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Non League Football Under The Microscope

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Eastbourne Borough fans celebrate - August Bank Holiday Monday 2003                                Photograph by Sam Hicks

Clevedon Town FC

Hand Stadium
Davis Lane
Clevedon
Somerset

Telephone: 01275 871600 / 341913

Website

Nickname: The Seasiders

Main stand

Covered terrace

View of the Equestrian Centre End from the terrace

The Farm End

Having originally started playing in 1880 as Clevedon FC, the Seasiders are one of the oldest clubs in the West Country and were founder members, albeit briefly, of the Western League in 1892. Their early years were spent at Dial Hill, still the home of the local cricket club, but they moved to a new site at Old Street (later re-named Teignmouth Road) in 1895 where they remained until 1992.

When football resumed after the Great War, Clevedon found themselves in the Bristol & District League and Bristol & Suburban League, before a switch to the Somerset Senior League in the early 1930s helped the club increase their status, and they were to stay there until World War Two brought a temporary end to the League. Unlike many clubs however, Clevedon stayed in business and entered the Weston-Super-Mare League, dominated by teams from nearby RAF Locking. This often meant playing against international stars stationed at the Camp, although Clevedon had their share of service personnel stationed in the town.

After the War they again returned to the Western League and, despite a moderate league record, built up a reputation for themselves in the FA Cup and  FA Amateur Cup. Cup success, however, was not matched in the league and they spent several years in Division 2 before resigning, for financial reasons, at the end of the 1957/58 season. They joined the Bristol & District League where they remained for 15 years, before rejoining the Western League in 1973/74 after amalgamating with another local club, Ashtonians United, who were already members of the Western League ranks. The club's name was later changed to "Clevedon Town" to reflect their new status.

The building of a new clubhouse and the installation of floodlights in the early 1980s nearly bankrupted the club. Debts were running at well over 100,000 and desperate measures had to be taken. The Board of Directors was forced to resign and the introduction of several new faces saved the club from total disaster, with the overdraft being reduced by careful budgeting and management. After many years as a mid-table side things began to change when the club decided to sell their Teignmouth Road ground and move to a new site at Davis Lane on the edge of the town.

1992/93 was to prove by far the most successful in the club's history and it was heralded by the move to the new Hand Stadium. Were it not for the Hand family, after whom the ground is named, the Club would almost certainly not exist.

HG Hand (Secretary 1895-1912) and AW Hand (Secretary 1918-1968) were followed by Doug Hand, who retired as Club President at the end of the 1994/95 season after 50 years service to the club, much spent in the same way as his father and grandfather, as Club Secretary. It was AW Hand who had the foresight to buy the Teignmouth Road site for 450 in 1949 and this wise move enabled the club to sell off the ground, pay off their remaining debts and build a purpose built stadium from the proceeds. In the last season at Teignmouth Road, they finished as runners-up to Weston-Super-Mare, playing their last ever match at Teignmouth Road on 20 April 1992. The Stadium is also home to Cleveden United FC of the Western League.

As modern Non League stadia go, The Hand Stadium is undeniably one of the better examples and is clearly well maintained by the Club. As one enters the ground the all important tea bar and club shop are immediately to the left. This is known as the Equestrian Centre End of the ground for reasons which should be obvious, and has hard standing but no cover. Opposite is the Farm End, reserved for visiting supporters if segregation is ever necessary. Again there is no cover, although a few steps of shallow terracing are provided.

Along the near touchline as one enters, is the Main Stand, built from sandstone coloured brick with 300 seats in the club colours. If I have a criticism it is that the structure looks out of proportion, with brickwork dominating over the seating, which appears somewhat lost. Nevertheless,  spectators are afforded a fine obstructed view protected by the large roof, even one has to pay a little extra for the privilege. Beneath the stand lie the offices, dressing rooms, and a large function area/clubhouse with all the requisite amenities one expects these days.

Opposite the stand is a covered terrace, with crush barriers, that extends the full length of the touchline. This has a capacity of over 1,000 and no doubt most welcome by those who prefer to stand and be sheltered at the same time. There is plentiful car parking available at the ground, which is well signposted and easy to find.

Ground details
Capacity: 3,500
Seats: 300
Floodlights: Yes

Directions
Exit the M5 at Junction 20, and take the slip road (Ettlingen Way) to the first roundabout. Take first left and proceed to the next roundabout (with Tescos on your right). Take first left into Kenn Road, continue out of Clevedon and take second left into Davis Lane, continue back over the M5 and proceed to the ground. (Hand Stadium signposted from M5 sliproad).

By rail
The nearest BR Station to Clevedon is Yatton which is around 2 miles by Taxi from the Hand Stadium.

NB. Much of the above information is taken from the informative Clevedon Town official website (see link above), which also includes some interesting archive photographs.

 

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