THE future’s bright, the future’s green and white.
Hythe & Dibden Football Club are poised on the threshold of a new era.
Their imminent move to Clayfields Sport Centre will open up an exciting future for the Waterside outfit as they look to replicate the achievements of FA Vase winners Sholing.
With 20 teams under the club umbrella, spanning under-7s to senior men, and an academy that trains on Friday nights at Noadswood School, Hythe already have the framework in place to rival Sholing’s enviable youth production line.
Now, with a new ground quite literally just around the corner, the 112-year-old club will finally have the facilities to match their grand ambition.
“With 20 teams we’ve got to be pushing on as one of the biggest clubs in Hampshire for sheer volume of people and the number of kids involved,” said H&D chairman Dave Cox.
“The move to Clayfields means that, for the first time, we will have a closed-in stadium and a proper place for kids to come along and be part of. It’s going to be a brand new era for Hythe.
“The new ground will open up so many opportunities for the football club and the local community, it’s unbelievable.
“Everyone has seen what Sholing have achieved with their youth policy and this can put us on the same standing as them.”
Having spent decades cohabiting with the town’s cricket team at the Ewart Recreation Ground in Jones Lane, Hythe can’t wait to have a place to call their own.
Every year on May 1 they have had to up sticks and step aside for cricket until the start of September. But, with the backing of Hythe & Dibden Parish Council, those annual upheavals will soon be a thing of the past.
“The Ewart ground has been a fantastic servant to Hythe & Dibden FC, but we’ve outgrown it,” said Cox. “Us moving out will help the cricket club too because they’ve got loads of colts sides and, like us, they need space to breathe.
“There are two pitches at Clayfields. The main one will be closed in and have floodlights and the other one we can use on Sundays and host six-a-side tournaments and that sort of thing.
“At the Ewart ground we’ve always had to take everything down at the end of April ready for the cricket to take over. And with the Wessex season starting in early August, we’ve had to play the first few games away from home until we get the ground back on September 1.
“But going to Clayfields means we can play when we want and train when we want and we won’t have to keep taking things down and putting them up again every year.”
Unfortunately, due to an unforeseen problem with a gas pipe, Hythe won’t be ready to play at their new home as early as planned.
They had hoped to be in for the start of the new Sydenhams One season, but will temporarily groundshare with neighbours Blackfield & Langley while repair work is carried out.
“It’s put us two or three months behind,” Cox explained.
“There was subsidence at the end of the (clubhouse) building and the roots of a tree got wrapped around the gas pipe.
“They’ve taken the trees out and hopefully the rest of the repair work will be done by the end of next month.
“We’ve got new floodlights to go up and we had the Football Association down last week and are in negotiations with them over grants.
“Hopefully, if the contracts are signed by then, the clubhouse will be up and running at Clayfields by the beginning of August and we’ll have the reserves playing there for the start of the Wyvern League season.
“The Sydenhams League have said we can groundshare for up to 13 weeks and Blackfield have been very generous to us.”
With a bit of luck, it won’t be too long before Hythe are going head-to-head with Blackfield in the Premier Division.
Under the young management team of Lee Burch and Scott Johnston, the Watersiders put their bottom-of-the-table blues firmly behind them last term to finish fourth in Sydenhams One.
“Lee and Scott did a great job last season,” said Cox. “They’re both staying and, now that we’ve got the new ground, we want to be pushing on for the Premier Division.
“This is a brand new future for Hythe & Dibden, it’s all coming together and it’s going to be fantastic!”
Hythe are now on the lookout for sponsors to help put a smile on the face of Waterside football.
“These are exciting times and what we’re asking people to do is put in x-amount of money as sponsorship,” Cox explained.
“We’ll do it along the lines of a raffle with the winners getting the right to name the new ground after their company for two years and also have the company name on the first-team shirts.
“We’ll then have a second draw for a small advert on the players’ shorts and a third draw for a small advert on the back of the shirts.
“Everyone else will get a board at the ground and an advert in the programme and on the club website.
“If a company came in and gave us £1 million, I’d have no problem with that!
“But realistically we’d like lots of smaller companies to get involved, even if it’s a one-man band. The more the merrier.”
Anyone interested in being part of this exciting new venture should contact H&D’s vice-chairman Robbie Parsons on 07850 752831 or commercial manager Ben on 07554 971900.