Former-Press Association reporter Ken Gaunt tells us about the remarkable rebirth of Salisbury FC and the help they've had from their supporters...
They pulled in a crowd of over 700 for their last home game and gates have not dipped below the 500 mark this season.
They have a thriving supporters’ section that is growing by the week. A club at the top of the non-league pyramid? No, this is Salisbury FC, formed out of the ashes of Salisbury City and plying their trade in the Sydenhams Wessex League, the ninth tier of English football.
While Steve Claridge, a man whose lengthy playing career spanned the leagues, is director and team manager, Michaela Menzel is secretary of the official Supporters’ Club. She is thrilled they are back in business and playing again at the 5,000 capacity Raymond McEnhill Stadium.
“After many years of a rather strained relationship between club and supporters during the old regime, the new board of directors present a refreshing change, “ said Michaela.
“We have regular meetings with them and they are very supportive of the supporters club and its activities. They take on board the views of the fans when it comes to food, prices and facilities. They might not always agree but they certainly listen to our point of view.”
Salisbury supporters were plunged into turmoil 13 months ago when City went into administration after being expelled from the Football Conference before a consortium, including Claridge, bought the assets last December.
Despite a no-show last season and the FA effectively relegating the phoenix club four divisions, the supporters have shown remarkable loyalty.
On their travels they constantly outnumber the home fans - a local taxi firm even offers discounted rates. And on Saturday the favourites for promotion hit the Wembley trail.
Salisbury have an FA Vase match across Wiltshire at Calne Town, who are struggling in the Toolstation Western League Division One where three figure crowds are the exception rather than the norm.
Michaela said: “We currently have 200 members signed up with a further five to 10 being added every home game. This is approaching the number we used to have in our last season in the Conference.
“The support this season, considering the level we are now playing is quite overwhelming. We have young people who have only started supporting Salisbury to those who were there cheering the Whites on when they were still playing at Victoria Park.”
The supporters club committee meet once a month to discuss business and any issues with the board and on match days sell merchandise, membership as well as any other items at their stand in the bar.
Michela added: “We're doing it because we love non-league football and Salisbury FC and because we feel that we can make a difference to this club. The supporters are the most important asset any football club can have and it is important to acknowledge that.
“Some games saw probably in excess of 300 travelling fans which is quite unbelievable. On the whole they believe in the new regime, they like the football that Steve Claridge makes this new team play.”
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Thanks to Ian Southwell for the picture used in this blog. Reproduced here under CC licence.