Tuesday 24th May 2005

Please credit article to Stephen McCartney - www.kentishfootball.co.uk

Everyone pitches in to assist Margate's return

MARGATE secretary Kenneth Tomlinson is happy with the progress that is being made at Hartsdown Park and says they are on course to play Ryman Premier League football at the ground when the season kick's off in August, writes Stephen McCartney.

The contractors that are installing the pitch drainage and irrigation system are currently on site and remain on course.

Subject only to the weather conditions the spreading of topsoil will commence next Tuesday with turfing works commencing on Monday 6th June.

It is projected that the pitch will be fully laid by the 12th June providing sufficient time for the new surface to settle before use.

New floodlights have been ordered and are due to be delivered week commencing the 10th June - again in plenty of time for erection and connection.

The new ground capacity at Hartsdown Park will be 2,000, 400 of which will be a seated stand, with provision for disabled supporters and press.  Most other terracing will take the form of uncovered concrete walkways around the pitch.

All temporary cabins including dressing rooms, officials' room, medical and toilet blocks have been ordered.

The required general upgrade of the Hartsdown Park stand, perimeter fencing and new entrance porch to the social club - which has been in use during their three-year nomadic existence - will commence once the pitch works are completed.

Tomlinson today revealed the current situation with the pitch.  "They've levelled it pretty well," he said.  "There's still a slope but it's a lot better but it's not so prominent."

The club used to have a nine foot slope and Tomlinson added: "Even though there is still a slight slope, it's not so prominent as it was in the past."

He added: "What's happened now is we've got a situation where they are doing the drainage.  The trenches have all been filled up, flattened, and what was dug up has been refilled and the pitch is level apart from a slight slope."

Tomlinson, however, is confident the club will return to Hartsdown Park for the start of their Ryman Premier League campaign (starting 20th August) and the crowds will be flocking back through the turnstiles despite losing many fans during their three years away at Dover Athletic (2 years) and Ashford Town.

"It's been a long winded job," he said.  "The next thing is to get the stands erected.  Hopefully we'll be ready to start (the league season).

"We've had a bit of luck where we start the league programme a week later than we first thought, which gives us leeway.

"We will get pre-season friendlies in, although I don't know if they will be at Margate.  Work has to be settled, floodlights erected but the main priority as it stands at the moment is to get the pitch sorted out.

"I'm sure that we will be on time and other bits and pieces to go in, such as temporary stands."

Tomlinson said there will be plans to develop the stadium further but their main aim is to have the club playing back in the town - and more importantly, earning money.

"We've been on the road for three years, we need to get back to Margate as it's been financially draining," Tomlinson admitted.

"We've been made more than welcome at Dover and Ashford but we need to get back to Margate."

Margate have suffered two relegations in the last two seasons but Tomlinson is confident long serving manager Chris Kinnear can get the club back into the top flight of non-league football in the not too distant future.

"Hopefully we can get back to where we were, Chris has done it before and he will do it again.

"I think Chris is happy with how things are going.  I haven't spoken to him since last week.

"But due to the financial aspect the bottom line is we have to get back to Margate full stop.

"There's a lot of local interest within the club, we can hopefully get back to the 500+ gates that we had in the Nationwide Conference - we had gates of 1700 in our first season.

"The fan base is quite enormous here at Margate.  Once we get going - a successful side helps - if we can get away to a good start and have a successful season then those fans will come back again."

Although the club will be without a reserve side next season, the club will be represented at youth team level.

AFC Margate, who have youth sides from under 8's to under 16's playing their matches at schools in the Thanet area, have joined forces with Margate and will play at least two sides in the MUSH Kent Youth League next season under Margate Youth.