Nelson need your help to add to rich history
But the club are appealing for help to ensure football continues to be played in the town, to add to its rich history.
The Admirals, under new chairman Shaun Lloyd and manager Andy Harrison - along with a number of volunteers and helpers - have ambitions of climbing out of the North West Counties First Division, as and when next season can kick off.
However, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, they are fighting for the club’s future, with cash streams drying up.
To that end, the club have set up a crowdfunding page at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/nelsonfc to help raise funds for essential maintenance, and running costs moving forward.
Plans are in place to renovate the ground, indeed some jobs have already been completed, to meet ground grading criteria, and the club - famed for being the first English side to beat Real Madrid in Spain, back in 1923 - are calling on players past and present, fans, local businesses, local people, and football lovers far and wide, to help us keep the club alive.
Harrison explained: “Shaun came in last season, and our vision is to get the club back to where it once was on the pitch, into the Premier Division at least.
“Next season, whenever that may be, there are potentially four promotion slots that 20 clubs are all going to be aiming for, and we are definitely aiming for that - that is our ambition.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an expectation, that would be wrong, I don’t want to put too much pressure on the lads, but there’s no reason why, with the quality we have in the squad, that will come in over the next few weeks, why the top four can’t be a realistic aim.
“Off the field, everyone is working hard to ensure the work is completed, and it will be an amazing place to play football at non league level when it is.”
To that end, the club are in need of some financial help, and he added: “There will be modifications to the clubhouse, the stands have been done, we’re redoing the changing rooms, the pitch has had a lot of work done on it, so that will hopefully withstand the weather a lot better than it did...it’s basically having a major facelift.
“The idea behind the justgiving page, once the season is underway, you have your gas, electric, water, insurance, lease, league fees...it adds up.
“The justgiving page will go towards running the club next season, ensuring we can run it properly.
“There is money there for the building work, there has been money raised for that, but the justgiving page is there to help the club achieve what it needs to on and off the pitch, what happens off the pitch goes hand in hand with what happens on it.
“There’s no playing budget, no money will be used to pay players, it will be used to improve the place and ensure we meet ground gradings once the ball is rolling.
“We’ve lost money from sponsors, the gate, takings on a match day, we had eight or nine home games left, so that is a hell of a lot of money for a club like Nelson.
“We needed to find a way to try and get some money in, Shaun is very proactive, he’s speaking with potential sponsors all the time, so am I.
“But when this is all over, companies and businesses are going to find it hard to part with money, so if people can support the justgiving page, that money will go go towards making sure the club is sustainable next season, and we can provide a place for lads to come and play football in the North West Counties League.”
Nelson are aware of their role in the community as well, and are determined to play their part as well, with the players and management making donations to four local hospitals, to recognise their efforts: “We had an end of season fine pot that was going to go towards an end of season do, the lads were going to go to the races.
“The money would have contributed to that, but that is completely out of the question now.
“We could either put the fine money into the club, which we’ve put half back in, and the other half was a case of whether we could give to someone else.
“We had a chat and came up with the NHS. We highlighted four different hospitals, Calderdale Royal, Burnley General, Pendle Community and the Royal Blackburn, so we sent a small donation to each.
“It’s not going to change the world, but we felt it was the right thing to do.
“We’ve had a good response from some of the nurses, and I had a letter sent to my house, which was lovely. We wanted to give something back, and that is what this club is about, we are a community club, we’re not here to make millions or compete in the Premier League, we’re here to ensure we can compete at a good level, provide a place for people to come and have a nice day and watch a good, competitive game of football.
“When everything is back to normal, £35 for a ticket in the Premier League might be out of some people’s reach, so a fiver to watch Nelson, we want to make sure it’s a good experience and try and give back to the community.
“The lads are brilliant, their attitude is unbelievable, they all wanted to give something back.
“We didn’t even have to ask them, so credit to them.
“We’re in it because we love it, not to make money, but we have to make sure there’s still a club there, so that’s where the justgiving page comes from.”
Nelson’s best days might be the best part of a century ago, but at a time when the Netflix series The English Game, has shone a light on the importance of East Lancashire’s role in the game in this country, Harrison believes the history needs highlighting: “I think it’s really important. The club’s recent history, there isn’t much to shout about, the odd promotion...
“People only see that Nelson have been behind Padiham, Barlick, Colne, Darwen, we’ve finished below all of them recently.
“So rather than let people see that side, a lot of people don’t know the history.
“The club was in the Football League and won the Third Division North in 1923 - it’s 100 years ago, but they’re in the Football League history books.
“That pre-season, they went to Spain, beat Real Oviedo and then beat Real Madrid 4-2, the first English side to beat Real Madrid in Spain.
“There aren’t many people who would know or believe that!
“Not many teams in this day and age can say they’ve been to Real Madrid and won.
“The season after, in the old Second Division, unfortunately they got relegated, but they beat Leeds United at home and went to Old Trafford and beat United 1-0!
“So, the history is unbelievable. I don’t want people to forget that, I want them to talk about it.
“We tagged Real Madrid and United in the tweet we put out, hoping to try and reach those clubs. It might sound stupid, but if it does reach them, you never know.
“Obviously Joe Fagan was player manager here, they applied to rejoin the Football League twice in the 1950s, but didn’t get it, and Joe moved on, and was lifting the European Cup 30 years later.
“Had they been reinstated and Joe Fagan stayed, who knows where this club might be now?
“Little things like that are really important for people to know, to understand just how big this club was.”
He added: “We’re not a tinpot Saturday side, we’re a club with a very rich history, and with all that’s going on, without the support of the local people, there is a very real chance we could go out of existence.
“But I don’t want people just to be donating to Nelson, if you can, spread it around all the local non league clubs. There is money in the game, but it comes from you, the sponsors.
“While there are no games, everyone needs the same help. Put all rivalries aside, I know a lot of managers in our league might not like me, and vice versa for 90 minutes, but it’s irrelevant, I want to make sure come the start of the season, those 20 clubs are still there.
“If that is the case throughout the pyramid, fair play to everyone, because everyone will have to pull together to make that happen.
“There are more important things than football, but the football community is very strong, when called upon, it does amazing things - look at the shirts for Jordan Sinnott when he was taken from us, the football world came together and donated shirts. It was extraordinary.
“The same now, people are pulling together. But it’s important for people to know, the funds are not there to pay players, it is to keep clubs going.”