By Ryan Newman
AFC Uckfield chairman Tom Parker has revealed his plans to vastly improve the facilities at the club.
Parker, who has been involved with the club since 1985 and been chairman for more than 20 years, hopes to put a 3G pitch in place within the next three years as well as upgrade the clubhouse.
Uckfield, like many teams in county league football, have suffered with postponements due to adverse weather in the winter months of the season and Tom is looking to avoid that situation in the future.
“I have recently sold my local business, Parker Building Supplies,” Parker explained.
“The business sponsored the club for a long period of time and I have supported the club financially as best as I could but we have reached a point where if I’m honest it depends on me and if something happens to me I don’t think the club could financially survive without my support.
“The pitch has a natural spring underneath it and so the water that comes down isn’t so much of a problem but the water that comes up is, so we have a lot of postponements.”
Parker was also keen to stress that a 3G pitch would not only benefit AFC Uckfield, but also the town of Uckfield.
“The benefits would be that it would be a great facility for the town,” explained Parker.
“It would provide training facilities for other clubs, for schools to be able to play on, for other opportunities and obviously the weather would make no difference and so it would be able to be used seven nights a week no matter the weather. We have got some little issues that we will need to overcome. We have a restriction on our lighting times but it is in my plans and unless we come across some unforeseen obstacles, I don’t see any reason why we can’t have the new pitch in place by the end of those three years.”
Parker also revealed on the pitch plans to take advantage of the success of the youth teams last season and bring many of those players through to the first team. Both the Uckfield Under 21s and Under 18s were cup finalists last season and manager Anthony Storey is renowned for bringing youth players through.
“Focussing on youth players as part of our ethos will help those players develop an affinity with the club as well as a sense of belonging,” said Parker.
“When you can combine that with a few more experienced heads like we already have and have players that can coach on the field of play during games, that’s what we are hoping for this season with Anthony and a couple of others.”
Uckfield endured a rollercoaster 2017/18 campaign, starting badly before being deducted nine points by the SCFL for an administrative error. However, an upturn in form around the Christmas period saw Uckfield in and around the top of the form table, recording some good results in the second half of the season.
“In fairness, in the face of adversity, our boys got themselves out of trouble,” noted Parker.
“As a result, I am very optimistic for this season because we have proven that when we are at our best we can compete at this level and be one of the better sides. If we can keep that side together and add a few more, I think we can certainly hope to compete towards the top end of the table. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that promotion is the aim for this season because we have too many things to do off the pitch, not necessarily on it.
“Off the pitch, we are fairly desperate to add to our committee,” added Parker. “The administrative error last year was partly down to inexperience so we are looking for a treasurer, a match secretary and other positions. We have some wonderful people at the club but we are desperate to spread the workload.”