Finchampstead and manager Jon Laugharne have been quietly going about their pre season business in Uhlsport Hellenic League Division 1 East looking to build on a healthy eighth place last season.
Finch have retained 15 goal top scorer Greg Alexander (pictured) as well as the long serving captain Adam Barnard and Luke Axton-Hall in their tight knit squad while experienced former Binfield captain and centre-back Gary Callaway is also on board again.
Pre season fixtures have been a mixed bag but the red and blacks beat a Highmoor-IBIS XI 2-1 at the weekend and have also faced challenging fixtures against higher opposition in Badshot Lea and Premier Divison new boys Burnham.
The club have been members of the Hellenic Football League since the turn of the century when the Chiltonian League merged with the Hellenic at the end of the 1999/00 and finished 7th in their first Division 1 East season.
That same season now Southern League Division 1 sides Swindon Supermarine and Bishop’s Cleeve won the Premier and Division 1 West.
The following season – 2001/02 – was arguably the best in the clubs history as Finch won Division 1 East by two points from Aston Clinton (who are returning to the Hellenic League this season) and lost just six games of a 32 match season.
By rights Finch should have taken their place in the Hellenic Premier Division but..
The football club share what is quite a terrific facility in the Berkshire countryside. The Memorial Ground isn’t exactly modern but it has plenty of parking, numerous changing rooms, a bar area on site and several terrific footballing surfaces.
We spoke to Steve McClurg, Finch manager during the victorious 01/02 campaign about the team and what stopped the club going on to bigger and better things.
“It was all down to not having floodlights at the Memorial Ground. From memory the club applied, or went to the efforts of investigating their installation but we couldn’t get permission like a lot of clubs have found.” he said.
“I wouldn’t want to single any players out, but we had a great team that year full of good players. It’s a shame we weren’t able to progress.”
The lack of lights is something that has afflicted clubs across the county regardless of whether they are located in rural or built up areas.
Wokingham & Emmbrook are the latest example of a club who have finally won the fight for floodlights at their Lowther Road ground but Binfield were also granted permission for lights in time for the 2008/09 season after a long drawn out planning process.
Currently, the club play their opening league games away from the Memorial Ground every season as the pitch is used by Finchampstead Cricket Club in August.
There was some talk about the side sharing with Eversley & California (Source: Wokingham Times – external link) to give the club the opportunity to enter the FA Vase, as well as avoid demotion from the division due to ground grading regulations.
If the 2016 side can emulate McClurg’s boys of 02 then there is every chance the club might be in a position to take the next step. We’ll be watching closely!
See the full table and Division 1 East fixtures and results on our dedicated page here.
Main image: Greg Alexander pictured by getreading.co.uk
League information courtesy of fchd.info