It was the 2007-08 season when I first stepped foot through the creaking turnstiles of Steyning Town’s Shooting Field home.
I was still at college, taking my first tentative steps on the ladder to become a fully qualified freelance journalist, working on the local paper covering the non league football scene around Sussex
I arrived at Steyning Town on my first ever reporting job – Steyning’s Sussex County League (as it was then) Division Two clash with Rustington – a game that would become my first ever published piece of journalism when it appeared in the Shoreham Herald the following week.
Times were very different then. Britain had a Labour Prime Minister, Manchester United won the Premier League and Champions League double, Twitter was less than two years old and Brexit sounded like a new supermarket cereal. Closer to home, and Steyning Town FC were considered one of the county’s sleeping giants. Sitting in mid-table under the tutelage of Mark “Dogsy” Dalglish, the now Hassocks manager was taken with reviving the flagging fortunes of a side in the doldrums. Even the notion of a 4G pitch seemed remarkably fanciful.
My memories of the game, as you would perhaps expect over a decade on, are somewhat sketchy but I dig out my scrapbook and revisit the story. Rustington, third in the table, were vanquished by a single Alex White goal to nil, with the Town team consisting of long-serving stalwarts including Gareth Dutton, Chris Duffett and Tom Pickford. White’s header seven minutes from time proved pivotal as Blues were made to pay for their profligacy. It launched not only my own journalistic journey, but also my first association with this most splendid of football clubs tucked away in a sleepy corner of west Sussex.
The Steyning line up for the visit of Rustington read: Abbott; J.Davis, Pickford, S.Duffett, Pratt; Dutton, Schofield, Garman; Price, C.Duffett, White. Subs were Waterhouse, Trower, Hourigan and Goodridge.
What happened next?
I returned to Steyning the following week, this time with struggling Southwick the visitors, and again the Shooting Field saw a 1-0 victory for the home side – Town right-back James Davis with the only goal of the game on the hour mark, according to my original match report on the day. Dalglish’s side wrapped up the double over their rivals from “down the road” to move into the top eight – a position they would occupy until the closing weeks of the season before a final finish of eleventh.
That would be as good as it got for Steyning over the next few seasons, with the club flitting between a succession of steady mid-table placings with the odd dash of relegation danger thrown in.
But in recent years the hard labour has finally come to fruition with the award of Sussex FA’s Community Club of the Year, a 3G pitch and the arrival of the club’s first full time manager Gerry Murphy. Paving the way for the most successful era in Steyning’s recent history, promotion and the first silverware for three decades following, kick-starting the Barrowmen’s march on an ever-continuing upward trajectory. Things are very different here now to when I first pushed through the gates and into the world of life at Steyning Town FC – now a club with a booming Vets section, 18 teams and a rapidly growing outreach for female players. The future is bright for this historic club.