Carl Marston’s Around the Grounds: youthful ambition at Holland FC
- Credit: Archant
Football writer Carl Marston dons his anorak to visit clubs in the region (and beyond) in his quest for good football and a good cup of tea. Here he heads to Eastcliff, the home of Holland FC
This is the furthest that this column has yet come, to venturing abroad – reporting on a team named ‘Holland FC,’ playing in orange, and within a stone’s throw (or a sizeable pebble) of the North Sea.
Of course I was not on foreign soil at all.
Instead, I was paying my first visit to relatively ‘young’ club Holland FC, based at Eastcliff on Dulwich Road in Holland-on-Sea, Essex, and founded back in 2006.
Naturally, with me arriving on Tuesday evening, armed with my atrocious record for home teams, a very youthful-looking Holland FC went down 5-0 at home to ambitious Coggeshall United.
That was no surprise.
Firstly, the visitors, nicknamed The Weavers, still nurse outside hopes of promotion from Thurlow Nunn Division One South, despite still being 16 points behind pace-setters Hashtag United – they do have four games in hand, and play the league leaders on the final day of the season.
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Secondly, my aforementioned dreadful ‘home’ record has seen my recent visits to the likes of Lakenheath FC, Basildon United and Coggeshall Town, for this column, all end in defeats for the home club.
However, the result was not all-important on Tuesday night. Far from it – so don’t start blaming me!
Instead, Holland FC have come a long way in a very short period of time.
And, as their founder and chairman Mark Sorrell reveals later in this column, the future of the club lies with its youth.
There were several groups of enthusiastic junior footballers training on the adjoining Eastcliff Recreation Ground, as I drove into the shingle car park for the senior fixture three days ago, an encouraging sight.
And, most telling of all, the team who were given the runaround by the Weavers and shipped five goals, were packed with young, local players, not older journeymen lured by monetary rewards.
Club: Holland FC
Ground: Eastcliff, Dulwich Road
Chairman: Mark Sorrell
Established only 13 years ago, after the demise of St Johns (Clacton), Holland FC initially joined Division Two of the Essex & Suffolk Border League, clinching promotion to the Premier Division as Division One champions in 2008-09.
A further promotion to the Eastern Counties League was achieved in 2015-16, at which point Holland had started a three-year ground-share arrangement at Rush Green Bowl, the home of neighbours FC Clacton, while their Eastcliff venue was being redeveloped.
The club finally returned to Eastcliff, Dulwich Road, for the start of this season after an impressive £550,000 upgrade.
The pitch had been rotated 90%, six floodlights plus a perimeter fence installed, a 100-seater stand erected and a new clubhouse built.
I was impressed.
Mark Sorrell is a founder member of the club, and has been chairman since its inception.
“I founded the club in 2006, with two others (Vic Webb and Dave Aldred),” explained Sorrell.
“My son was eight years old and went to play for Clacton United. We basically took over an old derelict clubhouse just in front of here (the new clubhouse).
“We put quite a bit of money in between us, and got a few grants to get the money back, and have gone from one team to 16 youth teams and three adult teams.
“We will have a ladies’ team next season as well, and also a team similar to Wildcats – young ladies from six to 11.
“We have come a long way in just 13 years – we have a brand new facility and a brand new pitch, although the pitch needs a bit of work doing to it. We’ve got irrigation in the pitch and pop-up sprinklers, so it’s getting there.
“We have the facilities to go to Step Three, but we have a good youth set-up and we are not going to have a budget next year. We have a new manager starting – I can’t disclose who yet – and I’d rather produce all our own kids rather than pay players to come from other places,” added Sorrell.
Tuesday, April 2: v Coggeshall United (ECL Thurlow Nunn Division One South, 5-0 away win):
This was one-way traffic. George Smith bagged a hat-trick, and the only surprise was that the visitors did not score more than five goals. It was, quite literally, men versus boys.