New team at top for Bloaters
STEPHEN PULLINGER On a morning when a bitter wind is blowing spots of rain across from a threatening black cloud, Yarmouth Town Football Club's Wellesley ground looks anything but a theatre of dreams.
On a morning when a bitter wind is blowing spots of rain across from a threatening black cloud, Yarmouth Town Football Club's Wellesley ground looks anything but a theatre of dreams.
It would seem Roy of the Rovers stuff to imagine a roar resounding around its lonely stand. And the only cheer in a drab clubhouse comes from the conspicuously sparse honours board and the odd photo relating to the achievements of yesteryear.
However, the Bloaters' new chairman Stephen Brierley seemed unfazed by the prospect of having to follow the comic-book script and was happy to share his vision of glamorous pre-season friendlies, major investment in the ground and a rapid turnaround of fortunes on the pitch.
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In what might be billed as the dream ticket, the self-made millionaire has recruited former Norwich City star Dale Gordon as his partner to direct on-field matters, and the pair have already enlisted City's former England international, Dion Dublin, as a club patron.
And, for fans hankering for a repeat of their one moment of triumph half a century ago when an 8,000 crowd roared the Bloaters to FA Cup first round victory over Crystal Palace, Mr Brierley's track record in business might instil in them the belief that he can bring back the glory days.
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After starting his career selling broken biscuits from a stall in Yarmouth Market Place, he has developed a rapidly-expanding business - Brierleys Foods - with a £5m turnover and a factory in Turkey as well as one on the town's Gapton Hall industrial estate.
Mr Brierley's success in selling discount biscuits, snacks and sweets to supermarkets earned him a regional prize in this year's HSBC Start-Up Stars awards. But he is not resting on his laurels. Already he is planning to double his Yarmouth workforce to 34 within a year, and he is close to clinching a new multi-million pound contract with a “major multiple”.
The lifelong football fan had read in the EDP of the Bloaters' plight - losing £10,000 annually and facing financial meltdown within two years - and quickly saw the potential.
He said: “After looking around, I felt positive from a business point of view that I could take it further, but I would not have got into it without Dale as my partner because he brings the wealth of football knowledge I have not got.”
Mr Brierley, who was voted in unanimously by the club's committee on Monday night, said he had already held positive talks with other local businesses and was confident that new sponsors would be in place by next season. He is already planning a £20,000-plus refurbishment of the clubhouse and tea bar and has pledged to dig deep into his own pockets and not to put the club into debt.
Mr Brierley said immediate goals were to swell the dwindling gate and win promotion back to the premier division of the Eastern Counties Ridgeons League. In the longer-term, there was no reason they could not find inspiration from sides such as Morecambe and Torquay and look to the Vauxhall Conference League - and beyond.
Mr Gordon, 40, who runs a youth football academy, is already plotting summer signings and is keen to achieve the right blend of youth and experience. He said: “If you want to bring players in, it needs a bigger budget, but we will do it. I want to make sure people are treated as close to professionals as we can.”
He has also started calling in favours from friends and contacts, including Rangers star and former goalkeeper Andy Goram, and aims to bring top teams to town for pre-season friendlies.