There can’t be much celebratory champagne left at non-league outfit Horsham. Surely, it’s all be consumed? Because not only did the Hornets win promotion to the BetVictor Premier division last season — they did so to coincide with moving to a new ground, the Hop Oast stadium (which will be known as the The Camping World Community Stadium).
It means manager Dominic di Paola is in the envious position of tempting potential recruits for the season ahead with the added incentive of playing at a new facility in what is a new era for the club, which was founded in 1881.
Horsham chief executive officer John Lines is a relieved man now that the 18-month building project is complete and he has spoken of his pride in overseeing the move back to Horsham town after 12 years away since they left their former Queen Street home. He said:
“This is a momentous occasion for the club and I am so very proud to be a small part of bringing the club back home to the town. Our players deserve this, our Management deserve this but more than anything else our loyal supporters deserve this. Thank you for sticking with us, we knew it would come eventually and we are on the edge of whole new exiting era for our club.”
But while there is an air of excitement around the club following the promotion and the handing over of the keys to a new ground, boss Di Paola has moved quickly to manage the expectations of fans who might assume that their side will get all their own way on the pitch.
“Anyone who thinks we’re going to step up and be comfortable from day one is in for a shock and I think it’s going to be really tough. When we came out of the Sussex county league into the what was then the Ryman South it was the same problem. It’s a big jump and we as a club have been miles off the Premier for a long time, so it’s going to take time to bed in. The key is probably not to panic and try to get a foothold at the level and go from there. We’ve got some experience of going into leagues now. I’m relatively low-key on the start and I fully expect a bit of a shock.”
Horsham will play their first game at the new home against Hampshire outfit Hartley Wintney tomorrow (13 July) in a friendly seen very much as a pre-cursor to the club’s official opening game, which will be against League Two Crawley Town on Saturday 20 July. And the new league season gets underway on 10 August when they host Leatherhead.
And supporters are being invited to stay behind after the Hartley Wintney game for an informal presentation evening celebrating last term’s success. Well, they had better get more bubbly in, that’s for sure!