DAVE Diaper says Sholing isn’t just a football club – it’s an institution.
After 14 years’ hard work and planning, the Portsmouth Road outfit have established themselves as a Charter Standard Community Club with 16 teams operating across the age-groups.
And Diaper reckons that instead of jumping on the current bandwagon of knocking the Boatmen for pulling out of the Southern League and having what could turn out to be a one-season sabbatical in the Wessex ranks, clubs should be taking a leaf out of Sholing’s book by building strong foundations for the future.
Reigning Wessex champions Blackfield & Langley criticised Sholing prior to Christmas, claiming it was farcical that they had voluntarily withdrawn from the Southern League for financial reasons – and then applied to go straight back up again.
But, having presumably forked out a fair sum of cash to land the Sydenhams title last term, Blackfield have ditched both their reserve and under-18 set-ups – a false economy in Diaper’s book.
He said: “Sholing isn’t a club, it’s an institution based on 14 years of hard work and planning.
“A lot of effort has gone into making sure everyone pulls in the same direction and we’ve shown that if reserve and youth players are good enough they will get their first-team chance.
“We’re not a wealthy club, but we’re a big club because of the infrastructure.
“Six years ago we made a real effort to fill up the youth and reserve ranks so that if we were to lose nine first-team players tomorrow we would always have players coming through to fill the gaps.
“If you look at Blackfield, they’ve got no reserve team now.
“But if you spend all the money on the first team and scrap the reserves, then what are you building?
“The guy at Blackfield (Sam Davies) paid out a lot of money last year when they won the title, but their ground wasn’t ready for promotion (and still isn’t), so what was he trying to do – win the Wessex League for the next three years? That’s worse in my opinion. How narrow-minded is that?
"What’s the point of spending all that money if you can’t go up because of ground grading?
“You can only run a club the way you see fit and, at Sholing, we try to run it as a business.
“But the fact is that if we’d stayed in the Southern League this season, our budget would have run out by Christmas.
“We’re trying to sustain a place as high up the pyramid as we can, but I don’t think people realise that we’re about the only club I know who can’t get any revenue in from bar takings. All ours goes to the VT Sports Club.
“It means we get by purely on gate money, sponsorship and the winnings we make through the FA Cup and Vase.”
After years of financial support from parent company VT, Sholing are learning to stand on their own two feet financially.
As a result, players wages have been chipped away at but, such is the camaraderie within the group, that they have opted to stick together. “We may not get the bar takings, but what we have got is one hell of a team,” said Diaper.
“We’ve got a group of lads who want to stick together and do their best for Sholing and that makes us a big club.
“Our lads aren’t Southern League players, they’re players who came up originally from the Wessex League, played in the Southern League and came back down again as a team.
“It didn’t give me any pleasure to win 12-1 against Downton last week, but I can’t just ask the lads to switch off.”