Outside the Box: Wealdstone stake their claim for attention of old boy Pearce

 

Busy as he has been this week, Stuart Pearce will surely not have failed to notice the success of his first club Wealdstone in reaching the semi-final of the FA Trophy.

They are the only side from outside the Blue Square Bet Premier to do so, joining three former League clubs: Newport County, whom they now meet over two legs, Luton Town and York City.

It is a heartening achievement for what in the mid-Eighties could claim to be the leading non-League club in the country, winning the Conference and FA Trophy double in 1985, only to be left homeless for 17 years from 1990, enduring four different ground-shares. Now they are established at the Grosvenor Vale Stadium in nearby Ruislip and have worked their way back up from the third division to the top flight of the Ryman League.

Pearce greatly enjoyed his three years with the Stones, when he also moonlighted as "Yak Jensen" in goal for the Sunday League team Dynamo Kingsbury Kiev, frequently charging upfield and claiming one season to have finished as top scorer.

Wealdstone provided tough schooling, during which he was once sent out to play at Runcorn despite having broken a leg; even Psycho lasted only five minutes.

Bantams hatch plans

Imaginative pricing in hard economic times continues to pay off for a number of clubs, with Bradford City and Charlton Athletic among those to reap the benefit last weekend.

Bradford pioneered cheap season tickets after they were relegated to League Two in 2007, selling 13,000 at £138 each (or £6 per game). Despite gradually increasing the price they have had the division's highest average attendance every year.

Football League clubs are allowed four other special promotions each season and last Saturday's offer of £1 tickets for the game against Hereford United attracted a crowd of 17,014 – only 1,000 fewer than for the derby between Queens Park Rangers and Fulham. All this for a team who rarely escape the lower reaches of the bottom division – "a tragedy for the eighth largest city in the country" as a club spokesman put it.

League One leaders Charlton offered "Football For A Fiver" and a crowd of 26,546 came to see the visit of Stevenage, their highest since the Second World War for a game in the third tier. Neither club has yet gone as far as Bradford's neighbours Bradford Park Avenue, whose offer for yesterday's home game against Stafford Rangers was a free ticket to anyone emailing them for a voucher.

Gift horse in the Monmouth

Talking of Five Pound Football, the founders of the new ownership model of that name yesterday handed over a cheque for £3,600 to buy a six per cent share in Monmouth Town, the club they propose taking over when sufficient funds are raised.

Having "scoured the UK for a suitable club", the Five Pound Football Club settled on Monmouth, who last season won the Welsh League division three and are now clear leaders of the second tier. Members contribute a minimum of £5 and are given a say in whether the overall investment fund is used for, say, the playing budget or to improve facilities.

Flushed with success again

That enterprise is a variation of MyFC.com, set up four years ago when 32,000 online investors paid up to £35 each to buy Conference club Ebbsfleet United. They cleared £600,000 of debt and went on to win the FA Trophy at Wembley four months later. Since then numbers have dropped off dramatically and are now down to 1,400.

Ebbsfleet were relegated but won promotion again last season, and manager Liam Daish recently completed an eventful seven years at the club.

Times have been hard. There have been two break-ins at the ground and last Saturday's kick-off time against Southport had to be brought forward by an hour after thieves stole 500 feet of cabling, rendering the floodlights unusable.

However, The Fleet did manage to harness the power of the internet and a worldwide membership by attracting sufficient votes to raise £100,000 to improve what fans voted for as the worst toilets in football – beating Sheffield United and Barnsley.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; www.twitter.com/@stevetongue

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