Merger mis­ery

Hayes & Yead­ing United’s pain

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

IN MAY, Hayes & Yead­ing United cel­e­brated their tenth birth­day. The re­al­ity, how­ever, was that there was very lit­tle to cel­e­brate.

A decade ago, it was all so dif­fer­ent. There was op­ti­mism as near-neigh­bours Hayes and Yead­ing an­nounced their merger.

In a state­ment, the new club said: “The two sides, both mem­bers of last sea­son’s Con­fer­ence South and both lo­cated within the West Mid­dle­sex town of Hayes, have de­cided to join forces, in­te­grate re­sources and bring to­gether a com­mu­nity, cre­at­ing a new su­per­club on the non-league scene.”

Ini­tally, the new club pros­pered. After fin­ish­ing 13th in Con­fer­ence South – higher than both their pre­de­ces­sors the pre­vi­ous sea­son – in their de­but cam­paign of 200708, it was the fol­low­ing sea­son that made peo­ple sit up and take no­tice.

After com­ing fourth un­der boss Garry Hay­lock, the play-offs looked like turn­ing into a night­mare when they trailed Eastleigh 4-0 at home after just 50 min­utes.

As a spec­ta­tor that night at Church Road, it looked like the tie was al­ready done and dusted but H&Y showed some grit to halve the deficit by the fin­ish.

United won 2-0 at Eastleigh in the sec­ond leg to take the tie into ex­tra-time. They then fin­ished the job off, Scott Fitzger­ald scor­ing twice to cap an as­ton­ish­ing turn­around. If that was dra­matic, then so too was the play-off fi­nal at Hamp­ton & Rich­mond Bor­ough.

United were 2-1 down with 20 min­utes left after keeper Del­roy Pred­die rolled the ball out in front of him­self and exHayes striker Ian Hodges, lurk­ing be­hind, nipped in to steal the ball and slot into an empty net.

The bulk of the bumper Bev­eree crowd lapped it up.

But Pred­die’s em­bar­rass­ment was spared when mid­fielder Steven Gre­gory struck twice to turn the game around and earn United pro­mo­tion to the Blue Square Premier. Hayes & Yead­ing main­tained their place in Non-League’s top flight for the next two sea­sons, but then things started to go wrong – and how.

At the end of May 2011, the club’s first-ever man­ager Garry Hay­lock re­signed. Just as sig­nif­i­cantly, if not more so, the club’s sta­dium Church Road, the old Hayes ground, was sold to de­vel­op­ers Bar­ratt Homes and United moved to Wok­ing while a re­de­vel­op­ment of Yead­ing’s old home, The War­ren, was car­ried out.

With money bulging from their back pock­ets after sell­ing off Church Road, most peo­ple ex­pected Hayes & Yead­ing to be back in Hilling­don Bor­ough be­fore too long.

In­stead, their ex­ile con­tin­ued – and their for­tunes on the pitch nose­dived, too.

United were rel­e­gated to Con­fer­ence South in 2011-12 and then, with former Liver­pool de­fender Phil Babb in charge, fin­ished in the rel­e­ga­tion places of Non-League’s sec­ond tier in 201314, only to be re­prieved due to Here­ford United’s ex­pul­sion from the Con­fer­ence Premier.

In 2014-15, they fin­ished 19th to hang on to their sta­tus, but even­tu­ally in 2015-16 they were rel­e­gated – de­spite Hay­lock hav­ing a sec­ond spell in charge – to the South­ern Premier.

If any­one thought life was go­ing to be any eas­ier at Step 3, they were mis­taken. Hayes & Yead­ing suf­fered their third rel­e­ga­tion in five years last term and fea­ture in the Evo-Stik South East this sea­son.

For vir­tu­ally all that time, they have played ‘away from home’ – ground­shar­ing at Wok­ing, Maiden­head and, lat­terly, Bea­cons­field SYCOB.

That was be­cause work on their new home at Yead­ing had not been com­pleted, money run­ning short to fin­ish the job.

There was a glimmer of light a year ago when United did play at the SkyEx Com­mu­nity Sta­dium in pre-sea­son and at the start of the South­ern League sea­son, but it proved a false dawn as they had to move out again due to a lack of a safety cer­tifi­cate.

It all leaves talk of cre­at­ing a ‘Non-League su­per-club’ in tat­ters and has left a sour taste in the mouth.

For while there were two clubs, ad­mit­tedly strug­gling to at­tract big crowds, com­pet­ing at a high level of Non-League foot­ball and pro­vid­ing en­ter­tain­ment, at times, in their com­mu­nity. Now there is one club com­pet­ing at a lower level who have been ab­sent for vir-

tu­ally half-a-dozen years. Re­cently, I took a trip down mem­ory lane. I got in my car and made the ten-minute drive from my home in Green­ford to Hayes’ old ground, Church Road.

The sta­dium has, of course, long since gone. In­stead, there are lots of nice new houses with gleam­ing cars out­side them.

There is noth­ing to sug­gest there was even a foot­ball sta­dium there, some of the res­i­dents prob­a­bly don’t know.

There is no statue, mon­u­ment or plaque to record the feats of days gone by, only a few signs say­ing ‘No Ball Games’.

When I was sports editor at the Hayes & Har­ling­ton Gazette 20 years ago, it was a golden time for Hayes. Terry Brown had led them into the Con­fer­ence, they had a young striker called Jason Roberts who would go on to make a name for him­self and they had a solid, old-fash­ioned Non-League ground to call home. It truly is sad to see it struck from the land­scape. One per­son shocked and sad­dened by the merged club’s plight is the afore­men­tioned Brown. The cur­rent Bas­ingstoke boss said: “There was noth­ing wrong with the con­cept of merg­ing the two clubs – sell­ing Church Road for mil­lions and build­ing a brand new pur­pose­built sta­dium. Nei­ther side was mak­ing money. “It was just mis­man­aged and you have to ask the ques­tion ‘where did that money go?’. They should have had at least a cou­ple of mil­lion pounds left over (after sell­ing Church Road and build­ing a new ground). “Yead­ing was a tidy lit­tle ground. In fact, you could have tarted it up and been play­ing Con­fer­ence foot­ball now. “To go with grandiose plans and build an as­tro­turf pitch be­fore the ground was plain non­sense. They have done things back to front. “The club should have been fly­ing now. I feel sorry for Tony (O’Driscoll, chair­man). He’s put a lot of money, time and ef­fort in to get it up to grade. “Any team away from home for that long strug­gles to hold on to their sup­porter base. “There are still fan­tas­tic peo­ple down there and I hope they can even­tu­ally get back home

per­ma­nently. I think they have hit rock bot­tom and the only way is up.”

It’s all a far cry from when Brown was start­ing out as a striker with Hayes in the early 1970s.

“Hayes was my first ever club as a 17-yearold and I was lucky enough to play in a bril­liant side along­side Robin Fri­day, who was a leg­end for us and at Read­ing,” said the 64year-old ex-Alder­shot, AFC Wim­ble­don and Mar­gate boss.

“In my first year we beat Bris­tol Rovers in the FA Cup. We drew with Read­ing, lost in a re­play and they bought Robin.

“Bob Gibbs was a fan­tas­tic man­ager and I learned a lot from him. I also had a sec­ond spell at the club as a player, which was en­joy­able.

“Later I was coach­ing at Wok­ing­ham and the Hayes job came up. Derek Goodall (chair­man) turned me down, but the job be­came avail­able a year later and I got it.

“I was man­ager for just short of ten years. We grad­u­ally got bet­ter and bet­ter and the peak was fin­ish­ing third in the Con­fer­ence (1998-99). How­ever, our bud­get was nowhere near the likes of Steve­nage and they nicked all our best play­ers.

“Dur­ing that time we sold a num­ber of play­ers, in­clud­ing Jason Roberts (to Wolves). That kept us go­ing for a few years, but the money was get­ting tighter and tighter and it was dif­fi­cult to re­cruit play­ers with our bud­get.”

An­other man­ager who didn’t fore­see United’s cur­rent plight is former Yead­ing man­ager John­son Hip­polyte.

Now in charge at Staines Town, the man known as ‘Drax’ in foot­ball cir­cles was fa­mously the Ding boss when they won through to the FA Cup third round and faced New­cas­tle United at QPR’s Lof­tus Road in Jan­uary 2005, go­ing down 2-0.

“I had a great six years there,” said Hip­polyte, who had pre­vi­ously played for the club.

“We had two pro­mo­tions and reached the third round of the FA Cup, which put the club on the map.

“I re­mem­ber say­ing after the New­cas­tle game when a mic was shoved un­der my nose that, apart from my kids be­ing born, it was the proud­est day of my life.

“Twelve years later it’s still the case. I still meet peo­ple now and they re­mem­ber the game and the play­ers. It was a once in a life­time ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We had some re­ally good play­ers, like DJ Campbell, and it was good club that looked like it could build to go on to the next level.

“I left be­fore the merger, but they looked like a club on the up when they won pro­mo­tion. It sad­dens me to see what’s been go­ing on over the last five or six years.

“I keep say­ing I have to go and have a look at the new sta­dium, but I don’t want to go un­til it’s fully ready.”

But former Maiden­head man­ager Hip­polyte be­lieves O’Driscoll is the right man to put Hayes & Yead­ing back on track.

“I brought him to Yead­ing and he was part of my back­room team,” re­called the 53-year-old. “He will be try­ing his best and work­ing hard be­hind the scenes to sort things out.

“I have fond, fond mem­o­ries of Yead­ing – it holds a spot in my heart. I wish them all the best and if there’s any­thing I can do to help, Tony only has to call me.”

O’Driscoll him­self un­der­stands fans’ frus­tra­tions over the way the club has gone back­wards in re­cent years.

“When the club sold the ground and went to Wok­ing, I couldn’t un­der­stand that,” he said.

“It was a dif­fi­cult place to get to, the traf­fic was bad and the fans didn’t want to go there.

“They must have been re­ally fed up.When we got home last year, a lot of sup­port­ers came that hadn’t been since the amal­ga­ma­tion, but they stopped after we moved out again. “Hope­fully they will now come back.” And O’Driscoll – who be­came chair­man four years ago – be­lieves it’s best for United to take their medicine now.

“It would have been easy to have spent more money and got bet­ter play­ers in,” he said,“but that money was bet­ter used go­ing into the ground to get back play­ing there.

“When you’re ground­shar­ing, you’re pay­ing to use an­other club’s fa­cil­i­ties and you don’t have a bar to earn in­come.You are leak­ing money all the time.

“By go­ing back, you aren’t pay­ing to play and cer­tainly not leak­ing as much money.”

Per­haps United’s for­tunes are fi­nally start­ing to im­prove.

They’re back play­ing at the SkyEx Com­mu­nity Sta­dium and have made a de­cent start to the cam­paign in league and cup. The long-suf­fer­ing fans will be hop­ing that it’s the be­gin­ning of a climb back up the leagues.

ground Gone: Hayes’ old Church Road is now a hous­ing de­vel­op­ment Jason Roberts Sta­dium New home: The SkyEx Com­mu­nity

Hero: Yead­ing’s DJ Campbell

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