Harry Crowe reports on how a small town community spirited football club undergone an incredible transformation on and off the pitch and the uncertainty moving forward due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘I will defy anybody outside of the Premier League to show improvements in one year that this club has shown.’
This is what Adrian Morris, Technical Project Manager at the Football Foundation told Tony Wilson, who has played an integral role in improving the infrastructure as Managing Director at Spennymoor Town football club.
However, its not something which happened overnight. The acceleration of the first team’s success, rising from the Northern League to the National League North in rapid years, has led to a complete makeover of the Brewery Field.
“Behind the scenes hadn’t caught up,” said Tony. “We’ve done the opposite now, we’ve spent a lot of time on the facilities, new pitch, new terracing, new stands, new floodlights. We’ve tried to work local and regional where we can and get the best value for money. We are hoping we’ll be voted best pitch in the league from where we were last year which was worst pitch in the league. So that just kind of shows our drive and our commitment.”
The Brewery Field pitch has benefitted significantly from the funding of the UK’s largest sports charity, the Football Foundation. The idea of the Premier League and FA Facilities Fund is to provide grants to help improve grassroots facilities for community benefit.
Spennymoor Town are one of 3000 natural grass pitches across the country to have experienced a glowing new look.
Though the process was anything but straightforward due to the underlying issues underneath the surface, along with flooding difficulties. Therefore, Tony brought in an agronomist to help develop a specification.
Tony explained: “He took a load of samples and realised the pitch was virtually 120-years-old because it was a rugby pitch before it became a football pitch.”
A company called Cleveland Land Services, who have worked on a number of clubs, including Norwich City, Middlesbrough and Bradford City, were awarded the task and their expertise paid off.
The finished product speaks for itself.
Other additional new features at the ground include the phenomenal ‘Neil Adams Sports Bar’, a modernised club shop and an up-to-date CCTV system.
Tony has been involved with the club since 2012 and is ‘immensely proud’ of everything that goes on behind-the-scenes, but admits, “we’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, we make mistakes, but our ability is to learn from those mistakes.”
“It’s been interesting watching the clubs who were here last year and their board and management teams to when they come this year. Everyone of them have gone ‘WOW’. When they come into the sports bar, ‘WOW’, this is fantastic.”
Entry into the Brewery Field on a matchday cost’s as little as £10 for an adult, £5 for concessions and under 18’s get in for free, something which Tony describes as “making football affordable for all.”
“We’re trying to generate a very good family orientated matchday experience. It isn’t just about driving the club forward to gain more money. We’re doing this to make the community more engaged in what we’re doing and thus becoming the centre of the community.
“If everybody is brought in with #oneclub pride of County Durham, who knows where we can go. Football league is not out of our remit at all.”
Adrian highlights the clubs success story throughout the FA and National League and is not the only high-profile name to have been blown away by the Moors’ stunning transformation.
England women’s manager Phil Neville described the facilities as ‘unbelievable’ and stated that the ‘hospitality is fantastic’ during the Lionesses trip to the Brewery Field back in October 2019.
Les Mitchell, a lifelong supporter at Spennymoor Town, described the facilities as “brilliant, the pitch is superb and good people are running it.”
Spennymoor Town were set to cap off another memorable season at the Brewery Field with their first ever international event between England and the Republic of Ireland U18 Schoolboys in the Centenary Shield before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Tony admits the virus could be ‘an absolute re-defining moment of British football’ and believes ‘if it goes on longer for six months, many clubs may not survive.’
“Who knows where we’ll be and what leagues will look like?,” says Tony. “We can’t second guess that so we’re just continuing with our strategy of continuing to improve the facilities, continuing to improve the community buy in, making sure we’re the centre of the community, looking after our young people and getting them ready for life the best we can. Even through this crisis, we’ll continue on that road.”
That historic moment will be kept on hold a little while longer. After all, as the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait.
And for a side who are in the sixth-tier of the football pyramid, their transformation over the past two years in particular has been extraordinary. Words alone can’t do it justice. You have to see it to believe it.