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Home arrow Ryman Football League News arrow New owners plough in "half a million quid" into Conference bound Ashford Town - EXCLUSIVE
Sunday, 21 December 2014
New owners plough in "half a million quid" into Conference bound Ashford Town - EXCLUSIVE PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 04 August 2007

The new owners of Ashford Town have ploughed in “half a million quid” to improve matters both on and off the pitch at The Homelands, writes Stephen McCartney.

Investors Don Crosbie and Tony Betteridge, who brought the issued share capital of the club from former chairman, Mr Tim Thorogood, whose now director of football, in March 2007, have already made an instant impression on the Ryman League Division One South club.

During 2006, Messrs Crosbie and Betteridge purchased the freehold interest in the Homelands site and paid off the club’s remaining debt to Greene King, which had resulted from a loan taken out before Mr Thorogood acquired the club back in 2001.

Since taking over, their first step was to bring in defender Asa Hall and striker Nick Wright, on loan from Birmingham City, which ensured the ailing club maintained their Ryman League status.

And during the close season, the new owners have smartened up the ground, which opened 18 years ago, and is four miles south of the town, in Kingsnorth.

Mr Crosbie’s silver Bentley parked in the car park outside the main stand is proof that Ashford Town are now on a different plain.

The black seats in the main stand have been replaced by new green ones, a new stand roof, the lush playing surface has a sprinkler system, which will be used straight after matches, the dressing rooms still smell of paint, and the bar, function rooms and boardroom have been smartened up.

Most important of all, however, is that newly appointed manager, Clive Walker, whose steered rivals Dover Athletic to the play-off’s for the past two years, has a quality team that will be challenging at the top end of the table.

“We’ve invested quite a lot of money,” Mr Crosbie said EXCLUSIVELY to www.kentishfootball.co.uk after their comfortable 2-1 friendly win over Tilbury, today.

“The club was on its knees, never had any money on it, like a lot of non-league clubs, for many years.

“We came down here as landlords and had a look round, fell in love with the place and thought, why not?

“The seats, stand, inside, the pitch, everywhere was tired, old, run down, so we put a state of the art watering system in on the pitch, and the pitch is looking good now, all the seats in the stadium, went inside done all the changing rooms, gone through all of the function room, the bars, and hopefully by the 18th, which is the start of the season, the ground, outside, inside, should be looking tidy.”

Mr Crosbie revealed how much he’s invested in the club.

“Half a million we spent, half a million quid,” he said. “We’ve put a good squad of players together and got a good backbone to the squad.

“Got a good manager with Clive Walker and Steve Nolan as his assistant. We’ve got a great physio, Mo Alvin, so all-in-all, we’ve put a complete package together for the club, players, backroom staff and built them a ground, tidied up the ground for them.

“And the supporters, I think, will appreciate it. Ashford is a sleeping giant really.

“It’s got some loyal supporters last year, they had a couple hundred supporters coming here when they were really struggling, bottom of the division.

“Tony and I got involved at the end of last season, brought down a couple of loan signings from Birmingham, our friends from Birmingham and stayed up.

“And this year we’ve put together a team, by the start of the season, we think, that they will be solid, be good football being played as well, and I think we’ll be there abouts at the end of the season, I really do.”

Mr Crosbie believes fans that watch Ashford Town this season will enjoy the re-vamped facilities at the ground.

“I think it’s like everything else, fans. People in football always say that fans are fickle,” said Mr Crosbie.

“I think personally fans have an entitlement to be fickle. They pay their money, they come in.

“Just being a loyal fan does not give any club the right to turn out rubbish football, rubbish surroundings, poor facilities and expect their fans, because they’re local, they’ve got to come and watch their team.

“As a club we’ve got to put some entertainment out there on the pitch and that’s what we’re doing.

“Gradually, hopefully, slowly by slowly, the fans will come back to Ashford.

“This used to be a well-supported club, they had four thousand, three and a half thousand crowds.

“Obviously we don’t believe that will happen in our lifetime, but Tony and I both love football, we like watching the game.

“I mean, if there was only fifty people here we wouldn’t mind, but while we’re here, we want quality on the pitch, we want quality surroundings.

“We don’t need the crowds here to keep this club going. We’ve invested enough money, we’ve put enough money aside for Ashford Town to sustain itself.

“We’re builders and property developers so this is good fun for us. This is our social life if you like. Watch the football, have a craic with the lads.”

And Mr Crosbie has a message for the players that will be wearing the traditional colours of green and white once the season kick’s off when Kingstonian visit on Saturday, 18th August.

He said: “What we want them to do is play good football, good attacking, entertaining football.

“Win or lose we want them to represent the club. We want to earn respect from everybody and give the fans something to look at.

“And if we lose 4-3 or 5-4, then fine, but make sure we put up a performance that we can be proud off.

“It’s not about going through the motions, it’s about giving 100% and if we do that, fair enough. We won’t be happy, but we’ll accept it.

“What we don’t want to do, we don’t want to lose to poor sides or give away sloppy goals and miss out because we’re not trying.

“This culture of being professional all round really, not just turning up because you want to play football but really, really passionate about football.”

And on the club’s aspirations for the short and long-term, he said: “We would be very, very pleased to get into the play-off’s.

“What we’re building here, we’re building a team and building a club that should be Conference (Blue Square Premier) bound.

“That’s what we’re doing and our aim over the next three years to five years, is to go up a couple of levels.

“That means building a good side and we’ve started at this level, we feel we’ve got a good side together for this league and we’ll do the same again next year.”

Despite playing at a ground that boosts good social facilities, Mr Crosbie has plans to build new stands.

“We’ve got plans for behind both goals,” he said. “I love the view opposite the main stand, I love looking at all the oak trees and down through the valley, it’s a fantastic view. I’d leave that for standing.

“We’ll talk to the supporters - we can do anything. It’s easy for Tony and I, (we) can build anything, that’s what we do. If we want to build a couple of stands, we could.”

He added: “We’re going to extend the function hall, build a gymnasium here, we’ve got lots of plans here but it’s what the supporters and the players want really.”

One thing, however, that’s been missed off - please can we have some plug sockets at the back of the new press benches, to enable me to provide LIVE coverage of Ashford Town’s games when I visit. Thank you.

Visit Ashford Town’s website: www.ashfordtownfc.co.uk

* Meanwhile, fans of Ashford Town, and other Kent clubs can voice their views on the resurgent club - please click on CONTACT US, and let us know your name and which team that you support.

Ashford Town supporter, Ray Wells, said: “Delighted to see your website carrying the interview with Don Crosbie. The new owners are the best thing to have happened to my home-town club, Ashford Town, in years.

“Both he and his co-directors have passion and want to see the Green and Whites succeed.”

And Mr John Pease, of the Supporters’ Club, said: “Don and Tony have done a fantastic job so far, and I cannot remember the last time that the new season was so eagerly awaited.

“You can see from our (fans’ forum on the club) website that Don is quite happy to discuss all football matters at the drop of a hat.

“I will continue in my efforts to increase membership of the Supporters’ Club, having raised it from 35 to 121 last year.

“Raymond Wells is our man in Malaysia, where we have more members than we do north of the (River) Thames!”

Last Updated ( Sunday, 05 August 2007 )
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