THERE are many clubs at the same step level as the Western League who are content to amble along year on year, occasionally throwing a tin of paint over the clubroom walls or patching up the stand only when it shows signs of giving up the ghost but, happily, the absolute reverse is the case at Homers Heath.
The South Devon town of Newton Abbot has not been short of football clubs over the years but, with the various comings and goings, Toolstation Western League Premier Division side Buckland Athletic have emerged as top dogs in the area.
They know exactly where they want to be and have a solid plan to achieve it.
The club’s excellent website spells it out in simple terms and it is hard to argue with the logic as they dust themselves down from a torrid campaign which remarkably ended with silverware after a mid season loss of form and managerial change, followed by a fixture pile up of nightmare proportions.
The man tasked with taking the club forward is commercial director John Piller who, along with everyone else at the progressive club, has been swimming against the tide of an endless stream of postponements since Christmas which ended any hopes of a title shot and promotion.
Speaking at the Western League Convention at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Plymouth, John praised his colleagues at Homers Heath who somehow got through a bizarre last few weeks which culminated in a richly-deserved Les Phillips Cup final victory over Shepton Mallet at Longwell Green Sports FC on Bank Holiday Monday.
“It has been well documented that our club has had to play a whole batch of games together but everyone has pulled their weight from the manager to the ladies in the kitchen.”
Taking time out to thank everyone connected with the club, John added: “The boss Adam Castle is based in Southern Ireland but continued to fly across, despite being frustrated by postponements and having flights cancelled and his squad were on their knees at times but still came through and only lost two games in that chaotic spell.
“There was so much to do and, on the pitch, groundsmen Simon Dungey and Simon Glanfield performed miracles at times while assistant manager Ben Robinson stepped up whenever Adam was not there for the midweek games and the club still came out the other side with a trophy.”
The future plans include continuing to improve what is already one of the best appointed and welcoming grounds in the league in readiness for the step up to Southern League football to compete with the likes of fellow Devonians Bideford, Barnstaple Town and Tiverton Town which would also involve raising funding for an all-weather surface on the top pitch.
The club will be promoting ladies’ football in the South West and intends to continue to contribute to the local community, which is rapidly expanding around them with more than 1,400 new homes.
John added: “We are working closely with the council who have indicated they may help with funding and we intend to be around for many years and are building and planning while living within our means as we are an ambitious group.”
Certainly Buckland Athletic have come a long way in the 40 years since they were formed as a youth team, starting life in the Torbay Pioneer League playing on Sandringham Park. Current chairman Roy Holmes has been a constant and has worn many hats within the club, including long managerial stints, and the family name is established with Nigel as vice-chairman and Christine as secretary when not busy in the kitchen with Rose Glanfield.
It seems that it is the club ethos to do things the right way and this was borne out perfectly when football magazine Groundtastic rewarded them with the accolade of ‘New Stand of the Year’ not long ago, in recognition of their excellent work in providing a proper place to watch football in the dry rather than the grim metal kit stands which are so often plonked down away from the playing surface with little or no thought to the supporters.
John also paid tribute to programme editor Paul Hardingham, who once again took the Premier Division’s best programme award at the Convention, keeping up an impressive record of being winner or runner-up every year since the club moved up from the SW Peninsula League.
“Paul is wheelchair bound and has not been well recently but despite that his programmes are consistently superb and we cannot thank him enough.”
Kit man Paul Tucker has had plenty of work on his hands this season while Steve Giles is another whose hard graft often goes unnoticed but is well received as he drives the bus to away games, sorts out the bottles and team sheets along with many other tasks to keep the match days running as smoothly as possible.
While the vibrant clubhouse at Homers Heath is one welcome revenue stream, the club is fortunate to have had Carl Throgmorton’s Westward Developments group as main sponsors for many years while in town; Kate and Gary Taylor’s K2 Hairdressers and Firewatch UK are also important and much loved benefactors.
While the dust is still settling on this campaign it is all systems go for next August which will see a new managerial duo in player-manager Craig Duff and assistant Chris McPhee in the hot seat.
The pair will take over from Castle who will take on the role of director of football and look after the senior teams as well as the youth and the ladies, ensuring that the whole club’s playing strength is brought together, and John has high hopes that the team will oversee a successful season and a spot in the Southern League.
“Torbay is a hotbed of football talent with many players operating at a high level and Craig has many contacts and has played alongside most of them and we feel we need maybe two or three additions to the squad to compete.
“Chris came in at Christmas and has been a successful youth coach at Exeter City and is a really good addition.”
When the whole show gets back on the road in a few week’s time all the indications are that much of the top of the division action will be focussed on Devon with Willand Rovers once again gearing up for a title stab while down in Plymouth, Parkway are expected to make an impact on their debut.
One or two clubs up country will have plenty to say on that score but what is certain is that Buckland Athletic FC will be in rude health and enjoying life as top dogs in Newton Abbot.
By KERRY MILLER
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