TT Match Preview: FC Halifax Town by reporter Tom Scargill

Next to field our opposition Q&A is Halifax Courier reporter Tom Scargill, who discusses all things FC Halifax Town before Saturday’s game at Plainmoor:

Hi Tom – before we talk about FC Halifax Town, tell us a little bit about yourself and your work for the Halifax Courier?

I joined the Courier at the start of 2013 as their Halifax Town reporter and have been fortunate to report on two promotions and an FA Trophy win at Wembley in that time. I report on news as well as the club for the paper, so am always busy, but really enjoy covering the club as it’s a profession I’ve always wanted to do and feel very fortunate to be paid to watch football! Plus I was born in Halifax so it’s for me to work on my local paper and write about a place I grew up in.

How would you describe FC Halifax’s season so far, has it met pre-season expectations after the glory of promotion from the NL North?

Up and down I’d say. They started really well under Billy Heath, who had got them promoted from a very competitive National League North at the first time of asking. They were flirting with the play-offs a third of the way into the season but then their form tailed off badly and the board decided a change was needed. Since being appointed, Jamie Fullarton has done very well, stamped his own style on the team and produced some impressive results.

FC Halifax Town v Boreham Wood at The MBI Shay Stadium. Matty Brown.
FC Halifax Town v Boreham Wood – Photo Courtesy of the Halifax Courier

What have been your highlights of the campaign and how’s the team’s recent form been?

I think the high point has to be Town’s 3-0 win at Leyton Orient on a Tuesday night in September. Some of their football that night was excellent and they won comfortably and with a lot of style. That moved them up to 2nd place in the table, which was unthinkable at the start of the season. Yes it went downhill from then on but that was a great night.

Recent form is good. They’ve only lost once under Fullarton (not counting the Gateshead game as I don’t know that result at the time of writing). Recent wins over Boreham Wood, who were third, and Sutton, who were second, are superb results. They look solid at the back and all seem to have bought into what Fullarton is asking of them, playing some nice football.

Which players should we look out for at Plainmoor this Saturday and why?

Striker Mike Fondop-Talom was a bit hit and miss at Guiseley – three goals in 22 games. But since joining Town on loan he has three in eight games. He works hard, is decent in the air, decent pace and is a threat in behind. He’s not the finished article yet but there is some talent there if it can be coaxed out of him. Goalkeeper Sam Johnson is also a talent. Good shot-stopper, good height and has been man of the match on numerous occasions this season. You might find it tough to get past him if he’s in good form.

Jamie Fullarton arrived in February after the departure of Billy Heath, what’s your verdict on his managerial reign so far and what sort of tactics does he employ?

So far, so good would be my verdict. The playing style is a little less direct than it was under Heath, there’s more build up from the back, more one-touch play. The results have been good, and more or less deserved on their performances. Fullarton seems to be a very focused, driven manager and that is reflected in his team – very purposeful, very well organised.

FC Halifax Town v Boreham Wood at The MBI Shay Stadium
Jamie Fullarton – Photo Courtesy of the Halifax Courier

Who are the current owners of FC Halifax, are they ambitious for the future of the club and for getting them back in the Football League?

The club are owned by a trio of local businessmen – David Bosomworth, Bobby Ham and Stuart Peacock, who took over after the old Halifax Town went bust in 2008. Under them, the club has achieved three promotions and won the FA Trophy at Wembley for the first time in their history, so the fans can’t grumble too much at that record, although the club does seem to have reached a bit of a crossroads in terms of where does it go from here. Yes it can survive in the fifth tier, but can it realistically aim for promotion?

The owners have always said their aim is to get the club into the Football League, but that is a lot harder said than done. They are determined not to risk the club going into unsustainable debt, so if promotion is to be achieved, it may have to be the hard way through incremental improvement, hard work and a bit of luck. They did reach the play-offs in 2014, which proves it can be done, but a repeat of that would be a big ask.

You follow the team everywhere for the Courier, which opposition clubs have impressed you the most and why?

That’s a tough one. You can be impressed by other clubs in different ways. One way can be the managerial appointments they make, such as Lincoln appointing the Cowley brothers, who did a great job at Braintree and carried that on at Lincoln, taking them from mid-table obscurity to promotion. Similarly, Macclesfield’s patience and support of John Askey has been rewarded with him guiding them to the top of the table – a fantastic achievement. Another way is the friendliness of a club, and clubs like Maidenhead, Darlington and Guiseley all have good staff and volunteers who look after visiting press really well.

The Shay Stadium.
The Shay Stadium – Photo Courtesy of the Halifax Courier

The original Halifax Town went bust in 2008; remind us what happened to a club that had previously been in existence for nearly 100 years?

Eventually they simply ran up too much debt without the means to be able to pay it off. There are a lot of ins and outs to it – I’m actually working on a special feature for the paper about it as the 10th anniversary of the old club folding and the new club forming is fast approaching – but the bottom line was they racked up too much debt and tried to arrange a second CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement) with their debtors, a few years after their first, but couldn’t come to an agreement so it was wound up, leaving a lot of pain, upset and bitterness. But the post-script is the new club is now back in the fifth tier and in good financial shape.

Halifax has been well known for Rugby League over the years; is there a rivalry between the two teams and do many people follow both?

There is a rivalry yes. The rugby club used to play at a separate stadium, but sold that and moved in with the football club at The Shay. That causes some friction, with the pitch being badly affected at times due to wear and tear, and arguments among the fans over who pays what in rent and contributions to stadium improvements, and who is the bigger club. I think plenty of people do follow both and there are plenty of people who want both to succeed, but there are some who have animosity towards the other.

Football - FC Halifax Town v Eastleigh
The Fans – Photo Courtesy of the Halifax Courier

The two defeats against Dover and Fylde means it’s all doom and gloom at Plainmoor – what’s your prediction for the match and are you surprised at our ongoing struggles?

As an outsider looking in yes I am, as I remember not so long ago when you were in the Football League. I think it’s sad to see a former league club struggling like you are, but it shows the strength of non-league that clubs such as Leyton Orient and Hartlepool, who were both relegated into the division last season, have both struggled so much. Even the National League North is a very strong league, with a lot of money being spent, so non-league is getting stronger all the time.

I wouldn’t predict too many goals on Saturday. Town will be well organised, solid at the back and a threat on the break. Can’t imagine Torquay will exactly be full of confidence, while Town will be tired as it’s their fourth game in eight days. I’ll go for a 1-1 draw.

Thank you for talking to TorquayTalk Tom and for providing the cracking photos, all the best for the future and I hope our swords cross again at some point, and I don’t mean in the FA Trophy.


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