THE FREEZING temperatures may have put paid to some of last weekend’s football fixtures but, for Southam United chairman Charles Hill, the work goes on in planning for the re-launch of the club’s senior sides next season at their new home, Bobby Hancocks Park, on the outskirts of the town, writes David Hucker.
Southam celebrated their centenary in 2005, but have not fielded senior sides since 2016/17 when they withdrew from the Midland League after finishing bottom of the first division.
Prior to their centenary, Saints had enjoyed their most successful season in 1997/98 when they finished runners-up in the premier division of the Midland Combination and also won the Birmingham County FA Vase with a 3–0 victory over Shirley Town.
Subsequent league form proved disappointing, with four successive finishes in the bottom two between 2001 and 2004 and relegation only staved off each time by a lack of teams with acceptable facilities to be promoted.
Good times returned in 2008/09 when a 3–1 win over Darlaston Town saw them lift the Birmingham Midweek Floodlit Cup and, under manager Luke Fogarty, the Coventry Telegraph Challenge Cup was won in 2010/11 with victory over Alvis at the Ricoh Arena.
In 2011/12, the team finished runners-up in the Midland Combination to Continental Star, but Fogarty resigned early in the following season and, despite a succession of managers, further success proved elusive and Hill decided to pull the plug and regroup ahead of the new stadium being completed.
Junior sides have continued to fly the flag, but now men’s and ladies senior sides and a youth team will be relaunched.
Saints former ground, which also housed the Southam Bowls Club, was bought by Bloor Homes who have built the club a new facility, for which the centrepiece is a community hub which Hill hopes will become home for a number of local groups looking for smart, new facilities on the edge of town.
The hub will also be the base for the newly-formed Southam United Community Foundation which aims to deliver innovative and creative sports and education programmes across the locality.
Although Saints had intended to take the main stand to the new ground, the developers opted to build a new facility instead and the old stand, together with the floodlights, moved a short distance to neighbouring Southam Rugby Club.
The new main pitch will be an all-weather 3G construction, reducing maintenance costs and the number of cancelled fixtures. There is space within the stadium area for additional pitch facilities as and when finances permit.
Saints have had their FA Charter Standard Award renewed and will be holding annual health checks and progressing with a club “Continual Improvement Development Plan” as part of its commitment to upholding the standards.
For the relaunch, Hill has gone for people who know the club, appointing Wayne Goss (UEFA licenced coach, FA coach educator and Northampton Town Academy coach) as director of football.
Experienced former first-team player Richard Kay will be the men’s team manager, with Kevin Squirrel as assistant manager.
The club’s re-emergence will increase competition to sign the best of south Warwickshire players, with Racing Club Warwick, managed by former Saints player Scott Easterlow, and Central Ajax both flying high this season.
It is fitting the new venue is named in memory of the club’s leading goalscorer Bobby Hancocks, who made his first-team debut when he was just 15 years old and scored over 1,200 goals, including an incredible 85 in the 1960/61 season.
After hanging up his boots, Hancocks did any job that was needed, including groundsman until his death from cancer two years ago.
Plans for the launch of a Football and Education Academy to be under way in September 2019 are progressing well, with a good take-up for the second open session for future students being held on Monday, 20th February.
Saints are inviting current Year 11 students to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a place at the forthcoming open evening.