The cold spell may have put paid to some of the weekend’s fixtures but for Southam United chairman Charles Hill, the work goes on ahead of the relaunch of the club’s senior sides at their new Bobby Hancocks Park home, writes David Hucker.
Southam celebrated their centenary in 2005 but have not fielded senior sides since 2016/17 when they withdrew from the Midland Football League after finishing bottom of Division One.
Prior to their centenary, Saints had enjoyed their most successful season in 1997/98 when they finished runners-up in the Premier Division of the Midland Football Combination and also won the Birmingham County FA Vase.
Subsequent league form proved disappointing, with four successive finishes in the bottom two between 2001 and 2004 and relegation only staved off each time by a lack of teams with acceptable facilities to be promoted.
Good times returned in 2009 when a 3-1 win over Darlaston Town saw them lift the Birmingham County FA Midweek Floodlit Cup and, under manager Luke Fogarty, the Coventry Telegraph Challenge Cup was won in 2011 with victory over Alvis at the Ricoh Arena.
In 2011/12, the team finished runners-up in the Midland Football Combination to Continental Star but Fogarty resigned early in the following season and, despite a succession of managers, further success proved elusive and Hill decided to pull the plug and regroup ahead of the new stadium being completed.
Junior sides have continued to fly the flag but now men’s and ladies’ senior sides and a youth team will be relaunched.
Saints’ former ground was bought by Bloor Homes who have built the club a new facility, for which the centrepiece is a community hub.
Hill hopes it will become home to a number of local groups, while a new cafe and licensed bar, Santo, will be open seven days a week.
The hub will also be the base for the newly formed Southam United Community Foundation which aims to deliver innovative and creative sports and education programmes across the locality.
Although Saints had intended to take the main stand to the new ground, the developers opted to build a new facility instead and the old stand, together with the floodlights, moved a short distance to neighbouring Southam Rugby Club.
The new main pitch will be an all-weather 3G construction and there is space within the stadium area for additional pitch facilities as and when finances permit.
For the relaunch, Hill has gone for people who know the club, appointing FA coach educator and Northampton Town Academy coach Wayne Goss as director of football.
Former first team player Richard Kay will be the men’s team manager, with another former player, Alex Baird, as coach.
The club will apply to be readmitted to the Midland Football League in Division Three.
It is fitting the new venue is named in memory of the club’s leading goalscorer, Bobby Hancocks who made his first team debut as a 15-year-old and scored over 1,200 goals, including an incredible 85 in the 1960/61 season.
After hanging up his boots, Hancock did any job that was needed, including groundsman, until his death from cancer two years ago.
Meanwhile, plans for the launch of a Football and Education Academy, due to get under way in September, are progressing well with a good take-up for the first open session for future students on February 18.
To be run in conjunction with the Future Lions Education Academy, the initiative is aimed at current Year 11 students who are planning for a career working in sport.
Students will be able to undertake a BTEC Level 2 or 3 Extended Diploma in Sports Performance on a two-year course run by experienced and qualified tutors.
The course will include the opportunity to undertake football coaching and refereeing qualifications as additional learning within the programme.
Academically, English and Maths GCSE tutoring and resits will also be provided where required.
Also on offer are post-programme routes to apprenticeships, employment, university and football opportunities at semi-professional and professional levels.
As a part of the Academy, students will be coached weekly by UEFA-licensed coaches and play in regular competitive games on Wednesday afternoons.
“Our new Football and Education Academy is a first step to an exciting future for Southam United” said director of football Goss.
“We will be able to offer current Year 11 students the opportunity to study for and attain a nationally recognised BTEC qualification as well as training and playing full-time as a member of our Academy.”
Saints are inviting current Year 11 students to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place at the forthcoming open evening.