Why Manchester United are flocking to wttness the AFC Southwick revolution

It’s proving a happy new year for the management, players and fans at upwardly mobile local football standard-bearers AFC Southwick, writes John Baine.

AFC Southwick in action at their temporary home of Whitehawk FC

This is a belated new year message because the first few matches of 2022 were called off because of waterlogged pitches - and there was little point in writing this piece until we had the promise of a fixture we could invite you to.

Happily that moment is now here. We’re playing Westfield at 2pm this Saturday (29 January) at our temporary home, Whitehawk FC, and with no Premier League fixtures this weekend, if you’ve never been to one of our games it’s an ideal opportunity to do so.

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Admission is free, with the opportunity to donate towards our running costs if you so desire.

One of the new AFC Southwick T-shirts

The Hawks’ bar will be open with real ale and hot food available, we’ll have programmes, pin badges and replica shirts on sale, decent music on the PA and a warm welcome from both AFC and our Hawks hosts.

On the pitch we are making great strides. So far this season we are unbeaten at home in the Mid Sussex League Premier Division, one step outside the national pyramid system. ‘Fortress’ Whitehawk (The Enclosed Ground in East Brighton Park) is a beautiful location to watch football.

And we have high hopes that next season we’ll be back in the Southern Combination – the old Sussex County League – from which the old club was demoted two seasons ago after Old Barn Way was closed following years of neglect by the leaseholder.

This would be only right and proper since the management and players from that era have stayed loyal, dropping two divisions to keep senior football in Southwick alive.

AFC Southwick fan Paul in Grenada, West Indies

Off the pitch we are gathering supporters from all over the country.

The recent appointment of former Wicker Ralf Rangnick to the manager’s job at Manchester United broadcast the name of Southwick across the world, with club officials being interviewed in most national newspapers, BT Sport and the Premier League TV channel, shown in 120 countries.

As a result of this a Manchester United fan (from Manchester) turned up to watch us, and folk have come to see us from Reading, Birmingham, Southampton, Barnsley, Cheddar, Bulgaria and elsewhere.

Our replica shirts are worn on three continents. We are doing our very best to keep the name of Southwick in the spotlight while Old Barn Way is redeveloped, and would really appreciate more fellow Wickers making the journey to support us in difficult times for the club.

On the sponsorship front we have had real success in the music world.

We are pleased to have the backing of major independent label Cherry Red Records, huge grass roots football fans best known for their long term backing of AFC Wimbledon.

And well known Brighton second generation punks Bar Stool Preachers are sponsoring us too, and have done a lovely T-shirt in our honour.

We are always on the lookout for sponsors to help with running costs and anyone interested should contact the club at [email protected]

And when spring comes we ourselves will be sponsors – of the new flowerbeds in Southwick Square, brightening up Southwick on and off the pitch.

As an ‘old Wicker’ whose maternal roots in Southwick go back 200 years I would like to take this opportunity to thank the management and players for their time and commitment in keeping senior football alive in our community in difficult circumstances. I am sure many in our community would join me in this. Thanks for reading and hope to see you soon!