On The Wrightside: Bracknell Town putting down roots as Binfield reveal new stadium deal

Bracknell Town fans enjoy themselves. Photo: John Leakey.
Bracknell Town fans enjoy themselves. Photo: John Leakey.

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The first few weeks of the season have been eventful, to say the least, arguably the most eventful for many a long year.

We’ve seen:

  • Bracknell Town took an instant liking to their brand new pitch at Bottom Meadow, where they will be staying for at least another 30 years.
  • Ascot United made a flying start to their first term in the Isthmian League South Central Division following their promotion.
  • Reading City hit the ground running in Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division North.
  • Record crowds for Windsor & Eton and Wokingham & Emmbrook.
  • Binfield were forced to find a brand new squad after virtually the whole of last season’s team left for other clubs, and they also announced a new sponsor for their ground.

So, where does one start to sum up what occurred at our local clubs during August (time added on to early September)?

For Bracknell, the main news came off the pitch, when it was revealed they and Sandhurst Town are staying long-term at Bottom Meadow with the SB Sports and Education Group Group (owners of Bracknell Town and Sandhurst Town) securing a 30-year lease for the ground. And it also brought good news for young supporters.

A statement said: “Over the past few years, the SB Sports and Education Group has significantly invested in upgrading Bottom Meadow’s facilities. Earlier this year, a state-of-the-art Bio-Flex 3G pitch was introduced, elevating football players’ playing experience and enhancing the experience for supporters.
“In celebration of this new lease, the SB Sports and Education Group offers free admission for all under-18s for the entire 2023/24 season, with no requirement to be accompanied by a paying adult.”

Kayne Steinborn-Busse, chairman of the SB Sports and Education Group, commented: “This lease agreement and the investments at Bottom Meadow are a testament to our continued commitment to the community. Our under-18 supporters are integral to that, and our dedication goes beyond just watching the games. By providing a safe environment at Bottom Meadow, we aim to not only offer them a platform to witness live sports but also inspire them to participate in sports themselves.

“As the future unfolds, Bracknell Town, Sandhurst Town and Bottom Meadow are poised to play a pivotal role in the local sports scene for many years.”

The news, however, may have disappointed a few of the club’s older fans, who would have preferred to see the Robins back playing in the Bracknell area. But acquiring land and building a brand new stadium would have run into millions and out of Kayne’s reach.

Bracknell Town's Larges Lane ground. Photo: Tom Canning.
Bracknell Town’s Larges Lane ground. Photo: Tom Canning.

The players took an instant liking to the new state-of-the-art artificial 3G pitch. This next-generation pitch is the first of its kind in the UK and utilises Bioflex, a natural material typically approved for use in toys and food production.

Steinborn-Busse added: “This investment is part of our ongoing commitment to our players, fans and community. It allows us to elevate the dependability and safety of our playing ground, while markedly lessening our impact on the environment.”

Bracknell players took an instant liking to the new surface, winning their first three home games of the season, whilst losing three away.”

Despite last season’s success, managers Jamie McClurg and Carl Withers saw a number of key players leave the club during the close season, including skipper Dan Bayliss as well as forwards Gary Abisogun and Mickel Platt to Slough. But all didn’t start well for the trio keen to move up to Step 2. Platt suffered a groin injury in pre-season but was worse for Abisogun, who was stretchered off the field in a friendly against Bracknell with a nasty cartilage injury in his knee and remains sidelined.

Then in the Rebels’ opening league game, centre-back Bayliss was sent off in a 2-1 defeat at Maidstone United. Slough went on to lose five of their six games.

Former Binfield player Harvey Harry also moved to Arbour Park, only to leave the club before the end of the month to sign for Bracknell.

Binfield

Binfield saw virtually the whole of last season’s squad leave Hill Farm Lane. There can’t be many clubs at any level of football to have lost so many players at one time.

Noah Chengun. Photo: Neil Graham.
Binfield’s Noah Chengun. Photo: Neil Graham.

Manager Garry Haylock was forced to assemble a whole new squad – and he did mainly with young players. Who they were and where they came from remained something of a mystery to supporters as there didn’t appear to be any official announcements of the signings on the club’s website – though there were some nice Neil Graham pictures of the new boys wearing a very snazzy new kit.

Sadly, two 6-0 defeats and a 4-1 early on underline the difficult job facing the manager if the Moles are to hold their own in the Isthmian League South Central Division. At the time of writing, they sit bottom of the table.

But they did manage to beat Wokingham & Emmbrook 2-0 in the Emirates FA Cup, a tie that attracted a crowd in excess of 600, the largest ever at Lowther Road.

Windsor & Eton

Talking of crowds, the most remarkable attendance locally came at Stag Meadow when 1,022 saw new club Windsor draw 0-0 with Burghfield in their first-ever Thames Valley Premier League fixture. On one afternoon, Windsor probably had more spectators than many clubs get in several months, even the whole season.

Jemel and Shaquille Johnson playing for Reading City and Windsor & Eton. Photo: Richard Milam.
Jemel and Shaquille Johnson playing for Reading City and Windsor & Eton. Photo: Richard Milam.

Returning to Binfield, they have announced that in the future – well, for at least two years – their ground will now be known as the Iconic Stadium, following a sponsorship deal with Wokingham-based business, Iconic Project Management.

Club chairman Andy Cotton said: “We are thrilled to welcome Iconic Project Management as our first-ever stadium sponsor. Anyone who has been involved in a community football club will know the importance of sponsorship and support from local businesses. The benefits of the partnership will be seen first-hand by the whole club.”

Emirates FA Cup

There will be plenty of Berkshire interest in the second qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup on September 16 with these ties – Ascot United v Lewes, Chippenham v Hungerford, Reading City v Winchester City, Bracknell v Havant & Waterlooville and Hayes & Yeading v Slough.

The following week sees the second qualifying round of the Isuzu FA Vase, with the ties including Ardley United v Langley, Cinderford v Reading City, Wantage Town v Wokingham & Emmbrook and Newent Town v Woodley United.

September also brings the opening round of the Berks & Bucks FA Senior Cup with ties including Woodley United v AFC Aldermaston, Sandhurst Town v Wokingham & Emmbrook, Burnham v Windsor and Langley v Holyport.

All in all, there will be plenty to write about come the end of this month.

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