Hungerford Town FC News March 2017

In May 2016, Hungerford Town FC beat Leamington FC in the Southern Premier League play-off final to seal promotion to the Vanarama National League South. The club has enjoyed a meteoric rise of three league promotions in eight seasons under manager Bobby Wilkinson and has reached its highest league position in its 130-year history. Incredible as it may seem, ‘little’ Hungerford Town are now just two steps away from the Football League and have not only adjusted to this higher level of football but are again pushing for the play-off positions with virtually the same squad of players.

In this period the Hungerford Town FC has successfully evolved into a vibrant community club which includes the first team, a National League Academy side (with 50 students), a community team (the Hungerford Swifts), a veterans team and junior teams at most age groups.

Recent league games and next fixtures

Hungerford played four games in March. A 2-0 defeat to Hampton & Richmond was soon forgotten two successive 2-1 victories against Concord Rangers (a particularly hard-fought encounter) and Weston super Mare, followed by a goalless draw with Welling United. This leaves the goal difference exactly where it was at the start of the month but the team seven points better off and in sixth place, one place and five points off the play offs and with a game in hand over all but one of the sides above them.

It looks very much as if Ebbsfleet or Maidenhead will win the title. With six (or in Hungerford’s case, seven) matches still to play, it seems that seven teams are in the frame for the four play off spots. All these seven matches will take place in April and are as follows (number indicates the opponent’s current league position). 1 April H v St Albans City (10th). 4 April A v Poole Town (5th). 8 April A v Whitehawk (19th). 15 April H v Dartford (3rd). 17 April A v Hemel Hempstead Town (12th). 22 April A v Wealdstone (8th). 29 April H v Chelmsford City (4th). Four of these games are against other teams with realistic play-off hopes (and one against a team battling relegation) so a tense finish to the season seems in prospect.

Upgrading the ground

Hungerford’s success has, however, led to some challenges. By far the most immediate results from the Football Association’s demanding ground-grading requirements. If the club cannot satisfy these by the end of March 2017 the result will be an automatic relegation back to the Southern League, regardless of our league position at the end of the season. (The success continues in other competitions, too: on 10 January, Hungerford beat Chesham Uts 5-2 to earn a place in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup Final for the first time in 35 years.

The work required

Phase one involves the club providing additional seating for 100 spectators, renewing the floodlights and adding extra turnstiles. These need to be in place by the end of March if Hungerford’s current league status is to be maintained (see next section).

Phase two will involve improvements that, although not insisted on by the league, are desirable and will benefit the entire community. These include additional toilets and upgrades to the clubhouse.

A minimum of £35,000 is needed for phase one. Some of the funding is in place for this – but not all. Without the rest there’s the real risk that the floodlights will be installed but that the club will not be able to pay the electricity bill (an unpleasant irony the club is keen to avoid)

The club’s success has helped to raise the profile of Hungerford, and we are all immensely proud of our town but – unlike the majority of clubs in our league – we are totally self-funded and run by a Community Committee of volunteers. As our nickname of ‘The Crusaders’ suggests we are always prepared to fight against the odds but we need the help and support of the community of Hungerford more than ever. We have no magical financial wand.

Update – 29 March 2017

The club received a pre-inspection visit from the Football Association yesterday and all went very well. The new stand, which will become part of the existing main stand, is being installed as we speak and apart from a few minor safety issues we are almost there.

The Ground Improvement Fund has just reached £25,000 and we are very very thankful to all of those who have donated. All being well the required ground grading for season 2017/18 will be confirmed in the next few days and the magnificent efforts by the team on the field of play will have been matched by the monumental efforts by the ground improvement project team off the pitch.

Fundraising and how you can help

Many thanks to all of you who have helped in our recent fundraising drive and who have come to support the team at Bulpit Lane. Various further fund-raising events are planned. To keep up to date with everything going on at the club and to view the plans, please visit our website.

The new seats will be being sold at £100 each, which will mean your name will appear on it permanently. We’re also selling bricks for the forthcoming work on the clubhouse.

If you’re a local business there are a number of sponsorship opportunities, ranging for season-long naming rights of the stands to pitch-side and match-day programme advertising.

As mentioned above, the club is run by volunteers. More help is always needed in every area, including ground staff, match-day stewards, bar and kitchen staff and programme sellers. We also run several youth and junior teams and coaches – and, of course, players – are needed for them too.

If you have any suggestions as to fundraising ideas or how you can help in any other way, please let us know.

We also look forward to seeing as many as possible of you to cheer the team on at Bulpit Lane. The opposition is tougher than last season but so far the team has shown they’re able to compete at this level. With your help, we can ensure that the club’s ground can rise to the same standard and provide a valuable asset for the club, and the town, for many years to come.

To get in touch with us, click here to go straight to the contact page on our website.

Mike Hall, Secretary


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