Worthing Town Leisure Football Club are ready for their first-ever season in the Southern Combination League.
Champions of the Brighton, Worthing & District League last season, Worthing Leisure have linked up with Worthing Town and will play home games at Palatine Park this season while the merger also gives the younger players at the club a pathway into senior football.
Leisure player-manager James Everett admitted his side were going to go one of two ways at the end of last season – fold or make the step up into the SCFL.
He said: “We applied to go up into the SCFL in January but it depended on if we won the league and if we got the ground grading, so it was all a bit last minute.
“We were playing home games at Worthing Leisure Centre and weren’t sure if we’d be able to play in the SCFL there but then spoke to Worthing Town, who wanted a men’s team in the SCFL for their youth players to step up into and it’s all pretty exciting.
“Worthing Leisure was just a Sunday team to start but then seven years ago we set up a Saturday side as a lot of our players had become frustrated with county football and wanted to enjoy their football.
“We’ve won the league four times in our seven seasons, in the Worthing League and then the Brighton & Worthing League after the merger, along with a few cups as well.
“It’s probably good to make the step up now, though. The club was going to go one of two ways, we were going to fold or make the step up. We didn’t feel the Brighton & Worthing League was run very well and the league merger didn’t really work as numbers dwindled. We received four walk-over wins from six matches near the end of the season and we just felt our time in that league had run its course.”
A number of familiar faces from the county circuit play for Leisure, with player-manager Everett a former player for Steyning, Storrington, Lancing, Worthing United, Littlehampton and Ferring. Miles Scerri, Andy Smart, Josh Sutcliffe, Steve Kirkham, Dave Walker and Tom Pickford are also involved with the club.
Everett is excited about what lies ahead in a new league and said: “We’ll look forward to making new rivalries and we’ll have quite a few local derbies next season, with Clymping, Lancing United, Ferring and Rustington.
“We’ve played teams from the SCFL in cup competitions in the last few years and have done okay, so I think we can realistically say we’d be looking to finish in the top six.
“Merging with Worthing Town also gives the young players a pathway into a men’s team and somewhere to continue playing football. A number of the younger players from Worthing Town went to Worthing, Burgess Hill and Lewes when they left the club last year.
“There are 44 youth teams here and the Worthing Leisure chairman Dominic Justice’s son plays for Worthing Town, while my son is three and hasn’t started playing football yet but it’s good to be at a club like this where young players can progress through.”
On linking up with Leisure, Worthing Town chairman Richard Willis said: “Essentially we’ve never had the progression to the next level for our players, so this is something that will benefit Worthing Town.
“It’s something for the players to aspire to and it’s exciting for everyone here.
“Everything we do here is for the players and we can now look to keep them here as long as we can.”
Leisure will also run men’s reserve and third teams next season, along with an under-18 team, and players are welcome for all sides. Training is on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Palatine Park. Anyone interested in joining the club can contact James Everett on 07710 768744.
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