Sutton Athletic agree two-year groundshare deal with league rivals FC Elmstead
SUTTON ATHLETIC have agreed a two-year deal for FC Elmstead to groundshare their Lower Road ground in Hextable.
FC Elmstead, who originally hail from Chislehurst, have played at Holmesdale’s Oakley Road ground in Bromley, since joining Step Six football in 2015.
Sutton Athletic owner Guy Eldridge said: “If I’m being honest, it’s financially to start off with. We felt we’ve been, not missing out on money, but we didn’t have, we always got by if you like.
“I put money in and a few people put money in so we all got by, but we felt it was time to perhaps give us a little bit more money and we felt we have a team in here that we felt were the right side.
“We’ve had offers before but they’re good people who run it and we felt it would help us. It’s a two-year deal as well so it will make us more secure in the long-term.”
Mr Eldridge confirmed that the club will remain an amateur outfit next season.
“It’s still going to be amateur, we haven’t spoken about (paying players), we haven’t had our AGM yet,” he said.
“We don’t think even the money Elmstead are going to give us, behind the scenes is going to help but we don’t think we’re going to quite go into those realms (of paying players) next season. The following season, we’ll see what happens.”
The club have used scaffolding and corrugated iron sheeting to build a seater stand and recently built a covered shelter in between the two dug-outs on the car park side of the ground.
“This ground was a price of wasteland when we took it over five years ago and as you see now it’s come on leaps and bounds,” said Mr Eldridge.
“Everyone’s helped, John Ball, the chairman and a few other people behind the scenes have been magnificent.
“We’re really proud of it! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not right at the top of the standard where it should be, but we’ve got everything we need to stay in the League and go higher and hopefully the FA Vase this year, which is a big thing.”
Mr Eldridge revealed that it costs the club £20,000 per year to run.
“This season out of 19 teams there must have been 13-14 teams paying some sort of money, some paying a lot of money, teams that were top of the table and it’s very difficult.
“To run a place like this costs up to 20 grand a year just to keep it going. We can’t afford to pay players.
“We get by, we’ve always based it on having a very good team ethos throughout the club, first team, reserves and it’s always worked.
“Losing the base of the team at the beginning of the season didn’t help but we’ve built a good young squad for next year and we hope we’ll be right up at the top of the league where we should be.
“I’d like to think we’re going to be there or there abouts next season, if we can keep the squad we finished with and add a striker but everyone wants a striker, don’t they? Arlie Desanges, who was here for a couple of seasons, somebody like that. If we can get that striker whose going to score you 20-25 goals, we’ve certainly got enough about us to be up there challenging.”
Dan Kelly took over after Ben Young quit the club last summer to take over at Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division side Glebe. However, despite guiding the Chislehurst club to their best run in The FA Cup, Young was axed after 19 games and replaced by Anwar Uddin.
Glebe finished in 12th place in the table with 51 points from their 38 games, while Kelly guided Sutton Athletic to 11th place in the First Division table with 48 points from 36 games.
Young, meanwhile, showed his love for the club by returning and playing 16 games for the clubs reserve side, eighth-placed finishers in the Andreas Carter Joma Kent County League Division One West.
“I would say after losing pretty much the whole team at the beginning the season after Ben Young left and went to Glebe and pretty much took the whole team with him, left Dan Kelly in a bit of a mire,” said Eldridge.
“It took him a good first half of the season to get a settled squad and when we did from December we were very good and lost only twice in 2018. I thought he done remarkably well from where we were and what we had and where we ended up in midtable. We were quite happy where we ended up.”
Mr Eldridge is delighted that Young has returned to show loyalty to his beloved Sutton Athletic.
“There you go, that’s going back to the community thing, it’s big. We’ve always had that close bond with everybody, the players, it’s nice. We’ve allowed him to come back to be fair but that’s what we’re all about. He’s an old player and he’s welcomed back and now he’s enjoying himself playing for our reserve side.”
Visit Sutton Athletic’s website: www.pitchero.com/clubs/suttonathletic