The Ongoing Soap Opera Of The Billericay Dickie
Schadenfreude isn’t often a strong look, but sometimes there is something so delicious about it that it can be difficult to resist, particularly when to indulge such feelings is at the expense of the pompous or self-important. Small wonder, then, that yesterday afternoon’s events at Silver Jubilee Park brought about such glee on social media. Billericay Town has been a circus since Glenn Tamplin took ownership of the club in December 2016, but it has also been an arrogant circus, with Tamplin as its ringmaster. His behaviour on social media has been appalling, and his behaviour towards players that have crossed him is being investigated by the police. Small wonder, then, that so many enjoy every little trip, every little stumble, every little pricking of this colossal ego.
Silver Jubilee Park is the home of Hendon Football Club, one of the great historical names of non-league football in the south-east of England. Three times winners of the FA Amateur Cup and twice winners of the Isthmian League, this is a storied football club, but this story hasn’t always been a happy one. Having sold its Claremont Road home in 2006, the club left to ground-share elsewhere for eight long years before moving into their new home in Kingsbury in 2016, and with the club under the ownership of its supporters trust, even a fraction of the sort of money that Tamplin has thrown on the players’ wages bonfire would only ever be something of a pipe-dream. As if to prove that money can’t buy everything, though, Hendon won this particular match by four goals to won, a result which nudged them up to fifth place in the Isthmian League Premier Division and into the play-off places.
Despite the thoroughness of this win, the performance of Hendon’s players that was the main talking point during and after the match. As ever, that particular space was largely taken up by the publicity black hole Tamplin. The real fun began with this tweet from the unofficial Hendon Twitter account We Are The Dons, who sent this tweet, which was later followed up by a video of him reportedly leaving the ground with twenty minutes of the match left to play. It was later confirmed that the rumoured black eye was something of an embellishment, but this doesn’t exactly detract from the overall sense that something is very, very wrong at this football club, that the wheels may now be truly starting to come off this particular wagon.
This morning, the club’s Twitter account posted a curious message seeking to downplay yesterday’s events, claiming that it had been agreed all along that Tamplin would leave this match to catch a flight and that he will now be away on business for a few days, along with a photograph of him in the back of a taxi. But why would this happen? If he had to leave during the match, why would he even turn up in the first place? And, if we swallow our cynicism and allow ourselves to believe that this was the situation, why would anybody go away on business at such a time that they were to arrive at their destination on a Saturday night? In the meantime, further details of the circumstances which led to this bizarre state of affairs have been published online – as they’re unverified, we’re not repeating them here – and they certainly sound more coherent than this explanation. Billericay Town’s next league match is at Wingate & Finchley on Monday night. Is it to be assumed that he will not be at this match?
To believe that the wheels are coming off the Billericay wagon isn’t a snap judgement based on one poor performance, of course. Since beating Lowestoft Town by five goals to nil in the February, the team has lost six out of seven matches in the league and had five goals put past them in the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy, at home by Wealdstone. A fixture backlog had left the top of e league table with something of a false look about it. There was a time, not so long ago, when Dulwich Hamlet may have led the table on points, but with Billericay just behind them by a small number of points, only with numerous games in hand. This, however, is eroding with each passing week. Yesterday’s result pushed Billericay down to third place in the table, behind both Dulwich Hamlet and Folkestone Invicta, but, whilst they still hold onto five games in hand over the league leaders, they are now eight points behind them as Dulwich keep winning and Billericay keep dropping points.
And this is only what’s going on come three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. It would be inappropriate to comment further on matters that may be undergoing investigation by the police – a comment which in itself shouldn’t really be necessary when discussing a football club, if we stop to think about it – but stories such as this could hardly leave the name of Billericay Town Football Club in a less flattering light, and if there is any truth whatsoever in them they would cast a heavy pall over anything that the club could achieve on the pitch. Just as troubling have been stories such as this, which we can only interpret as a complete betrayal of the supposedly “Christian” beliefs that Tamplin claims to hold so closely to his heart.
What effect this may have had on the local match-going public in that particular corner of Essex is open to conjecture. On the one hand, crowds at The New Lodge this season have been vastly up on previous seasons. A club that would normally have attracted home attendances of in the region of three to four hundred have seen their crowds rise this season to an average of just over a thousand, although even these have been on the slide of late, including less than a thousand people turning out for a recent league match against Dulwich Hamlet, which they lost by three goals to one. A win in that match might well have breathed a little life into an increasingly moribund looking team and got them over the finishing line in the race for the Isthmian League Premier Division title.
If a team with so much money behind it can’t get promotion from this division at the end of this season, though, it seems likely that there will only be one person who can be reasonably held to blame. In an era during which managerial chop and change has become a common sight, it is often forgotten that stability of solid leadership can be very important throughout the course of a league campaign. It remains to be seen what even the short-term fallout from Tamplin’s hissy fit at Silver Jubilee Park yesterday afternoon, but we already know that he has form for backtracking on deciding that the first team’s affairs might be in better hands with someone else. We went through all of this at the end of last month, when Tamplin resigned after the Wealdstone defeat, only to reinstate himself, first as caretaker-manager as he sought to find a replacement for himself, and then on a permanent basis, all of which led to the unforgettable headline of “Billericay Owner Glenn Tamplin Reinstates Glenn Tamplin As Manager Two Days After Sacking Glenn Tamplin As Manager” from the pages of our friends at Who Ate All The Pies.
It is right and proper that we should laugh at the misfortunes of Glenn Tamplin. He has financially doped this club to a point at which anything bar winning the league title at a canter can only reasonably be a failure on his part. He made the Premier Division of the Isthmian League feel as though it was going to be a one-horse race for much of the season, with only his club’s own implosion preventing that from being the case. On top of that, he has behaved with such colossal arrogance that he has made his club amongst the most hated in the whole of non-league football. Now, such was the amount of money being poured into the club that Billericay Town were always likely to become unpopular, but the extent of animosity thrown at the club over the course of this season has surely only been further amplified by Tamplin’s conduct over the course of the season. And no, maybe the club doesn’t need the goodother will of other clubs right now, but it might well do one day.
We should be absolutely clear that the Isthmian League Premier Division title remains Billericay’s to lose. Should they win their five games in hand, they would still leapfrog Dulwich Hamlet and assume a seven point lead at the top of the table. But then again, what else should we reasonably expect? Glenn Tamplin has turned up for a banger race in a Formula One racing car. Small wonder, then, that those with more modest interests in the race should be unable to stifle their giggles when he stalls the car on the starting line. But there is a serious point to be made here. Regardless of the specifics of what happened at Silver Jubilee Park yesterday afternoon, if there’s one word that best sums up Tamplin’s attitude over the course of the season, that word is “petulant”, and it is this petulance combined with hubris entirely of his own making that renders his club so unlikable today. Good luck the three or four hundred who were there before he arrived and will still be there long after he goes away. It’s increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that they may well end up needing it.