WESTFIELD FC chairman Steve Perkins is not one to stand still, quite literally, writes Andy Fitzsimons.
The Yellows’ head honcho is already planning for promotion to the Ryman Football League, irrespective of whether Westfield manage to snatch the title from Hartley Wintney or not next April.
And planning is very much central to Perkins’ own vision for 2017, with the realisation that the club’s Woking Park facility requires some new additions to enable the club to play at step four of the football pyramid.
With a successful background in property development in both the UK and abroad, Perkins believes there’s no better time than the present to lay the foundations to ignite a new era.
And having been with Westfield for the best part of 60 years, no one can question Perkins’ motives for wanting to build a brighter future for a club that has been the cornerstone of his life.
He said: “I’ve had a long association with Westfield Football Club, which began with the youth team back in 1973.
“When I finished playing in 1999 at the age of 43, the club asked if I would take on the reins as chairman. 17 years on, we’ve gone from the infamous wooden shack to acquiring the necessary facilities to compete in both the FA Cup and FA Vase.
“In 2011, we moved into our current state-of-the-art facility, which people still cannot believe is a council-owned ground. Therefore, it’s hard not to be inspired by what we have today from where,” added Perkins.
Following the club’s acrimonious relegation to division one of the Combined Counties League (CCL) nearly a decade ago, Perkins and his committee have only looked up. And if Tony Reid’s players can rekindle their early season form, Westfield could yet take pride of place in the club’s 63-year history.
The Yellows are now 10 points behind league leaders Hartley Wintney with a game in hand, so it’s all to play for at the top. The Hampshire club is also scheduled to play three of the top six sides over the next couple of weeks to potentially help Westfield close the gap.
But for Perkins, it all comes back to the planning. “We’ve made a good start to the season, which has been culmination of a lot of hard work over the past few years to get the right personnel on board,” he explained.
“In many ways, Tony [Reid] joining us at the end of last season has been the icing on the cake. He has the experience to attract calibre players and has brought a different approach to management, which is paying dividends.
“We’ve always lived in the shadows of our big neighbour, Woking, who have obviously gone onto great things, but it gives us something to aim for,” he added.
With preliminary ground improvement discussions already afoot with the local authority, Westfield’s next calling card is to make its intentions clear by applying for promotion on or before 30 November.
To ensure that Woking Park meets the necessary D ground grading for the Ryman Football League, The Yellows reportedly require another 50 covered seats, a second turnstile, an outside toilet block, and a dedicated committee room for 24-people. These facilities need to be in situ by 31 March 2017.
The club may also need to ensure that spectators cannot impede players and officials’ access to and from the pitch.
Thanks to Perkins, though, Westfield won’t need to employ a specialist consultant to negotiate with Woking Borough Council’s planning department, which presents a welcome cost-saving to the club.
However, arguably the biggest barrier to overcome is the real cost to compete at the next level. Many of Westfield’s predecessors have found themselves in the midst of financial ruin through the increase in travelling costs, players’ remuneration and ground improvements; all of which can hit clubs for a six-figure sum.
“The higher you go in football the more expensive it becomes to play,” said Perkins. “It’s more expensive to operate a club at every level, which you have to consider when you apply for promotion.
“It still bemuses me that, even at the level we play at now; which is grassroots football, you hear stories of players being paid £200 a week to play, which is ridiculous. Unfortunately, that’s the fallout from the Premier League: the increased costs and expectations at the top-level do filter down the football pyramid.
“Westfield Football Club, however, is run essentially by local people who have been at the club for years. And while the committee may be small by number, everyone cares about the long-term future of the club, from which decisions are based,” added Perkins.