In the same week that Gloucestershire FA Chairman Roger Burden was elected Vice-Chair of the national FA, there was another bit of good news from his ‘patch.’ Almondsbury Town FC will continue, albeit a number of leagues below the league they ended last season in. Back in April I wrote about how the Almonds, a club with more than 100 years of history, were evicted from their home at Oaklands Park by none other than, the Gloucestershire FA.
So this week’s news that the team, the first from Bristol to ever play at Wembley, will continue is a welcome reprieve, even though the team’s new league is the Bristol Suburban League Premier Division as opposed to the Southern League Division One South & West and their new first team is actually last year’s reserves because all the first team from last year have already left. Still, they are continuing, at least for the time being. The team will call Scott Park, in nearby Patchway, ‘home’ – it used to be used by Patchway FC Thirds before they disbanded – it’s not in Almonsbury, it’s not got a clubhouse and it doesn’t belong to them, but it’s a ground.
Beleaguered chairman Bob Jenkins told the Gloucestershire Gazette that the club’s future was far from safe.
“The committee is going to carry on as best we can.
“With no facility at Oaklands Park it’s going to be difficult but we’ll try to continue and go further.
“We’ll try and find something long-term but this is the best we can do at the minute and then we’ll see how the season goes.
“We are disappointed we cannot play in the parish and that we’re having to play at Patchway, who have been kind enough to let us use the pitch.
“The search goes on for facilities to progress higher, but it’s going to be hard to maintain any level unless you get decent sponsorship or a clubhouse where you can make money.
“I’m still hopeful we may get back into the parish one day.”
But with at least five leagues to climb before the Almonds get back to where they were last April, Bob is realistic about his club’s long term survival prospects. Perhaps unsurprisingly he said: “I’m a little bit despondent in reference to local football, but it’s not just about the club it’s about the boys playing. “I’m disappointed with what’s happened but at least we’ve got somewhere to play. Perhaps we can get more involved with the youth sides and let’s see what happens.” Meanwhile, at Wembley, the chairman of the organisation which evicted Almondsbury Town from Oaklands Park, turn the clubhouse into offices and rented the ground out to two other teams (to stop them getting relegated) thus forcing a successful team to drop right down the leagues, was starting his new job.
Mr Burden, who sat in as Acting FA Chairman following the Triesman saga before stepping down in the wake of the failed World Cup bid, said: “This is a great honour for me personally but also for the Gloucestershire FA, particularly as I am the second consecutive chairman of the county to rise to the position of vice-chairman of the FA.” It may be a honour for the Gloucestershire FA to get another name at the top table, but it does not disguise it’s in the departure of Almonsbury Town from their highest ever place in the non-league pyramid. With FIFA, finances and foreign owners among the problems Mr Burden will face in his new role, lets hope he can still spare a thought for football at a local level too, if Almondsbury Town are to rise back up the tables and potentially find a new ground they will need support. The Gloucestershire FA were the ones who helped save Almondsbury Town from the brink back in the early 90s (before taking them back to there earlier this year) – when the time comes for Almondsbury to call on them again let’s hope they are listening.
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