TorquayTalk spoke to Eastbourne Borough supporter David Bauckham about his team before Saturday’s game, here is what he had to say…
Hi David thanks for chatting to TorquayTalk, tell us a bit about yourself and your passion for Eastbourne Borough FC?
I write about and take photographs of amateur and non-League football, and have done for a number of years now. In 2006 my book ‘Dugouts’ (a ‘cult classic’, apparently) was published, and my website is https://dbauckham.exposure.co/ Originally from South London, I went along to watch the then-Langney Sports in the FA Cup against Kingstonian way back in 1992 and was hooked from that point on, even though Priory Lane was nothing like it looks now.
Back then the ‘Sports’ had only been in the top division of the Sussex County League for a few years. I started doing matchday announcements and writing a piece for the (award-winning) matchday programme, and when we won promotion to the Southern League in 2000, I set up the first club website. The photography started from there really, as we needed pics for the website, and also for an online Sussex grounds directory I started producing. Although my non-League photography now takes me all over the place, I still help out when required and try to get along to watch as often as I can.
What were your hopes and expectations for the team heading into 2018-19?
Pre-season was an unmitigated disaster if I’m brutally honest, and all but the most hopelessly optimistic (or simply deluded) supporters fully expected us to be cannon fodder. Anything outside of the relegation places would have been seen as a great achievement. Remarkably however, it hasn’t worked out that way.
How has ‘The Sports’ form been recently and are you confident heading into Saturday’s game?
We had a terrific unbeaten run at the beginning of the season, that was completely unexpected, and we’ve only lost two of our eleven league fixtures. We were superb for the opening 45 minutes against Dulwich in the FA Cup on Saturday and led 4-0 at half-time. The fact that we only ended up winning 4-3 after taking our foot off the gas, and then not being able to find the pedal again, highlights defensive frailties and a lack of a killer instinct that is a bit of a problem. However, we can be confident of being more than a match for any side in the division if we can repeat that first half performance on a consistent basis.
Which EBFC players should we be looking out for and why?
If he’s fit, Lloyd Dawes who we signed from Worthing last season, is a handful for any defence, and has shown that he can step up to this level. Former Crawley Town player Dean Cox, who also had a loan spell with us when at Brighton, is now bringing a bit of class to midfield, alongside another ex-Crawley player, the mercurial Argentinian club captain Sergo Torres.
Have you got the right man in charge and what sort of tactics does he employ?
The club has a reputation for being very loyal to its managers, and ex-Bognor boss Jamie Howell is only the fifth in more than 25 years. He took over at the beginning of last season, and for me struggled a bit to adapt to this higher level in his first season in charge, bringing in a number of former Isthmian League players that mostly weren’t good enough, in quite a young squad.
After that dreadful pre-season, many supporters were calling for his head, but to his great credit – and at the last minute – he has brought in a number of experienced players like Ryan Hall to support the younger heads, and seems to have won most people over. The team aims to provide the sort of flowing, quick attacking football that was always the hallmark of Bognor; whilst being defensively sound, which was something of an Achilles Heel last season.
Who are the club’s owners and they ambitious for the future of EBFC?
Owners? Eastbourne Borough has been registered as a Community Interest Company since 2008, and in fact was the very first football club to become a CIC. Essentially this incorporates special additional features created for the use of people who want to conduct a business for the benefit of the community and not purely for private advantage. A while back the now owners of Ebbsfleet United were showing considerable interest in the club, but perhaps not surprisingly we couldn’t reach an agreement with them.
As a club we are ambitious, but equally pragmatic, and the long-term interests of the club always come first. We had three seasons in the top division of the Conference, and would like to return there one day, but not at the cost of threatening the club’s financial stability. Considering there is no single benefactor putting large amounts of money in, we do remarkably well. Play-offs, and a good run in the FA Cup and Trophy would be nice but we are realistic.
What’s Priory Lane like as a ground, what sort of crowds do you get and how’s the atmosphere at home games?
If the weather is bad and the wind is ripping across the Pevensey Marshes – and you really want to wrap up warm if it is – then the ground is mostly covered on all four sides, and even when in the Conference Premier we only ever segregated spectators when we were told to. There is no extra charge for sitting in the main stand, which provides a good view.
At the Priory Road end of the ground, is the Mick Green Stand, named after our late club captain who was tragically killed in a building site accident. It boasts a number of executive boxes, and was one of the first (if not the first) non-League grounds in the country to have these purpose-built, by volunteers. These double as classrooms for the nursery school that uses them during the week. We are very much a community club.
We used to get good four figure crowds for the local derbies against Lewes, but average around 500 these days. We have a small group of quite noisy, if not particularly tuneful, supporters behind the goal, that you really don’t want to stand close to. We’re quite polite really.
Where’s best for the Yellow Army to seek out pre-game refreshments?!
The key point to remember for first time visitors is that Priory Lane is not in Eastbourne, but in Langney on the fringes of the town. In the past, visiting supporters have ended up at Eastbourne Town and Eastbourne United by mistake! To be honest, the best thing to do is get to the ground early and take advantage of the clubhouse and restaurant. There are places to eat and drink in Eastbourne itself, but you’ll probably need to get a cab or bus to the ground, unless you fancy walking from Pevensey & Westham station.
Tell us some interesting facts about Eastbourne Borough?
Originally formed in 1964 as Langney FC, the club only became Eastbourne Borough FC when it changed its name from Langney Sports in 2001 as no-one outside of Sussex knew where Langney was, and always spelt it wrong. The ground was largely built on marshland by a handful of volunteers, many of who are still involved. On joining Division Three of the Sussex County League in 1983, a local councillor famously declared that the club would never be anything more that an a “parks side”. How wrong he was. Oh and as mentioned earlier, we were the first football club to become a CIC.
And finally what do make of Torquay United arriving in the NLS and what’s your prediction for the game this weekend?
Well, of course we’ve met before, in the Conference National Division back in December 2008. In fact, many Sports supporters still wax lyrical over the night when Borough tore Torquay apart, winning 4-2, with Ashley Barnes (then on loan from Brighton) on the scoresheet. Of course you won the return fixture, and went up that year via the play-offs, but it never got better than that for us really. Obviously Torquay is a still a relatively ‘big name’ but ultimately you are in NLS for a reason. You’ve not been as good on the road this season, but given our own inconsistency in defence, I predict a score draw. It promises to be a really entertaining match. Thanks for talking to us David – Dom
*Check out David’s brilliant piece ‘Sports Day’ on Eastbourne Borough from a few years ago using the link below ⇓