By Hugo Varley
Eighteen months ago you could have forgiven even the most optimistic Hayes & Yeading supporter for bowing their head in despair.
As the rest of the country basked in the summer heat wave of 2017, United fans spent the off-season coming to terms with their team’s third relegation in just five years.
After being founded in 2007, the Hillingdon based club enjoyed a brilliant start to life, reaching the National League after just two seasons. However, a dramatic fall down the pyramid was just around the corner.
This collapse led to Hayes & Yeading finding themselves languishing in Step 4, having led a nomadic life as they sought a new stadium.
Things were certainly bleak. But as they say, it’s always darkest before the dawn.
United toasted their arrival at their brand new Skyex Community Stadium last season with a run to the play-offs, before embarking on a remarkable sequence of form this campaign, which has seen the club surge to the top of the Bostik South Central, scoring more and conceding less than almost any other Step 4 side.
Chairman Tony O’Driscoll told The NLP: “I have got a smile back on my face at the moment!
“Before the start of last season the club was really enduring a terrible spell and we were just desperate to turn a corner.
“Thankfully that now seems to have happened and for the first time in about eight years I have actually been able to enjoy watching football matches again.
“Moving into the stadium was absolutely vital and is something that needed to happen.
“It means everything for the fans because it has essentially brought the club home again.
“From a financial perspective we were leaking money previously. When you are playing at other grounds you are having to pay the owners an awful lot of cash and you also miss out on important aspects such as the revenue from food and drink.
“Money wise it has been pretty tough for us. There has been a huge amount of work done across all aspects of the club and to be honest I had no idea just how expensive some of it was going to be.
“Thankfully we managed to direct a bit more funds into the playing budget for this year and so far it certainly seems to be baring fruit.”
In truth, much of the credit for United’s remarkable turnaround in fortunes on the pitch should be laid at the feet of manager Paul Hughes.
The last two years have seen the former Chelsea and Luton midfielder undertake a crucial overhaul of the squad which has helped to inject a renewed sense of optimism and confidence into the club.
The United boss said: “I arrived here on the back of a pretty successful spell with Kings Langley, but once I heard that Hayes & Yeading were interested I had to make the move.
“It is a massive club with a huge fan base and the challenge of trying to return them to where they belong is something that really appeals to me.
“We were great for a lot of last season and were unfortunate to lose out in the play-offs. It was frustrating because towards the end of the campaign we were attacking really well, but in the semi-final against Cambridge City we just couldn’t hit the back of the net.
“Over the summer I was desperate to retain the core group of the squad and put a stop to the revolving door policy that had previously taken place.
“We lost a few players like Manny Duku but on the whole I knew that we had a good team that would compete.
“To have scored over 90 goals in the league already is absolutely brilliant and to also have one of the best defences is something that gives me a huge amount of pride.”
If anything, United’s momentum appears to be growing stronger with each week that passes.
Saturday’s 8-1 demolition of Hertford Town was the runaway leaders’ ninth win in their last ten league games, with Hughes’ side finding the net 51 times in the process.
Nevertheless, the United boss is refusing to get carried away quite yet.
Hughes added: “We are still making the first step on the ladder, to be honest.
“We must not get ahead of ourselves because even in our position things can change very quickly.
“With regards to long-term ambitions, I have spoken a bit with the chairman but the reality is that in order to be able to have a competitive budget in the division above we would need to develop our revenue streams.
“One day we would love to get the club back into the Conference South, but it is going to be a long process.
“It is great to see the fans enjoying themselves again and hopefully there will be plenty more moments to celebrate this season.
“We have got a long journey ahead of us, but we are finally heading on the right path”.
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