ONE OF the most successful sports clubs in the country has made an impassioned appeal: Please help us find us a home of our own.
Aldershot & Farnham have had a meteoric rise up the hockey ladder, clinching five promotions in the past six years.
Next year they will play in the South East Premier Division – just one step away from the national leagues.
But they have been playing their home matches at Heath End School in Farnham, and train at the Army facilities in Aldershot.
Following their latest promotion, from South East Division One West, the Shots will be up against big names in the hockey world.
And unless they have a ground of their own, they fear they will always come off second best against their rivals.
Head coach Ian Jennings – a former England player and coach – wants to try to recruit new players to strengthen his side for next season.
But he said: “The reality is if I were a new player moving into the area, I’ve got the choice of Guildford, with a clubhouse and two pitches, Woking with a clubhouse and two pitches, Basingstoke with the same, and Reading. We are stuck literally in the middle of that.
“What could we offer a player? The social aspect is really important because it is a non-professional sport, even though we treat it as professional in the way we prepare.
“I want to be stood in the clubhouse having a chat and a bit to eat and drink while looking over the balcony at other teams, rather than seeing parents freezing their butts off on the sidelines or having to sit in the car with the engine on. It’s miserable.
“We need a clubhouse and a pitch or two.
“I am sure the club have had discussions about it but it’s very hard.
“With our own ground we would be in charge of our own destiny. We could make money hiring the pitches and having functions in the clubhouse. We could put on more functions for our members.
“Yes, it would be expensive business and the club haven’t got that kind of money swishing around, even though they are certainly in a much healthier financial state now than in previous years.
“But the amount of money we spend on hiring pitches, we could offer somebody quite a nice package.
“We have seven men’s teams and seven ladies’ sides, plus 400-odd juniors. And if we had our own place that would multiply. It would transform the club.
“At the moment we have no real sense of belonging.
“If there was someone out there with a bit of land to build on, that would be the dream scenario.
“But we could amalgamate with a local school which has some land and would be happy for us to put a clubhouse down on it, that would be perfect too.
“We would need floodlights too, of course. It would take a lot of planning and a lot of stuff would need to happen for it to become a reality, but the prospect would be exciting – I’d like it to be a real prospect as opposed to pie in the sky.
“We would not mind if it was in Aldershot or Farnham – although we were named Farnham Sports Council’s team of the year.
“For the club to continue to progress, we just have to have a place to call our own.”