Matt Badcock gets exclusive access to Billericay Town and ambitious owner Glenn Tamplin
"PEOPLE WILL SAY 'OH, THIS IS A CIRCUS'. WELL, NO, THIS ISN'T A CIRCUS, THIS IS MY FAMILY, THIS IS MY LIFE"
THE FIRST thing to say about Billericay Town is, whatever your taste, the murals that adorn the back of the new stand, the changing rooms and tunnel area, are artistically impressive.
The second thing is that the place has been completely and undeniably transformed in a short space of time.
New terracing and seating has leapt up, the pitch is immaculate, the food and drink stalls improved and an area behind one stand is being hurriedly prepared for a 3G facility and parking.
The Essex club has generated more column inches and social media posts than any other Non-League outfit in a long time because of one man, millionaire owner Glenn Tamplin.
The local businessman has poured £2 million into the club since taking over partway through last season, installed himself as manager, caused controversy with outrageous postings on twitter, and upset a lot of people doing it.
The singing, the team-talks, the flash cars, the big-name ex-Premier League signings, the wages, the bold predictions to reach the Football League.
But he has, so far, done everything he said he would. Even if there is just 18 months left on the lease and, he says, the council are ignoring their attempts to discuss renewing. So what is behind the caricature that has got everyone in NonLeague football talking? Inside his office he’s welcoming, introduces his wife Bliss and son Archie, gestures grandly, is raw, funny, direct, honest, openly says how his mistakes saw some of his companies go bust, and is clearly passionate about what he’s doing.
“What frustrates me is this gets so much more than my money,” he says, a few hours before they maintain their lead at the top of the Bostik Premier after beating Brightlingsea Regent. “It gets every minute of my time. It gets all of my heart, all of my passion. It gets every bit of me. Money is the last thing it gets. The last thing.
“And it’s the easiest thing to give. It would be easier for you to get £5 out of your pocket now and give it to someone than an hour of your time. This is where people get me wrong. I give people and this club my time. That’s nothing to do with money.”
The office we sit in has had a similar redesign to the changing rooms. Tamplin gives a guided tour of the lions on the wall behind his desk, who represent him and his family. “You look around this room now and people will say, ‘Oh, it’s a circus’. Well, no, this isn’t a circus,” he says. “If you look at it, this behind you here is my family. That’s me, the king of the jungle, this is my lioness Bliss, these are my kids – I have a tattoo on my arm here of lions and tigers. It basically says I thought about quitting before I realised who was watching.
“When, ten years ago, I was in a bad place and I tried to take my life three times, I had a four-year-old boy, Archie, and a one-year-old girl, Gracie. There was a slogan that had a lion sitting there with a cub looking at him saying, ‘Daddy, help, help’. It was, ‘I thought about quitting until I realised who was watching me’. I realised my cubs needed me.”
Tamplin, 45, says there’s lots of things people have wrong with him. He explains how he grew up on a council estate with no father, how he found his first bride-to-be having an affair with her boss two weeks before their wedding and how that led to throwing himself into business.
Ultimately, ten years later, he burnt out and couldn’t cope until he lifted himself from the ‘devil’s pit’ with the help of faith and Christianity.
“All I’m saying is, my life has not been a bed of roses,” he says. “All I’m doing when I come to this football club is say, ‘Here’s all of me. But with me comes my past, my beliefs, comes what I believe we all need to know, comes total transparency. You’re going to get all of me’.
“That’s why everybody knows my story. Why do I tell people my story? Because we have pastors here to help people. I believe it is my purpose to help people in the Billericay community. Help people get well, help people with issues.
“Winning the league and taking this club up is something I want to do – but that’s as well as helping the community. If you said I had to pick between the two, I don’t know which one I would pick. Because if we win all the leagues and go up to League Two, but I haven’t helped anyone in the community, then I would say I’ve failed.”
Tamplin accepts he has made misjudgements on twitter and his suggestion for his “haters” to get in touch with one of a number of mental health or drug addiction charities – for which he apologised – is a contradiction to the good work he appears to be doing.
He’s funded an operation for a young boy called Harry Parker to walk again. A team of six street pas-
tors will be at games – they plan between them to come to games at all levels of the club – to offer support for anyone who may need it.
Phil Norton, Lead Street Pastor, says: “We’re building relationships at the moment, letting people know who we are and what we’re about and, most importantly, who we’re not. What we aren’t is local Christian people evangelising or coming with a very heavy Christian message.
“We’re actually saying, ‘This is who we are, this is what we believe and, within that, can we offer you some pastoral needs. How are you getting on in life? What are you going through? Are you going
LOOK OF THE LODGE: L-R: Glenn and Matt in his uniquely decorated office, the equally stunning changing rooms and the Harry Parker Stand