have experienced during my football career. I have been chasing the Vase ever since and got nowhere near.
“The following season, I decided it was time to move on. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but Smudge fully understood why. I do sometimes look back and wonder if I should of have stayed because the club has everything that you want as a player to perform week in week out.
“I still keep in touch with the some of the lads likes of Cowls (Jason Cowley), Jacko (Jack Wilson) when he messages me randomly saying ‘Shut your mouth’ and Aaron Roberts.”
Keenan may have left Sporting on a massive high, but the footballing success was far from over post-Bromsgrove.
“After my spell with Bromsgrove, I went on to Walsall Wood, where I have had two unreal seasons, doing the double in my first season with the club and finishing joint top with Ilkeston the season after. We were gutted we didn’t go up especially after going to their ground in front of 2500 fans and battering them 4-0 with two games to go.
“Starting this season at Coleshill didn’t quite work out for me, which led me to return back to Walsall Wood.”
He spoke about how he is passionate to bring through the future stars of the game and how the footballing talent may well be in the genes…
“Away from playing football, I own a private football academy with my partner Aaron Moses called PPA ACADEMY, which stands for Perform Progress & Achieve, helping individuals unlock their potential working with all standards, from beginners to pros.
“I am also Academy Manager at Hednesford Town, where I am in charge of the scholars. This season I will be working very closely with the new first team gaffer Andy Morrell to promote our youth as well helping the first team when I can.
“During my time at Bromsgrove. I had just got engaged – now I have a beautiful wife and we are expecting a baby in August, which I am really looking forward to.
“I have two boys already, Joseph, who is 10, and my youngest Jacob, who is 7, currently following my football footsteps at WBA pre-academy.
“Looking back at my time with Sporting, a big thank you goes to everyone involved with the club, especially the likes of Graham Scott (what a top bloke) and a big thank you to the fans; you were unreal and made my time at the club one that I will always remember, along with the other lads. Maybe I will be back as a coach one day… who knows?!”