Published: 00:00, 12 March 2019
Chairman Tim Clark says Canterbury City’s run to the FA Vase semi-finals has forced the local council to take notice of the football club again.
City have endured a nomadic existence over the past decade, playing their home games at Herne Bay, Ashford, Deal and Faversham, whose Salters Lane ground is their current base.
Plans to bring the club back to Canterbury have hit so many hurdles along the way but with City now just one round from Wembley, they’re a major topic of conversation locally.
Canterbury City Council met with club bosses last month to discuss the way forward and now City are gearing up for two of the biggest games in their history when they face Cray Valley for a place in the final.
“It’s massive,” said Clark. “It’s really put football back on the map as far as the city of Canterbury is concerned.
“With everything that’s been going on off the pitch over the years, finally we can show people in the city what football can mean and actually that we’re not that bad.
“Even a few weeks ago, some people didn’t know there was a football club in Canterbury so the publicity has been absolutely fantastic.
“For me, it became personal with the council because to have worked with them – one hoped constructively – and for them to turn round in 2013, as a city council with a lot of resources and say ‘we’ve given up, we can’t find you anywhere, over to you’, it was a really difficult time for the club.
“You’ve got two options. You either walk away or you dig in and say ‘we are not going anywhere.’ I’m sure they would have liked us to disappear at that point but we dug in and fought back.
“We’ve now got some recognition that we deserve.
“Any city should have a representative football team and Canterbury City (Council), historically, have dealt with their football club really poorly – before I was involved.
“It’s about time we were back on the agenda, as an issue that needs to be resolved.
“If it took a successful FA Vase run to do that and make people take notice, that in itself has been worth it.
“We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing on the pitch and it’s spurring everyone on that we are doing the right thing by not giving up.”
City’s amazing run to the semi-finals started way back in September since when they’ve made it through eight rounds and won more than £12,000 in prize money.
Clark said: “It’s been a real reward to those long-suffering, diehard supporters who come out regularly, to experience a really exciting cup run. We just hope we can keep it going.
“The semis are worth something like £10,000 and the big prize is getting to Wembley and some of the TV rights. For a club like ours, that would set us up for the whole of next season.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, moving around Kent, groundsharing, but everything seems to have come together this season. Ben Smith’s brought a great bunch of lads in.
“We haven’t had a decent cup run for years, since we were in the Kent County League, so cup days have felt quite special. We can’t believe it but there’s a quiet determination and having got this far, no-one wants to see it end.
“To have over 600 at the quarter-final , which was a fantastic atmosphere, we’ve had to watch other clubs play to see those sorts of crowds so to have that crowd ourselves has really lifted us in the club.
“For the last 20 minutes of the quarter-final, I was physically shaking.
“I can’t say it’s the most enjoyable experience because it matters so much.
“To be within touching distance of Wembley, am I going to enjoy it? Probably not. But it depends how we play and I know it’s two legs.
“After the first leg away, we want to still be in with a really good shout and if we can do that and come back to Faversham for the second leg, where we’ve had great support, where we’ve come from behind and where we enjoy our football, on our day I think we can beat Cray Valley.”