FA Cup: Wayne Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford on owning his own football club 0 135

FA Cup: Wayne Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford on owning his own football club

Rylands celebrate

Rylands were crowned champions in their first season in the North West Counties League Division One South
FA Cup extra preliminary round
Date: 9-11 August Coverage: Punjab United v Broadbridge Heath live on the Red Button and on the BBC Sport website from 12:30 BST on 10 August

With the summer transfer window about to close, this is one of the busiest times of the year for Paul Stretford.

One of football’s most prominent agents, Stretford has guided the career of former England captain Wayne Rooney, and his company acts for Leicester City defender Harry Maguire, who is set to join Manchester United for £80m.

Yet, among the flurry of last-minute deals, Stretford has something else on his mind – next weekend’s FA Cup extra preliminary round, the first of 13 hurdles before the final on 23 May 2020.

The reason? Rylands, the club he has owned since last year, are preparing for the first FA Cup tie in their 108-year history – at Runcorn Town on Saturday (15:00 BST).

That is one of the rewards for winning the North West Counties League Division One South title last season.

“These are exciting times for the club,” Stretford, 61, told BBC Sport. “We’re competing at the highest level in our history and we’re now in the FA Cup.

“We are ambitious and want to keep growing. Why not aim for the Football League? It might not happen in my lifetime but you have to aim for the stars.”

The trip to the chemist that saved Rylands

Wire-making is the traditional industry in Warrington, and Rylands are named after a former wireworks.

Stretford, who grew up in the town, played in midfield for the team for a decade from the mid-1970s.

Seven years ago, as they struggled in Cheshire League Division One, they were in danger of going under financially.

Then came a chance encounter in a chemist between Stretford and former team-mate Ian Finchett, then the club’s chairman.

Stretford, a vacuum cleaner salesman turned multi-millionaire, was on an errand for his dad Ron – a long-serving treasurer at Rylands who has a stand named after him at the club’s 1,345-capacity Gorsey Lane ground.

Soon he was actively involved, spending £100,000 on ground improvements while his company became club sponsors.

“Paul sponsored a kit to start with and it just built from there,” said Rylands chairman Mark Pye.

“When he came in we had two senior teams. Now we cater for all age groups and we have a successful ladies’ team.”

Stretford said: “As a former player, it is great to have the chance to put something back in.”

Stretford (centre) with his dad Ron and mum Jean

Galloping to promotion and Chester Races

Stretford is perhaps best known for being at the centre of Rooney’s £27m move from Everton to Manchester United in 2004 – nine years after he had negotiated Andy Cole’s then British record £7m transfer from Newcastle to Old Trafford.

His company also acts for players such as Stoke City and England keeper Jack Butland and Toni Duggan, who played for England at this summer’s Women’s World Cup.

Stretford is, by non-league standards at least, a wealthy owner yet club officials are keen to play down suggestions Rylands – whose average gate is 99 – are awash with money.

Transfer fees and wages are rare in the ninth tier of English football, and players often travel to away games together to save on fuel.

It is no different at Rylands, where each player pays a £20 monthly club membership.

They do receive expenses, though, and were treated to a day at Chester Races when they won their league by seven points last season.

“Everyone has got this theory that we pay players a lot,” said Pye. “We’re not at that level. We need sponsors to function and we’re very fortunate we have got some great ones.”

The clubhouse at Rylands dates back to 1898 and was first built as a social club for the workers employed at the local Rylands Bros wireworks firm

Rylands is a close-knit club – but also, in Stretford’s words, “here to serve the community”.

When goalkeeper Graeme McCall announced he was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to help fund a new chemotherapy unit after his sister Linzi was diagnosed with breast cancer, the club organised a charity night for him.

The club has also become involved in the Peace Cup.

Initially played between Warrington Town and Crewe United, it is a fixture played annually since the IRA bombing in Warrington in 1993.

Rylands hosted the fixture for the first time earlier this month, winning 4-0.

Will Rooney line up for Rylands?

When Rylands won promotion in April after scoring 111 goals – including 23 by joint-manager Stuart Wellstead – Rooney tweeted his congratulations.

The 33-year-old, who won 120 England caps and now plays for DC United, is no stranger to the club – he used their facilities to film his own training app.

More recently, the clubhouse and changing rooms were used to film scenes for a television drama about World Cup-winning England captain Bobby Moore.

Will Stretford try to persuade his client to play for Rylands when his professional career ends?

“No,” he said. “I think Wayne will be performing at the top of the game throughout his playing career and then beyond that in coaching and management.

“That said, I might get him to put out a charity XI for us one day.”

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Cyrus Christie: Fulham investigate incident after player says sister was hit and racially abused 0 51

Cyrus Christie: Fulham investigate incident after player says sister was hit and racially abused

Cyrus Christie

Cyrus Christie came on as a first-half substitute in Fulham’s 1-0 defeat at Barnsley

Fulham will take the “strongest action possible” after full-back Cyrus Christie alleged that his sister was hit and racially abused by fans during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Barnsley.

Christie said on Twitter after the game: “To the Fulham fan that decided to hit my sister at the game today and his wife who justified his action with racist remarks I hope you’re proud of yourself and feel like a big man.

“You’ll get what’s coming to you. Regardless how you felt about the result your actions are shameful.”

The Whites, relegated to the Championship last season, said in a statement: “Fulham Football Club is investigating an incident which took place in the away end at the Barnsley v Fulham fixture this afternoon.

“Should the perpetrators be identified, the club will be taking the strongest possible action.”

Republic of Ireland international Christie, 26, joined Fulham from Middlesbrough in January 2018 and has made 33 appearances for the club.

In November 2017 and April 2018 he shared racist abuse he had received on social media.

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PSG beat Rennes to win Trophee des Champions in China 0 68

PSG beat Rennes to win Trophee des Champions in China

Paris St-Germain

Paris St-Germain have now won the Trophee des Champions nine times, including every year from 2013

Paris St-Germain fought back from a goal behind to beat Rennes 2-1 in the Trophee des Champions in China.

French Cup winners Rennes took an early lead against Ligue 1 champions PSG when an unmarked Adrien Hunou finished from Benjamin Bourigeaud’s cross.

But PSG, without the suspended Neymar, equalised 12 minutes into the second half when Kylian Mbappe scored into an empty net after Pablo Sarabia’s pass.

PSG won it with a spectacular free-kick from Angel di Maria in the 73rd minute.

The Argentine had only been on the pitch for 12 minutes after replacing Ander Herrera, who joined PSG on a free transfer last month after his Manchester United contract expired.

The match took place at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre stadium in south east China and PSG have now won the season-opening trophy seven years in a row, beating the previous record of Lyon’s six successive victories between 2002 and 2007.

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Are Neymar’s PSG team-mates trolling him?

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