By Hugo Varley,
Seventeen miles south of Birmingham, an unexpected footballing revolution is quietly blossoming in the village of Alvechurch.
The Midlands side have taken the Non-League pyramid by storm in recent years, winning back-to-back promotions, with a possible hat-trick still on the cards.
This remarkable run of success has taken most onlookers by surprise, not least the club’s chairman Richard Thorndike.
“The last few seasons have been absolutely amazing and the progression that we have made has been far quicker than we could have ever imagined” said Thorndike.
“I originally joined the club as a commercial director in 2011, and there were some real problems there.
“The team were sitting near the bottom of Step 5 and the club had very little money, which mean that rent hadn’t been paid, and there were several bills outstanding.
“Things were in a pretty sorry state and the sign was literally hanging off the door at the entrance.
“As soon as I arrived I got my phone book out and sent out messages telling people to support their local club because it was in serious danger.
“In our first year we managed to sell 38 advertising boards, which helped to keep the club afloat and we have built on those foundations ever since.”
After consolidation was secured, a tantalising title battle with Hereford took place in 2016, with the Church finally getting their hands on the Midland Premier Division title the following year, before promotion to Step 3 was achieved last season.
Away from the pitch, Alvechurch’s footballing success has been matched by progress throughout the club, with exciting plans for a brand new stadium about to come to fruition.
Thorndike added: “There only ever used to be one team connected to the club, now we have 44 different sides including lots of junior and women’s teams, which compete in leagues across the area.
“This has helped us to really ingrain ourselves in the local community and you are now seeing local kids walking around with Alvechurch scarves on, which is something that I had never seen until recently. The new stadium project has been a labour of love of mine for about six years.
“We have had to overcome so many obstacles with regards to planning permission, but finally we were given the green light to begin work this year.
“The new ground will be built next to Birmingham City’s training ground and will coincide with a new partnership that we have made with them, which will hopefully involve several of their academy products gaining first team experience with us”.
Under the guidance of manager Ian Long, Alvechurch have made an impressive start to life in the Southern Premier Central and are currently sitting just outside the play-off positions.
In some ways, the club’s recent form has put Thorndike in a rather unusual dilemma.
The Alvechurch chairman admitted: “It has become a slightly tricky situation because in truth we all know that we are not quite ready for Step 2 football.
“If it comes about then we will take the opportunity to go up, but it would mean that we would have to ground share for a season while we wait for the new stadium to be built, which wouldn’t be ideal. The reason that we have found ourselves here is purely down to the incredible work of Ian and his management team.
“In my opinion they are some of the best coaches in Non-League. During their three years here we have played some outstanding football and this season, despite in all likelihood having the smallest budget in the league, they are ensuring that the club continues to punch well above its weight.
“Alvechurch is a village of just over 5,000 residents and to see the club this high up the pyramid is a source of immense pride for everyone.”
Nevertheless, Thorndike is by no means finished yet and when asked about his long-term plans for the club, he is unequivocal in his ambition.
“This is just the start of the journey,” he notes.
“We are always looking at methods employed by teams above us. For example, we have appointed Solihull Moors’ former director of football and assistant manager Simon Redhead to our board.
“When I first became Chairman, the boardroom simply consisted of myself, the club secretary, the person who worked in the bar and the guy who did the washing up.
“That had to change and the whole set-up is now far more professional and geared towards achieving future success.
“The future is bright and hopefully it is only a matter of time before we are in our new stadium and playing at even higher level!”
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