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The players at Guildford City Football Club may be taking a well-earned rest after winning the Combined Counties League Championship for the second season running. However, off the field there is work to be done to hopefully gain entry into a higher league and also to raise the profile of the club. Vice-chairman Chris Pegman explains.
You are all obviously very pleased to have won the Combined Counties League Championship for the second season running. What do you put this success down to, on and off the pitch?
We have a very good manager and assistant in Kevin Rayner and Roly Martin. They arrived at the club when we were at our lowest ebb and we were all thinking of packing it in! They re-built a team that finished second bottom of the league to league champions in just two seasons which isn’t bad is it!
As the club is now eligible to take promotion either to the Ryman League or the Southern League, what do you need to do right away by way of applying?
You have to pass a ground grading inspection before a team can take promotion. We have that ground grading (after lots of hard work in the last year or so) so now we just wait until the FA decide whether they want us in the Ryman League or Southern League. I believe that meeting takes place today (Tuesday, May 15).
This time last year Guildford City FC was denied promotion due to a ground grading technicality. How can you overcome this, this time around?
We failed our first ground grading inspection back in March 2011. That was due to the FA inspectors not liking our new turnstile block. We have got past that obstacle by completely rebuilding it.
If the club is successful and is accepted for promotion, what happens during the close season – on and off the pitch?
Over the last year we have overseen a bit of a transformation of the Spectrum arena. Before we started our work on the ground it was one-sided only which is not acceptable to step 4 leagues (i.e. Ryman Div. 1/Southern Div. 1). We spent a lot of time and money putting in a spectator path with fencing around another two sides of the arena (three-sided ground are fine right up to the Football League, i.e. Oxford United only have a three-sided ground). So, at the moment we are fine to start the new season in a step 4 league. The work will continue as we need to put in a covered standing shelter on the A3 side (opposite the main stands) before the end of next season.
Taking the example of near neighbours Aldershot, who basically had to start again from scratch, and have made some progress climbing up the divisions, are you taking things “one game at a time” or is there a master plan to go much further?
There is only so far we can go at Spectrum. The higher you go up “the pyramid” the more problems we are going to have getting the arena to meet the higher ground grading requirements. Long term our goal MUST be to relocate. That means identifying a parcel of land big enough to build a purpose built football ground. The trick is finding someone with land they are prepared to give us/loan us/rent to us etc.
Should you be granted promotion, what are the hopes, that with a higher standard of football coming to Guildford, you can increase attendances?
We have a plan to increase people’s awareness of our existence over the summer, including we hope, going out onto the High Street and banging our drum (metaphorically speaking I hasten to add). It disappoints me the number of people I have spoken to over the last few years who have expressed surprise that the town has a football team at all – how sad is that! We need to change that if we want to reach our maximum potential.
Thorny one this! It is sometimes overheard that some football fans say they choose not to watch Guildford City because “there is no atmosphere” at the Spectrum. What would you say to those comments?
Unfortunately that is a fact we have to live with. As previously mentioned we have done a lot to make the Spectrum arena a better place to watch football from. However, the running track is something we can do nothing about. We always try to tell people that we are not there by choice; it is the only place currently available to us in the town until we can relocate to a more supporter-friendly venue. We do have a small band of dedicated supporters (nicknamed The Sweeney) who do their best to whip up some atmosphere with their chants and singing.
The old Guildford City, which folded in 1974, was a much-loved club, with a much-loved compact ground in Joseph’s Road. You must have some supporters who remember those days. What parallels do today’s club draw with the old one? Are there any similarities – particularly with regard to the spirit of a football team whose players proudly pull on a shirt and play for Guildford?
We have a number of supporters, as well as some committee members, who are old enough to remember watching football at Joseph’s Road. Our home base is still the Guildford City Club which is the only remaining part of the old ground to survive.
I think the one thread that connects all the committee people who have been involved in the new, post-1996; club is the desire to put the town of Guildford back on the football map. Not all of the current crop of committee people and players come from or even live in Guildford, but we regard ourselves as one big family and have one aim, to give the community of Guildford a football club they can be proud of.