Hednesford hit new heights

Football: Non-League notebook
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The Independent Online
Non-League notebook

RUPERT METCALF

A month before the start of the season, Hednesford Town, the champions of the Beazer Homes League, did not know which league they would be playing in this term. Now, however, all the doubt and depression of the summer has been forgotten as the Staffordshire side sit on top of the GM Vauxhall Conference after seven games.

Promotion to the Conference was in doubt because Merthyr Tydfil, due to be relegated to the Beazer, had protested that Hednesford's new ground had not been built in time to allow them to go up. The Conference disagreed, though, so the Welshmen went down and the Pitmen, as Hednesford are known, came up to join the non-League elite for the first time.

It has been a rapid rise from the West Midlands League, which they left in 1984. Hednesford were promoted to the Premier Division of the Beazer in 1992 and won that league last season, when they equalled Wimbledon's record points total. They knew, though, that their Cross Keys ground was not good enough for the Conference, so they moved to a new home across the road: Keys Park, a 22-acre site bought from the National Coal Board. The new stadium has a capacity of 3,500, with plenty of room for expansion and extensive social facilities.

One man involved in almost every aspect of the club is Steve Burr, the experienced former Macclesfield, Stafford and Halifax striker who is now in his second spell with the Pitmen. As well as playing up front, Burr is a director, the commercial manager, the press officer and first-team coach.

"I'm the only person here full-time," Burr explained yesterday. He is enjoying being a part of Hednesford's success story. "I don't think the Conference is as strong as it used to be, but the team have still done better than I expected. It has been a pleasant surprise."

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