A vision of the future: What a football ground could do for the town of Hatfield in the eyes of Hatfield United Football Club’s manager Nigel Upson

PUBLISHED: 14:35 23 January 2020 | UPDATED: 21:21 25 January 2020

The main football pitch behind Birchwood Leisure Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

The main football pitch behind Birchwood Leisure Centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

Danny Loo Photography 2016

The creation of a football ground for Hatfield has long been mooted and is often the source of much discussion.

An artist's impression of the new stand at any new football ground in Hatfield.An artist's impression of the new stand at any new football ground in Hatfield.

It reappeared in the consciousness this week following a town council meeting where the matter was discussed and with the topic once again in the public domain Nigel Upson, manager of Hatfield United FC, got in touch about something "close to my heart".

This is his vision of what he would like to happen.

"The building of a football ground for the town of Hatfield should not be a ground for Hatfield Town, Hatfield United or Hatfield Athletic but a ground for all three current teams and the ones to come in the future.

"When I was younger I was lucky enough to watch football at Stonecross Road, an enclosed pitch with a substantial clubhouse, grandstand and a quaint little turnstile in the corner.

The vision of Nigel Upson, Hatfield United manager, would leave the existing playing fields.The vision of Nigel Upson, Hatfield United manager, would leave the existing playing fields.

"I watched the old Hatfield Town play teams such as Tottenham and Arsenal in the Metropolitan League and I hoped one day I would be good enough to play on that turf in front of a crowd.

"After a successful trial I signed on for Town's youth team and what a team that was. It was the epitome of the spirit of Hatfield, we were Hatfield and proud of it and Stonecross Road was our fortress.

"Then disaster struck and the ground was sold off to property developers in 1981 and from that date no team called Hatfield has played at their own enclosed ground in the town.

"Later on I was privileged to manage the next generation of local talent but throughout those 39 years there has always been something missing, a ground for Hatfield and a sense of belonging.

"A plan was presented to the council in October that would enable us to upgrade the existing facilities at Birchwood resulting in an enclosed ground, exactly where it is at the moment, with a small clubhouse, floodlights, grandstand and top of the range grass pitch with improved drainage.

"The money is available in a trust fund, it is ready to use, and the time is now. This will cost the taxpayers absolutely nothing. There will be no need for blocks of flats or other grand designs to be put in place.

"I would see the three senior teams in Hatfield involved in any new ground proposal. Imagine a pre-season curtain-raiser with a representative Hatfield side gleaned from all three teams taking on an Arsenal XI or a youth or schools' competition at the end of the season to inspire the younger generation.

"All of this will bring the football community together and spike an interest among the wider community.

"We still have the grand debate from certain quarters between grass and plastic pitches.

"An artificial pitch costs five times as much as a grass one and we do not have the money. We do have the money for a grass pitch without the need for borrowing, or property development.

"If it is a 3G facility people want then there are plenty available at the University and schools, with new ones being built at Onslow School and Oaklands College.

"These pitches cater for all manner of sports.

"There is another consideration that has put me off artificial pitches, some disturbing reports online linking them with a possible cancer risk.

"I know 3G pitches are getting better and this link hasn't been proven as yet but it hasn't been disproven either. I would suggest a more cautious approach.

"As a community shouldn't we be accountable for the future of our children? Let's look into this.

"If in the future 3G pitches prove safe beyond doubt then maybe we could upgrade Birchwood again but for now let's just get this ground built at no risk both financially and health-wise."

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