We caught up with Sevenoaks Town Football Club’s very own dynamic duo, Micky Collins and Paul Lansdale who have many similarities when it comes to how a football club is run. Their intense passion for the game is starting to make things happen down at the newly named Bourne Stadium in Greatness Park. With their new 3G pitch already proving a great purchase, they are just about to start another adventure as they head towards the league championship and reveal greater plans pitch-side.
On a cold January morning I am pleasantly welcomed to Greatness Park by Sevenoaks Town FC’s Chairman, Paul Lansdale and first team Manager, Micky Collins. Hopefully by the end of this piece you’ll understand why I refer to them as the club’s dynamic duo. There’s even hot coffee and Paul’s brought along some pastries too. Let’s get started.
We start by discussing the squad of players and how they have been nursing a number of injuries since Christmas, which has reflected in the teams’ recent results, three draws in January against mediocre opposition in Tunbridge Wells, Canterbury and Glebe.
Although the club’s recent win over Sheppey United has lifted the team spirits going into a very fixture heavy February. They have a total of seven fixtures in four weeks and that should give an idea of where the title will be going.
Micky says: “A sign of champions is that they don’t lose, if you play really badly and still stay unbeaten then it’s a good sign. We haven’t lost a league game since the second game of the season (an away match versus Cray Valley PM on a Tuesday evening), that’s an 18-game stretch, which is a personal record”.
Sevenoaks recently signed goalkeeper Jack Bradshaw from Tunbridge Wells FC. Bradshaw was Micky Collins’ goalkeeper at Erith and Belvedere when they won the Kent County Premier double in 2013. Micky tells us that transfers at this level of football are more about personal circumstances though rather than finances.
He says, “Sevenoaks Town FC have never thrown money at signings, they build up the expectations of the club, such as the new 3G pitch, their new clubhouse concept, the refurbished changing rooms and so on.”
He continued, “Players want to win things, but they also want things organised properly, an orchestrated training session goes a long way to make a player feel part of the club and identical training kits are a must, I hate seeing players in a mix-match of different coloured socks, that’s when my OCD kicks in.”
“Everything has to be right, I spend time after the match cleaning up the changing rooms, I must be the only manager in the league to do that.”
Paul has a vision to continue to build a better club and that starts with the players, but he wants to do so much more on the back of building their 3G pitch.
His concept idea, which he states is “so much more than a concept”, is to build a new clubhouse on the south side of the main pitch which will house new changing rooms, a media centre, a bar, gym and offices for the managers and support staff.
The existing clubhouse was built in 1990 and at the time the main pitch was not even fenced in. Sevenoaks had three teams at the time, something that Paul has worked on tirelessly to build up to the current numbers, somewhere in the region of over 1,000 club members.
“It [the clubhouse] is not fit for purpose anymore”, he says. “The changing rooms are too small, we can’t enter the Kent County League as the building simply didn’t pass the FA checks. The referee’s room is not big enough either and that needs to change.”
Even under the current rulings the existing changing rooms need to be enhanced from 12m2 to 18m2 by March 2019. Sevenoaks are able to do this fairly easily, it just means that Micky loses his office. All this costs money too, and that’s something that smaller clubs can’t always compete with. Paul adds that they also need to build another stand to house 20 more people as the existing bus-shelter, between the main stands, only has capacity for 80 people, “that’s an extra seven and a half grand in itself” he states.
The process for getting the go-ahead is certainly a long one. Firstly, the club’s committee will need to sign it off before it then goes to the Town Council for planning. Then there’s the fundraising, all of which will take time. The current timelines are to hopefully have it in place for 2022.
Club members and supporters
We talk about those 1,000 plus club members and I ask where they all are on match days? “All club members get free admission to the ground with their membership, however we struggle to get the attendances up for home fixtures”, Paul said.
Language seems to be a big problem, however it is no different to supporters at a Premier League match. It is a choice and that reflects on the club, Paul says they are working hard to banish all swearing at the ground, but states “the referee also needs to take some responsibility”.
Paul continues: “We do all we can with the supporters and our own players, sometimes there lies a responsibility with the referee to stamp out even the smallest comment on the pitch”.
Micky jumps in at this point saying “If any of my players get booked or sent off for dissent I double their fine. If a player gets a straight red for swearing at the referee, that’s an immediate £50 fine, I’ll double that, I’m simply not having it!”
Paul adds that once they’ve built the new clubhouse, and they keep the high league position they’ve recently become accustomed to, then people will come. ”We build it up, they will turn up.”
Real Madrid Football Camp
So how do you encourage all the children that are already members to come along to these matches plus taking part in extra-curricular activities. You pull out all the stops and get Real Madrid to turn out at the Bourne Stadium.
Paul talks this up to what it really is, which is something incredible. Since when do Real Madrid turn up at clubs like Sevenoaks?
“This is essentially a PR exercise for the club, we will not make any profit from the visit of europe’s most elite club when they visit in the summer to host their Premier Football Camp” said Paul. With 96 spaces available there was always going to be a fight to get in, and this was exactly what happened when the club opened up the applications.
“We had initially hoped to open it up to the wider community after offering our club members the chance to take part, however we sold out within a week of the email going out! he continued.
“We will now look at hosting our own summer camps on the back of this success. We want to offer our facilities and services to thewider community.”
The 3G in all it’s glory
Since building their 3G pitch the amount of usage now at the club is far greater than before, and that means more money is coming into the club on a regular basis. Schools and other third parties, such as other local teams, are using the venue for their lessons and training sessions during the week.
One group who are taking full advantage is the Sevenoaks & District Football League, who have negotiated with the club to hold all their cup finals at the ground. The S&DFL have a total of nine cups to contend with, so the fact they now have a 3G pitch on their doorstep is great news for them and the teams involved.
The future looks bright
The future certainly does look very bright for Messrs Lansdale and Collins, and the football club as a whole. The work that these two gentleman have already put into the club is a shining example to all clubs in the area and long may it continue.