New Bracknell Town FC secretary looks aheadBy Adam Lee
February 16, 2012
Following the news that Bracknell Town secretary Tony Hardy has stepped down from his position at the club, the new man at the helm, Darrell Freeland, has outlined his vision for the future of the Robins.
Freeland, 36, from Great Hollands, has been a fan at Larges Lane since the mid-90s, and stepped up to the committee four years ago.
And after Hardy resigned as club secretary because of increased work commitments, Freeland has taken control on an interim basis.
He is, however, expecting to assume the role permanently in the near future.
For a number of years, Bracknell have been focusing their efforts on securing a new ground after their current site at Larges Lane had been earmarked for housing development by Bracknell Borough Council.
During that time, a number of proposed sites have fallen by the wayside, including a ground on what is now the Jennetts Park estate, as well as at Lavender Park Golf Club.
Now the club is directing its resources towards a move to a ground built in conjunction with the proposed development at what is currently Blue Mountain Golf Centre.
With the plans for the redevelopment of the area in the consultation phase, Bracknell Town are keeping close tabs on any progress.
But Freeland admits the club may have been guilty in the past of putting all their eggs in one basket with regards to the move, and has promised to investigate other avenues should the development at Blue Mountain stall.
The club has been criticised in the past for focusing too heavily on a proposed move from Larges Lane, and not on trying to unlock Football Foundation grants in order to improve their current facilities.
Subsequently, Bracknell’s fortunes both on and off the pitch have plummeted.
They were relegated from the Southern League in 2010 after a dire season, and although they seemed to have consolidated their position in the Hellenic League last year, they have struggled once again during the current campaign, and are fighting for survival at the bottom of the division.
And with plans to reshuffle step five of the non-league football pyramid in preparation for the 2013/14 season, Freeland has suggested that Bracknell may need to be a little more pragmatic in future.
“We’re still hopeful of the move to Blue Mountain,” he said.
“We want the club to move forward because we are limited with where we are now.
“The move to Blue Mountain would give us new premises, an artificial pitch and maybe some grass pitches so that we can have all of our junior teams playing on the same ground.
“The development is in its second consultation phase and although there have been criticisms, we really want to move because we feel we have outgrown Larges Lane and we need to move somewhere bigger for the benefit of the club.
“That is what we are working towards.
“If that was to fall through then we would look at various grants we could get in order to improve Larges Lane – that is actually something we will be looking to do anyway.
“However, it is most important that we look towards moving sites.
“The club has been trying to move grounds for years and the one criticism I would have is that the club has waited too long for things to happen.
“The situation is then taken out of the club’s hands, and when one site falls through we have to start again.
“The club have always believed in a move, but meanwhile works and improvements that could have been done at Larges Lane haven’t gone ahead because we have been waiting to see what will happen.
“We really need to move, but if it doesn’t happen then we will talk to the relevant bodies and look into possible grants.
“If Blue Mountain falls through then we need to take the view that we will be at Larges Lane for a few years at least and we have to see what grants we are entitled to.”
Recent plans to reshuffle the league at step five, the level Bracknell share with other local clubs including Binfield, Wokingham & Emmbrook, Ascot United and Sandhurst Town, mean that Bracknell’s survival in the Hellenic Premier Division is made all the more vital.
Relegation this season would see them drop to Hellenic Division 1 East, the lowest level of the non-league structure ahead of ‘county football,’ for instance the Reading Football League or the East Berks Football League.
That means the club would be under great strain to achieve promotion at the first time of asking in order to be among the step five clubs when the reshuffle takes place.
Freeland believes that the restructuring of the league would be more lucrative for the club, as there would be far more local teams in the same division.
Early proposals suggest Bracknell’s current Hellenic Premier Division rivals, as well as a number of the area’s Combined Counties teams, would all be in the pot together.
This, it is hoped, would attract bigger crowds because of more derby matches, as well as decreasing travel costs, with the furthest likely trip being to the Abingdon area.
But the Robins find themselves bottom of the table with little less than a third of the season to go.
Despite their recent improvements on the pitch, it seems very unlikely that they will climb out of the bottom three – the threshold for guaranteed safety.
However, because of other forces at work, notably the fact that many of the teams vying for promotion from the leagues below do not meet the sufficient ground gradings, Bracknell could well be handed a reprieve from relegation should they finish third from bottom.
And the new Bracknell secretary insists that joint managers Steve McClurg and Andy Keen, as well as assistant managers Bob Langridge and first team coach Mick Woodham are doing all they can to make sure the players drag the club out of the mire.
“We need to be able to grow, but we also need stability on the pitch,” said Freeland.
“Our main priority is to try to avoid relegation, but it is an extremely tough ask to climb out of the bottom three.
“We just need to get as high up the table and then next year try to get some stability on the pitch.
“If we do go down we will be looking to bounce straight back up, but if we do get a reprieve then next year we will look to be a little more settled ahead of the reshuffle.
“The guys are training hard and even though we have not had any football for three or four weeks they have been preparing themselves as if there were games going ahead and the guys are working hard to make sure they don’t get rusty.
“The work that everyone is putting in is great and is really appreciated by everyone at the club.”
Bracknell should return to league action this Saturday when they make the short trip down the M4 to west Berkshire to face a Wantage Town side struggling to rediscover the form that saw them win the league last year (3pm kick-off).
Left-back Adam Kennedy and midfielder Andrew Carter remain suspended, but otherwise the squad is looking healthy ahead of the trip.