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Giving it large in Billericay

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From the age of nine until I went to university I lived in Billericay.  Billericay Town played on the Archer Hall field and had an annual dinner-dance in the Archer Hall. One player from the 1950s remembered playing a German team, Emmerich Rhine, there. 'Billericay' almost sounds like an Irish place name, but I think it is a corruption of the Norman-French 'Ville de Cray'.  Other explanations are available.

In the 1970s the club won three FA Vase triumphs.  Since then, as Gregor Robinson writes in The Times today, 'After that it would seem. nothing but decades of frustration, decline and despair'.  Currently they are playing in the seventh tier of football or the third tier of the non-league system.

Glenn Tamplin took over last December, having failed in attempts to buy Brentwood Town, Bishop's Stortford and Dagenham & Redbridge.   I heard Tamplin being interviewed on Radio 5 on Saturday.  Later in the day the BBC streamed the FA Cup game against Didcot Town which Billericay won 5-0.

In his interview, Tamplin said that he came from a council estate and had worked night and day to build up his steel business.  Not surprisingly, he eventually burnt out.  He then became a born again Christian and does a lot for charity.

He is a controversial figure.  He has been spending big money at Billericay, the wage bill is £22,000 a week.  He has also spent £2m on the stadium and pitch,  Some in non-league football think he is undermining the 'authenticity' of the game.   He is certainly not lacking in ambition, saying on Radio 5 that he will only considering selling the club when they are in the Championship and need someone with the funding to get them into the Premier League.

Even some long-term 'Ricay fans have their reservations, saying that Tamplin 'doesn't help himself'. However, crowds have increased four-fold from a previous average of about 250.   The area is a prosperous one with a growing population.  When I go back, I notice how congested the High Street is.

Tamplin is clearly committed and sincere.  However, I do remember non-league clubs where the story of big funding ended in burnout.  The stadium at Rushden & Diamonds was recently being demolished.