No football but plenty of progress at Belper Town
There may have been very little activity on the pitch at Belper Town in recent months, but off it there is great progress being made.
In February, Belper announced plans to build a new undercover spectator stand that will hold up to 200 fans.
The stand, which will occupy the Church End of the ground, will cover the existing terrace and is expected to be completed by the summer.
Nailers chairman Ian Woodward has had these plans in place for a few years and is happy to have got the project underway.
He said: “We had a plan of developments for the ground when I took over – this was one of them. I got the ball in motion, I got the plans drawn up, I got the planning permission approved.
“The last bit was the financing, which we’ve managed to finance through generous sponsors and people offering their time spare.
“Once again, it’s a collective group of people that have agreed with what we are doing and have helped it happen. That’s credit to Belper and a credit to the club.”
The stand won’t be the only new addition to the Raygar Stadium when fans are allowed back, with a 4G training pitch installed in November 2020.
Money has been tight for non-league clubs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has been no different at Belper.
Woodward has been reliant on generous sponsors to help fund the project and believes the stand, as well as other facilities, will help the club move forward in the coming years.
“It’s very difficult to get sponsors to put their hands in their pocket, write you a cheque out and say here’s £10,000, off you go. People like to see what they are spending their money for,” Woodward said.
“A few years ago, we sort of looked at it. We can build a club that’s fit for promotion, fit for fantastic facilities. Hopefully, we can attract a good manager, which we have, who wants to be at the club. He’ll help to attract players that want to play for Belper.
“You can chuck money at it all the time, but if the players don’t feel comfortable, they’re not happy there, the manager’s not happy there then it moves on and every year is just another challenge. Grant [Black, first-team manager] has been very patient.
“If we can build a proper football club and run it like a proper football club then people will stay, the manager will stay, the players will stay, and the supporters will want to come and be part of Belper Town Football Club - that’s the mind-set about it. We want people to enjoy coming and we want the best facilities.
“The improvements are massive. When the supporters come back to the club, they will see a massive difference. Hopefully, the players will see a massive difference. It’s a proper ground, a football club. We haven’t just been sitting and getting upset about it; we’ve kept positive and hopefully the fans and players will appreciate that.”
Black cites the additions as reasons he pledged his future to the club and aims to help the Nailers climb as high as they can in the English football pyramid.
He said: “It’s been an easy decision to stay and commit long term to the club given we knew what was coming. It’s like a merry-go-round a lot of times at football clubs, because they will chuck money at it and it won’t work.
“They’ll still get 100 fans, not great facilities and there’s no longevity to want to stay there. Managers and players want to progress, so they’ll all move on.
“But me, the management staff and a good core of the lads feel and know that we can do that with Belper. Yes, we want to progress and manage as high as we can, and the lads want to play as high as they can. But we know we have a chairman and a club that want to go on that journey as well.”
Belper Town haven’t played since the middle of December, a 1-0 friendly win over Coalville Town, and Black admits that he was frustrated with the stop-start nature of the 2020/21 season.
However, he has also stated that has been very impressed with how the board put the plans together and he can’t wait to see the facilities.
“Since I’ve been here and the chairman came in, they’ve always been honest with me – always been true. When they sat me down and said this is what we are going to do, I knew it wasn’t just a plan, I knew he would do it.
“He’s been true to that and it’s just brilliant. To see that they are still going to those lengths to have that impact for us when we go back shows that they are just as passionate as we are. We can’t wait to get back now and enjoy all of the facilities that they’ve been putting together.”
Black had a message for the Belper Town supporters, saying: “Obviously we can’t wait to get back as a group of players and staff.
“Hopefully, everyone will be down at Belper as soon as they get that opportunity. They will be amazed by the facilities and they will be entertained on the pitch as well as off it.”