A dad who formed a football team for men in Huddersfield who have suffered the anguish of losing a baby has been nominated for a national award.

Alex Walmsley set up Sands United West Yorkshire in 2020 and it now has around 35 players who have lost a baby shortly before, during or after birth.

He is on the shortlist for this year’s Sky Bet Real Football Number Ones – people who go above and beyond in grassroots football. The winner will be announced in October and will get prizes money can’t buy such as VIP tickets to big games, match balls and signed shirts.

The judges include famous football pundits Graeme Souness and Clinton Morrison.

As chairman of Sands United Alex has many responsibilities including sorting out kits, encouraging new members to take part, folding raffle tickets, booking the pitches, organising the players and even hosting fundraisers for charity.

Alex is passionate about having a safe space for men to chat and play football where they are surrounded by others who have been through similar devastating experiences, creating a strong support network.

Alex said: “I formed Sands United West Yorkshire after me and my wife lost three babies in three separate pregnancies. I also lost my brother, Josh, when I was younger.

“As there wasn’t anything else out there I set up Sands United West Yorkshire for men who have lost babies. They come along, play football and grieve through football.

“It’s for my children and it’s their legacy. They are not here, they’re not growing up, they are not ageing, but this club is in their memory and if it wasn’t for them there wouldn’t be a club.

“The stars we have under our badge are personalised to each player, I have four stars – one for each of my children and one for my brother. One of the guys said to me that every hour he plays it feels like it’s his daddy daughter time.

“That’s the one hour a week he spends with her and he knows she’s there because of the badges on his chest.”

Alex, who lives in Heckmondwike, added: “It’s a tough conversation to have. You don’t want to talk about something so negative but if we don’t things are going to happen where people are going to repress these emotions and it just gets worse and worse for them.

“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and that we even exist. Eventually I’d love to have our own pitch, our own ground. I’d love to have different teams whether it be different levels of male football, whether it be female football, children’s football.

“I just want that legacy to keep going and one day I think my proudest moment will be when my children are wearing that shirt for their brothers and sisters.”

Find out more about Sands United West Yorkshire at https://www.facebook.com/sandsunitedwestyorkshire/

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.