Like many of the clubs in the Vanarama National Leagues, Billericay Town have a long and storied history on the English football pyramid.
This is especially true of the teams in London and the surrounding area, including Dulwich Hamlet, who have been in the news in recent months. But Billericay’s story goes back even further.
All the way to 1880 in fact, when the club was formed, or if you believe the 1977 FA Vase Final programme, which suggested the club celebrated its centenary in 1976, it was even earlier.
Rather than chug along in the depths of non-league football, the club’s recent past has been among the most eventful and controversial periods in its history.
Last season they were promoted to the Vanarama National League South, and not only that, but they also won the Essex Senior Cup and League Cup to complete a treble.
Recruiting familiar names and former Premier League footballers Jamie O’Hara, Paul Konchesky and Jermaine Pennant, a string of convincing wins and unbeaten runs ensued, and the club were even spoken of as the next big force emerging from non-league into the Football League.
“I will get League Two in five years, I'll have a bet with any man in the world,” said the club’s owner, Glenn Tamplin, last year.
“But why can't this club go all the way? Why can't we have 25,000 and be in the Premier League like Bournemouth in ten years time? Who's stopping us?”
It’s safe to say that Billericay have made convincing first steps on their way to achieving these ambitious aims. They have continued their good form as they embark on a new chapter in the Vanarama National Leagues, and they currently sit second in the league having won six of their first nine games this season.
Paul Konchesky may have left to concentrate on his pie and mash business, and Pennant may have been drawn to the Big Brother house more than he was to step two of the sixth tier of the English football pyramid, but this hasn’t stopped the Essex side as they look to continue their climb.
As a result of this success criticism has inevitably come their way, especially when it comes to Tamplin. Since he bought the club in December 2016, the entrepreneur has built new stands, had murals painted on the dressing room walls, relaid the pitch, brought in high-profile players and guided the club to a treble. Literally, as he appointed himself manager. Then sacked himself after a run of poor results. Then rehired himself again.
This has led to a number of criticisms of the way he has run the club, and this came to a head recently when he was reported to the police during a game.
He has since released a statement on the club’s website, in which he resigned from his post as manager and put the club up for sale in one fell swoop.
A section of the statement reads:
“For me the final nail in the coffin was yesterday at the Woking game where I was informed at the ground, after the match, that the police wanted to talk to me regarding a complaint from a fan that that I had been using cocaine.
“After speaking to the police they were satisfied that the complaint was unfounded, although angry and upset I felt that was the end of the matter.
“However, 20 minutes after I had left I was pulled over by the police. Bizarrely I was once again questioned regarding the complaint. This lead to my two young children who were with me becoming absolutely terrified and in floods of tears in the back of my car. Again, after assisting the police in every way possible I was again allowed to continue my journey home.
“This I hope goes some way to clarify the social media backlash I received from people, including Billericay fans, after my national league post-match interview with comments regarding me being ‘off my face’ etc.”
It has been a rollercoaster ride for the club, and it could yet have more twists and turns, and ups and downs. The incident which caused distress for Tamplin’s family indicates that there will be no reinstatement this time around, and there will be no coming back for him as manager. But it’s clear that he has an affinity for the club.
“My last actions will be to find suitable investors that will be able to run the Billericay Town and also to try my hardest to reinstate Harry Wheeler as manager of this great club,” he added at the end of his statement.
“Thank you to all the fans that have stuck by me through thick and thin I will look back at the treble winning season with fond memories of a momentous time in the clubs history.”
A club which was founded 138 years ago – or 142, depending on which of the aforementioned records is true – is used to seeing change, and is used to ups and downs, but the whirlwind of the last two years is unprecedented and could have a big effect on the club in the near future.
Fans will hope that this manifests itself in another promotion, and more success in the Vanarama National Leagues and beyond.