Published: 06:00, 11 September 2020
Ashford United owner Don Crosbie believes using lockdown to improve their Homelands ground has laid the foundations for a promotion charge.
The Kent club have put their Nuts & Bolts nickname into practice during the break from football, launching a maintenance campaign to get their 3,200-capacity home in optimum condition for the new season.
The Isthmian League South East Division comes back with a bang this month as Tommy Warrilow’s men bid to replicate last term’s efforts, where they sat second in the table and just three points behind leaders Hastings when the season was declared null and void.
Ashford’s lockdown renovations have upgraded the ground from the D to C category and Crosbie, also a director at the club, says those improvements have left the Nuts & Bolts well-placed to turn the screw.
“We’ve got 14-and-a-half acres here and decided to put into operation a maintenance schedule,” said Crosbie, 66, whose club are one of 228 Isthmian, Southern and Northern Premier League teams to benefit from GVC Holdings’ launch of grassroots sports investment programme Pitching In.
“We renewed all doors, repaired seats, painted, put new signage and decorations up, put new nets on all the youth goals and undertook maintenance on our 3G pitch – anything that we could do to take away the strain during the season.
“You’ve always got to try and look for positives and one of the positives is that we’ve done a hell of a lot of work that we wouldn’t have had time for in normal times.
“We’ve used our sponsors’ generosity wisely as without the ground and its grading, you’ve got nothing.
“Our ground grading has gone from D to C, which is a fantastic achievement for a club of our level.
“That upgrade has come as a result of all the work we’ve done, and that C grade means we can get promoted twice over the next couple of years and not have to do anything.
“That’s nice, although it puts you under a bit of pressure!”
Crosbie knows the non-league game is the lifeblood of English football, with Pitching In’s flagship partnership with Trident League clubs promoting and supporting grassroots sport after the Covid-19 pandemic.
The multi-million-pound, multi-year investment programme will deliver vital financial assistance and is supplemented by an emphasis on community volunteers pitching in and contributing themselves.
A Pitching In volunteering scheme will be established to help further strengthen community ties, with clubs also having the opportunity to apply for grants to ease the financial strain of lockdown.
“We’ve got virtually the same squad this season, all the boys are happy and we’ve got a great management team,” Crosbie added.
“They’re all confident and have been working really hard - like everyone else, they’re just dying to get back into competitive football as that’s what they love.
“We’ll be aiming for play-offs at a minimum but it would be fantastic to win the league or get automatic promotion.
“The Pitching In sponsorship is going to be a breath of fresh air - non-league clubs could not survive without volunteers, and they’re so crucial and absolutely paramount to running a non-league football club.”
GVC is launching a new multi-million-pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports and is being launched with a flagship partnership with The Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern Leagues - collectively known as The Trident Leagues. For more information visit: https://gvc-plc.com/PitchingIn.